Fashion entrepreneurs go back to school to inspire pupils

Lilly Holmes and Federica Peebles

A PIONEERING clothes-making course designed for young parents has been adopted by a Dundee school to help boost engagement and aspiration amongst pupils.

Kindred Clothing, run by Dundee charity Front Lounge, is delivered by a range of businesses within its Clothes Making Learning Partnership (CMLP). Kindred Clothing takes learners through the key stages of the garment production process from setting up and using a sewing machine through to mood boards, pattern making and construction.  Learners also gain practical fashion photography skills and techniques to present themselves, their stories and their clothes.    The course, due to be taught in person, swiftly moved online when COVID hit, with the first batch of graduates celebrating their SQA Kindred Clothing Award (Garment Production) qualification in the Summer of 2021.

Now, nine pupils at Dundee’s Grove Academy have completed a 10-week taster session of the full programme and today (Thursday 16 December 2021), the S2 pupils proudly revealed some of their creations at Kathryn Rattray Gallery, Dundee.   Due to demand, the school hopes to run a second block for another batch of pupils early next year and, longer-term, potentially incorporate the full Kindred Clothing award into an alternative curriculum within the school.  

The taster session at Grove Academy has been delivered by Jolene Guthrie of Jo-AMI and Chair of the CMLP Gillian McIver of Andie.  Jolene led an arm-knitting session, with Gillian making t-shirts.

Jolene said, “I’ve been teaching the pupils how to arm-knit, from the design process and technique through to the actual knitting itself.  They’ve made an amazing collection of products from blankets and scarves to tops, with most not realising how versatile yarn can be, or the different aspects of knitwear.

“I was keen to get involved in this project as I didn’t have these opportunities at school. I was always pushed towards the academic side which is great but it meant that other options weren’t explored.  I knew I enjoyed creating but hadn’t realised the business potential – sometimes we need real-life examples to show us the opportunities that might lie ahead. If I’ve planted a seed in their minds and allow them to think bigger or differently, then I’m delighted with that. I’ve also been really impressed by their engagement and progress including the way they’ve supported each other when they could have given up. There’s a real sense of achievement amongst them all – they should be exceptionally proud of themselves.”

Graham Hutton, Rector added, “Kindred Clothing is a fantastic opportunity for our learners. I have been incredibly pleased with the impact it has had so far on pupils. It is great to see Grove pupils having opportunities to develop their employability and creative skills and I have been astonished and the quality of the pieces they have produced.

“For a number of reasons, some of these learners have not been gaining the most from their education so were particularly receptive to learning new skills within a refreshingly different environment. We have an innovative approach to developing the young workforce at Grove Academy and ensure our curriculum is always getting it right for every Grove learner by responding to industry demand and the needs of our community. 

“We strive to ensure that Grove Academy provides more than just the traditional exam-based, academic pathway so that every Grove learner leaves here as the best version of themselves after an enriching experience.  Kindred Clothing fits perfectly into this approach and I look forward to seeing the progress these learners make as they develop through the project as it grows with them into a SQA certified course in S3 and S4.”

One of the pupils taking part is Lily Holmes (12) who commented, “I didn’t think I would be able to do this but with help from ‘KC staff’ I’m so happy with what I’ve done.  Can we not just do this every day?”  

Meanwhile, Federica Peebles (12) added, “I never thought knitting would be so much fun!”

Parents are also delighted with the outcomes of the project, with Lucy Whelby, mum of Leah Whelby (13) adding, “She is really enjoying the crafting, it’s teaching beneficial skills and she is a lot more confident”.

Chika Inatimi, Project Leader at Front Lounge said, “When we designed Kindred Clothing, we didn’t just want to teach sewing skills. We also aimed to provide learners with a broad range of opportunities through local businesses, from mentoring and training to work experience and employment.  That aspiration is now a reality, with a number of our graduates going on to secure jobs and internships with local fashion houses. 

“Taking Kindred Clothing out to schools is, in many ways, the same. The course exists to raise aspirations, provide a focus and show learners that they can achieve, regardless of the barriers they might face and we’re delighted to have achieved this goal through a short taster experience at Grove Academy. This project has given a detailed insight into the potential of Kindred Clothing within schools and served as an excellent showcase of what young people can accomplish with a little support and direction. We can’t wait to see the next stage of their journey.”

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