StylePortfolios: Paul Austin
What is your employment status?
What is your official job title?
PA: Senior Menswear Designer
Please summarize your professional career in 1 to 3 sentences; what should everyone know about you?
PA: I am a menswear designer with 12 years experience and have been fortunate enough to work for global brands as well as start ups, giving me ample opportunity to be both creative and strategic. I love my job because not only do I get to do what I love for a living, but I get to work with so many different people and bring their vision to life. My work encompasses everything from research, colour, mood, through to design development, tech pack building, fittings and making sure the products are the best they can be to go to market – then I start the process all over again!
Describe what you do?
PA: I work closely with my clients to understand first of all, their end goal, and then plan backwards to advise the best route to take and what to prioritise. Some have a very clear idea already so it’s a case of filling in the gaps and getting to work, and others have a blank slate so we can work together to pull together ideas – be it imagery, fabrics, colours, shapes – and build a range from there. No two jobs are the same which demands me to be adaptable, responsive, and patient but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Why did you choose to be a designer?
PA: I knew I wanted to do something creative because I loved to draw as a child, then the older I got I realised it could be something I could actually take seriously and make a living from. I grew up in Manchester UK, so was already surrounded by a lot of subculture and fashion, as well as a top tier fashion design school, so it was too good an opportunity to miss.
What steps did you take to become a designer?
PA: I focused on my art studies at high school then majored in this in further education until I was qualified enough to apply for a full time college fashion course at Manchester School of Art. It took a lot of work to focus my creativity into fashion, which at times can be quite mathematical, but it was worth the challenge.
What is the best/most challenging part of your job?
PA: Meeting new people and understanding their projects and vision is always the best part, and with that, the challenge tends to be juggling numerous projects at a time and keeping the creative momentum so that everyone in my creative world is happy.
If you weren’t a designer what would you be?
PA: I think I would be a fashion lecturer instead as it also provides a great challenge and the chance to meet lots of new personalities. It would have to be something fashion related for sure!
How did you get started in design?
PA: I think simply by enjoying getting dressed as a teenager, and generally gravitating toward subculture and style in a cosmopolitan city. It just seemed natural to take what I enjoyed and learn to do it myself.
What do you like about what you do?
PA: I love being able to do what I genuinely feel I am good at. I think it is a gift to find your vocation in life so I feel truly blessed to have tapped into that so early in my life and to have had the support to pursue it professionally.
What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?
PA: This is the million dollar question! I think fashion outsiders think it is a case of colouring things in all day with crayons and don’t always take it seriously, but I try to convince anyone that merely buying and wearing clothes still connects them to an interest and fashion and their personal style choices. Another misconception is that it is a glamorous world to be part – which it can be for maybe 1% of the time, but certainly not on a daily basis.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
PA: I would love to be creatively directing a team of other creatives and creating clothes that make people feel great.
What sparked your interest in design?
PA: Growing up in Manchester, UK, the thriving music scene and club culture was always very exciting to me even as a child. Being surrounded by diversity and so much different style and ways of dressing was just a feast for the eyes and really motivated me to design clothes and experiment with style and find my own voice.
How has your work evolved since you began your career?
PA: A lot! Whilst I don’t think I will ever stop learning, I take every opportunity to do better and learn new things. My speed and accuracy have also massively increased which is vital for the kind of work I do today. My design work itself has become much more considered and eclectic. I have to thank the power of social media for opening my eyes to global style which is now so accessible and inspiring to look at to challenge my own ideas.
Are there any types of clothing/footwear/accessories that you avoid wearing?
PA: This year because of a lockdown here in London I would have to say swimwear!
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
PA: Sustainability is a huge focus in fashion at the moment and I’m learning more and more each day and have assured myself there is nothing boring about it. It is important for me to always consider how ethical my design process is, be it fabric compositions, dye techniques, through to where products are made and how they are shipped. Even down to the smaller but important details such as what are the clothing hangers made from that will be used to merchandise these sustainable garments. It is a very fascinating topic and I am certain it will evolve into the new normal given our access to information surrounding sustainability.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your career?
PA: The biggest lesson I have learnt is to be myself and not be scared of voicing my opinion. I learnt this when I was around 25 and can’t believe it took me so long to trust myself and my instincts.
What advice would you give to young designers?
PA: Particularly this year, it is going to be a huge challenge to break into the industry, but the best advice I can give is for them to trust themselves and also to persevere and be resilient. I mentor young designers in my spare time as it is another way for me to meet new and interesting people, and I also love the thought that I can somehow give back. Keep doing what you love, find a way to support yourself the best you can and focus the rest of your energy on pursuing your dream.
What would you like to achieve before the end of the year?
PA: Again this year is so unique, so just making it to the end of the year unscathed will be my biggest achievement! As well as the opportunity to work on more projects.
Are you superstitious or do you have any rules you live by?
PA: I like to manifest opportunities by writing things down on paper – I don’t know if it’s psychological or actually real, but it always works for me.
What’s your motto?
PA: Don’t just work harder, work smarter.
With 12 years experience under my belt, I have worked for numerous brands such as DKNY, Roland Mouret, Dunhill and Katharine Hamnett to name but a few. I am as enthusiastic about my job now as the day I started, and am constantly learning and meeting new people and feel grateful to be doing what I always dreamed of doing.
Currently I work freelance for multiple clients and individuals who have their own vision that I am chosen to help bring to life. No two jobs are ever the same, nor is my daily routine, so resilience and motivation is key.
Adapting to the constantly changing fashion industry, particularly this year, provides me with a great challenge which I grab with both hands every time.