As our mentoring scheme draws to a close, we catch up with the mentees to find out how it’s changed their lives (plus check out this week’s Grazia to hear the mentors take on their star pupils).
Allie, 22, was studying a B-tech in fashion when she got the call to say she’d been chosen for the mentor scheme. Still dealing with the death of her father she had previously lived in a hostel but was determined to make something more of her life.
Fashion is an expensive business – both to study and look the part. But I never worried I wouldn’t make it. I just needed a chance to prove myself.
Now I’ve had guidance I wouldn’t say I’m a professional, but I understand how the process works. I used to worry so much about what to wear. I would love to come here in new clothes every day, but it’s not going to happen. Now I’ve given up – it’s not that I don’t care, but I’ve realised I have to be myself. My biggest achievement was designing a t-shirt, which will be sold in Reiss this autumn. To top it off, last month I went for an interview at East London University… and was accepted onto a printed textile design course. My family don’t really have any dreams to do bigger and better things. They just work to pay the rent - which is admirable. But I don’t want a normal office job - I want to do something I enjoy.
Cosar, 21, has had the biggest U-turn of the mentees. Before coming to Reiss she was studying Science, but now wants to do a pattern cutting degree.
When my mum died of cancer I decided to study science – to do something beneficial for other people in her situation – but it just wasn’t me.I changed my mind just as the mentoring scheme arose. I think my mum would be proud I’m following my real dream. Reiss has a very glam head office and it was scary on my first day – very different to the environment I’m used to. I was bought up on a London estate around people who tend not to work, but this only made me more determined. The biggest challenge for me was finding which area of fashion I wanted to go into. At one point I interned in visual merchandising, then moved onto pattern cutting and something clicked. I thought ‘I can see a future here.’ I’m now applying to universities to study it. Now I’ve survived this environment for six months I know that I can hold my own.
Mary, 23, lost her mother when she was a child and then her father was put into a care home when she was seventeen. Turning to Kid’s Company for help they enrolled her on free fashion classes, so when the opportunity with Reiss arose she seemed the perfect choice…
All through my life I’ve loved fashion: working part-time as a shop assistant so I can afford to stock up on clothes. However it was a big move from the shop floor to head office and I was nervous, especially about failing at the tasks I’d be set. However everybody in the team has been great and my mentor teaches me something new literally every day. Timekeeping has been an issue to work on, definitely. I’ve learnt you can’t just vanish - you have to let them know where you are. My favourite moment so far was when Reiss had their 40th birthday party and David Reiss gave a speech about not looking back…in life and business. It was so heartfelt, I was inspired. What next? I want to get a job in PR. I’ll work two jobs if I need to – it will be worth it to do something I love.
As a teenager Jo’el, 22, grew up surrounded by violence and crime, but realised he wanted his life to take a different path. His menswear mentor discovered he had a natural talent – he now wants to study it at university.
I used to really enjoy designing – picking up a pencil and just letting my imagination run wild - but now I’ve also learnt how the fashion business works: that you need to take into account the trends in fashion and the practicalities of designing. Kasha has taught me little secrets that make everything much easier, and I’ve learnt how to use Photoshop. The biggest problem has been managing my personal life with doing this – and at times I haven’t. But everyone has been really understanding and considerate. I’ve always been into fashion but didn’t believe someone like me could make it. My ambition now is to go back to university. I finally feel like a lot of things are possible