Young Parents’ Course Feeds Scottish Fashion Industry Skills Gap

Chelsie Bruce, Production Assistant at Isolated Heroes, Dundee

A COURSE, which teaches young parents how to sew, could become a feeder to the fashion and textile industry after one of its first students landed work with one of Scotland’s leading fashion houses.

Dundee mum Chelsie Bruce was one of the first 10 students to complete the online pilot Kindred Clothing course.  The course, which is currently awaiting official SQA accreditation, was due to be taught in person but moved online at the start of lockdown.

The course, run by Dundee charity Front Lounge, 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.

Each element of the course is delivered by an experienced maker and learners build up portfolios documenting all the things they have learnt. They must complete all necessary assessments, the mandated number of hours and present a portfolio of their work at the end of the course.   What makes Kindred Clothing unique is that it has childcare built into every aspect of it, allowing parents with young children to get involved.

Now, Chelsie has landed the post of Production Assistant with Dundee fashion house Isolated Heroes. With a mix of studio and home-based working, Chelsie helps manufacture orders, from sequined t-shirt dresses to beautifully embellished face coverings. An internship was also provided to  Hannah Watson who also completed the pilot course over lockdown.

Samantha Paton, owner and founder of Isolated Heroes has been involved with the project from the outset and believes the course can help fill a skills gap across the industry. She is now encouraging other designers and makers to get involved, providing learners with training and internships while generating a ‘ready-made’ workforce as their businesses grow.

Chika Inatimi, Project Leader, Front Lounge said, “To say we are proud of Chelsie is an understatement. She’s concrete proof of what can be achieved by coming on the course and, as the project evolves and more businesses get involved, we hope to provide our learners with access to an even broader range of opportunities, from training and work experience to employment. If we can cultivate and provide a ready-made labour force to local designers, we’re also meeting their needs. It’s a win-win.”

Samantha Paton said, “We have been extremely busy since the start of lockdown. With shops closed for such a long time, more people were buying clothes online and keen to support independent businesses. As a result, our level of orders can no longer managed in our premises so we decided to recruit a ‘work from home’ team while we seek larger premises. We received a staggering 60 applications, mainly from fashion and textiles graduates but we chose Chelsie due to the skills she’s gained through Kindred Clothing, her love of the brand and her sheer determination. A degree isn’t everything – we also look for hands-on industry experience and a raw passion – Chelsie ticked all the boxes because of the course. We’re looking to create a positive working model and show other businesses how they can implement this into their structure – essentially taking people off the course, training them up and taking them on.”

Chelsie added, “I’m absolutely delighted to have secured work with Isolated Heroes as a direct result of Kindred Clothing. I’m sitting next to two graduates but doing the same job – a real confidence boost!  I hadn’t sewn on a button before I joined the Kindred Clothing programme. Now we’re almost at the point of gaining a qualification and I’ve secured work with a local fashion designer!  I’m learning so much industry experience while still having the flexibility I need as a busy mum.”

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