If you are an avid reader of Cosmopolitan UK then you've likely heard of Kate Fearnley.
Cosmo seems to have a developed a bit of a school girl's crush on Kate as they named
her in their Ultimate Women of the Year Awards and said, “Celebs love wearing her
designs. Girls Aloud, Colleen McLoughlin and Sophie Ellis Bextor have all worn her
dresses, Pixie Lott takes her clothes on tour... yes, Kate Fearnley has made it.”
Kate is also one Cosmo's Fashion Entrepreneurs of the Year. And she must be one hell-
of-an entrepreneur because she won the same award in Grazia Magazine's Entrepreneur
The truth is she is an excellent entrepreneur (as is just about every continuously-
successful designer) because in 2002 she turned a £1,000 grant from the Prince's Trust
into what is now a successful label being worn on red carpets by celebrities around
the country. But don't think her journey was simply fortuitous, "It was hard," she told
Cosmo. "I had no money so I made everything myself, put it in the back of the car,
dragged it around the shops and sold what I could. There were times when I wondered
if it was worth it but it spurred me on to open my own place and slowly we turned things
Stardom hasn't gone to Kate's head though: the young designer is still working her socks
off with 12-hour days (often sleeping in her studio) alongside her staff of seven. She also
keeps her designs accessible to others hauling their designs around in their cars, some as
low as £65 per piece.
How did you get your foot into the door of the fashion industry?
We got a chance to catch up with Kate, between her 12-hour shifts, and asked her a
round of questions geared at showing aspiring designers how to follow in her notable
I worked for a club wear company locally following University.
For any of our readers not familiar with you could you explain your label's
We produce quirky and sophisticated occasion wear for women of 20-40. Our designs are
usually worn for special events such as the races, weddings, etc.
What inspired your brand's iconic look?
I am totally inspired by the Hollywood icons of the fifties. Audrey Hepburn in particular.
What type of education did it take to get you where you are today and how has
your career path progressed over the years?
I did a degree in Fashion at Northumbria University, later I launched my own brand in
2002, and opened the boutique in 2005.
If you had it to do all over again what would you do differently, change or
I would be less nice! I have often made dresses purely for income that were not what I
would have designed myself. And I definitely haven’t charged enough!
What is your favorite part of working in the fashion/design business?
Making the ordinary woman look fabulous and feel a million dollars.
Which designers and/or artists influenced you the most as a creative
Alexander McQueen is my absolute inspiration – what he did with tailoring was amazing.
I also love the flamboyant theatre of Vivienne Westwood.
What is the most important skill and/or hard lesson you have learned while
working in the industry?
How to run a business! You have to think about everything and everyone all the time – it
can be hard to find time to do what you set out to do, which of course was design.
What was most surprising about working in the fashion industry?
How down to earth and genuine most people actually are. It’s a lot less false than people
What school(s) does your company generally recruit new hires from?
And, do you accept interns?
We do take on interns – we have had two working with us over the last year. I try to
recruit locally (Middlesbrough) because work around here is really hard to come by and I
like to give back to the local community.
Which role(s) in the fashion industry do you think will offer the best career
opportunities moving forward? eg. designer, PR, entrepreneur, etc.?
I think you have to be a bit of everything! Otherwise you miss opportunities. If you want
to design and work for yourself, you definitely have to get a business head on, and spot
opportunities for PR wherever you can. You have to be prepared that everything is very
competitive. The thing that is really lacking is good manufacturers though – someone
who could bring that back to this country and make it affordable would stand to make a
lot of money.
Do you think today's jobs in the fashion industry require more of an artist's
touch or business-like ruthlessness?
Both – you need to be creative in order to succeed, but you can’t be too nice about it,
otherwise business will not progress.
Which skills do you consider to be most critical for a career in fashion?
What would you recommend for aspiring fashion professionals looking to break
into today's fashion industry?
Don ‘t give up. You only live once and if you really want something badly enough you can
make it happen.
Check out more interviews at The Fashion-Schools.org Interview Series.