From fashion course to designer dream

The Gordon TAFE celebrates 130 years in 2017. So each month, we‘re introducing some of the faces that have studied with us over the years to share where they are today, and how they got there.
Name: Carly Harman
Studied: Advanced Diploma of Fashion Design and Technology
Year: 2010
Now: Design Manager of Custom Made and Editorial, Alex Perry

When did you decide that fashion was the career
for you?

I’ve always loved being creative. At an early age, I always wanted to paint and draw. I clearly remember my first textiles class in Year 7 at Sacred Heart College with Mrs Watt. We made a library bag using hand appliqué techniques. It was from that moment I knew fashion was my thing. I was blessed to have such talented, passionate teachers at Sacred Heart College. Mrs Pelletier was my fashion teacher from Year 9. She was an amazing mentor who really helped me develop my skill and passion for the art of fashion. 

What is one of your favourite memories from your fashion design course?

I think my favourite memories are the pattern-making and sewing classes. I loved all aspects of my time at The Gordon and had amazing teachers, from fabrics and fibre classes with Trish, design and drawing with Felicity and Dean, and sewing with Nola and Sharon. I will always remember Felicity telling me about the Paris American Academy. She knew it would be perfect for me and she really sold the idea. The next year, I enrolled in a summer school which gave me a huge advantage when I came back looking for a job in Australia.

You started as an ‘apprentice’ after winning a competition with Alex Perry in 2012.
What does your current job involve?

I was fortunate enough to win the Electrolux fashion apprentice with Alex Perry. I completed a six-month paid internship and then I was hired full-time as Design Assistant. From there, I worked my way up and am now Design Manager of Custom Made and Editorial. We are currently designing and producing a bridal collection, and I also look after all our private bridal and celebrity clients.
I not only get to design alongside Alex, I get to source and develop fabrics, create designs, trims and techniques, and I also work closely with our patternmakers and machinists to ensure they are produced to the highest quality. While I was in Paris, I specialised in couture techniques which is one of the things Alex was drawn to in my initial interview. There are not many jobs around, especially in Australia, that allow you put these skills into practice. I would say 70 per cent of my time is dedicated to developing and producing garments with intricate beading, embroidery and appliqué.

I made the gown for Jennifer Hawkins for the cover of the Australian Women's Weekly, and hand applied all the detail to bodice.  It's one of my favourites.  

How did The Gordon prepare you for the career you have today?

The Gordon set me up with the core skills needed to specialise in all aspects of the fashion industry. Not only did they teach the basics, they also provided advice on our strengths, and tailored projects if we were willing to put in the extra work to learn and develop new skills. 

Fashion can be a fickle industry. What do you love best about it and what is it really like behind-the-scenes?

Fickle is an understatement. It’s exactly like the film The Devil Wears Prada! You have to work damn hard, have a tough shell, ignore the drama and as long as you are doing the best possible job and maintaining your passion, you will survive and succeed. 

What I love most is the creative freedom, dreaming up designs and being able to physically bring them to life. It’s quite a surreal, magical feeling seeing your creation complete and on a body, on the catwalk or in a magazine.
I guess the biggest reality check for students looking to break into the fashion industry is you have to start at the bottom. 90 per cent of the time, you won’t be designing, handling, and creating. When you start out in the fashion industry you can expect 12+ hr days, and be willing to do all-nighters when needed. If they ask you to cut lace for eight hours - you cut as much lace as you possibly can until your fingers blister. If work needs to be done, you need to do it. If your fingers get tired, asking to stop is not an option - you get the job done.
You are expected to do everything from cleaning and getting the boss' lunch, to walking the dog. This is what sets you apart from the rest because most people think cleaning is below them. Apart from my passion for couture techniques, Alex and I bonded on the fact I am an obsessive compulsive cleaner! Take pride in everything you do and work hard. Bosses pay more attention to what you’re doing than you even realise. 

Besides your fashion career, you are also an aerial fitness instructor. Tell us about this!

Fitness has been a very important tool for me in managing stress levels and keeping my body in good shape to be able to maintain such an intense job, both mentally and physically. I try to work out 4-5 times per week. At one stage I was doing a bit of everything: Bikram Yoga, Kx Pilates, Acro Yoga and then I met my true love, Sky-Lab. This is a fusion of acrobatics and silks in a hammock. It has a range of classes from relaxing aerial yoga to high-intensity full body aerial workouts. High-intensity is always my favourite.
Last year, my aerial fitness instructor told me she was looking for a new instructor and felt I would be perfect for it, so I thought ‘why not give it a go!' I love having another team to work with, as well as an outlet other than fashion. I completed my course and am now a qualified aerial ninja at Sky-Lab.
Aside from my two jobs, I am also making a friend’s wedding dress and am working on my own homeware label which will eventually branch into clothing, so stay tuned for HUNTRSS. 

If you could pass on one piece of wisdom to those currently studying or making career decisions what would it be?

Find your passion. Follow it. Perfect it. Work hard and never think that you are too good for anything because the biggest opportunities are often hidden in some of the strangest, most challenging places.
Believe in yourself, stay true to yourself, and always know your worth.

Images supplied by Carly Harman, 2017.
Her work with Alex Perry has been featured on various magazines including:
The Australian Women's Weekly, December 2014.
Harpers Bazaar June/July 2014. 

Posted: 25/02/2017 6:00:00 AM



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About The Gordon

The Gordon Institute of TAFE is one of the largest regional TAFEs in Victoria and has been helping people gain real skills for real jobs for over 130 years. We pride ourselves on delivering a great range of TAFE courses from short courses to nationally accredited training across apprenticeships, traineeships, certificates, diplomas, and advanced diplomas, which can lead you to a great career or create pathways to university.

Our training is delivered with Victorian and Commonwealth Government funding. | Authorised by the Victorian Government, Melbourne.

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