FROM staying on at school to considering college or employment, a group of eight young people are on the path to a brighter future, having completed a clothes-making qualification delivered by Dundee businesses.
Led by Dundee charity Front Lounge, the SQA-accredited Kindred Clothing Award (Garment Production) qualification was designed by a group of young mums in 2021 and is delivered by businesses within the Clothes Making Learning Partnership (CMLP). They take learners through the key stages of the garment production process, from setting up and using a sewing machine to mood boards, pattern making and garment construction. Learners also gain practical fashion photography skills and techniques to present themselves, their stories and their clothes.
During the 10 week-block, the learners have created a range of garments, from tote bags and lounge sets to show-stopping dresses to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Ellie Fraser (14) joined Kindred Clothing from Dundee’s Baldragon Academy. Although bubbly and chatty in the relaxed environment we strive for at Kindred Clothing, school is a different story for Ellie where she is riddled with anxiety and panic attacks.
Ellie explained: “I stopped going to school full-time around August last year, just as I was heading into second year. I felt like everyone was staring at me, I couldn’t concentrate and just kept crying. To try and get me back at school full-time, I was given a support worker who put me into a sewing group to give me something different, to motivate me. She then told me about the two places left at Kindred Clothing and, after some discussions, I got a place and started the course.”
So, how did this new experience of education work for Ellie?
“I absolutely loved it. I’ve come to realise that big groups don’t work for me, and I perform much better in a smaller group like this. It’s also so different working with local businesses than teachers. Sometimes at school, the teaching feels too rigid. Businesses teach you about things they do for a living so it felt more ‘real’. Here it’s more supportive, you can work at your own pace and make things your own, but there’s also a plan to keep you on track.
“I also love practical work rather than sitting in a class being spoken to. I’d used a sewing machine before but just practising sewing a straight line. Here, we started with pockets, zips, hems and cuffs, went on to make a lounge suit and then designed and made our very own glitzy dress for International Women’s Day. It’s been amazing as we got to put our stamp on it rather than just following instructions.
“But there’s been way more to it than just learning to sew. I’ve made a good friend group which has helped with my confidence and wanting to stick with it. After two weeks with Kindred Clothing, I thought ‘I can do this!’ I’m going to try and get back to school and then, I’d love to make clothes for a living or go to college. It’s changed the way I think of my future and what opportunities are out there.”
Meanwhile, the eldest learner Topaz Walker joined Kindred Clothing fresh from industry.
A former pupil at Strathallan School in Perthshire, Dundee-born Topaz (19), who is dyslexic, left school with ‘no real plan’. However, she had a strong interest in art and fashion, having studied A-level art where she chose to focus on drag queen fashion. Fast forward a few months when Topaz spotted an advert for a part-time six-week apprenticeship at Dundee fashion house Isolated Heroes.
“I applied and was absolutely delighted when I got the position. I went in every Monday, working on the production side of the business. Better still, they then called me back to help with the admin side, dealing with the orders, packaging and so on. It was around then that Samantha Paton, the owner, mentioned Kindred Clothing. It really appealed to me as I wanted to get a qualification as well as industry experience. After an interview, I made it through and started the course.”
So how did it work for Topaz, studying alongside younger learners?
“We were a real mix but even the youngest were all pretty mature for their age. Most of us were also pretty similar in ability, and we all got on brilliantly. I’ve made some good friends; our different backgrounds and ages didn’t matter. I loved making the tote bags and the International Women’s Day dress when Isolated Heroes came in and helped us design, draw and cut our fabrics. Kindred Clothing isn’t anything like school. The smaller group allowed me to thrive, just be myself and speak up. I’m now waiting to hear if I’ve got into university to study Textiles and Fashion and, if not, I have an Unconditional offer to go to college in Glasgow. I’ve also lined up another apprenticeship in Dundee with Ruby Coyne of Dreamland, which will give me another industry experience. Longer-term, I’d love to make more inclusive clothes for under-represented people, perhaps those with a disability, or to reflect the gender mix in society. I can’t wait to see what happens next!”
Chika Inatimi, Project Leader, Front Lounge said, “The Kindred Clothing qualification is an example of education done differently. We welcome learners who will benefit from our model, young people who have come up against barriers to education again and again. While no two are the same, they have one thing in common – the risk of slipping through the cracks of society, including those who are struggling with school or with their mental health.
“Although some schools are carving an alternative curriculum to keep pupils engaged, the confines and pressures of the school environment can still prove exceptionally challenging. Kindred Clothing provides an alternative model for those who don’t fit into the traditional classroom environment, for whatever reason.
“Working through Kindred Clothing with local businesses, in small groups, works really well for our learners. They make friends, they build confidence and they realise what they can achieve. It’s exceptionally humbling when learners leave the course realising they do have a future, that there are opportunities out there, whether that’s returning to school full-time, pursuing a college course or seeking employment.”
This specific cohort has been partly funded by The Princes Trust.
James Hopgood, Youth Development Lead at The Princes Trust, added, “When seeking out opportunities for The Prince’s Trust to partner with a Dundee-based organisation supporting young people, it was a no-brainer for me to approach Front Lounge. The Kindred Clothing programme is such a fantastic platform for young learners wanting to dip their toes into the fashion and textiles industry and start to map out their entry routes into further education and employment in the sector.
“The young learners are able to gain an SQA qualification outside of the traditional school setting, build up a network of peers and have access to the continued support from both Front Lounge and The Prince’s Trust to help realise and achieve their true potential. It has been amazing to hear of how the group has been progressing throughout the course. The Trust is very proud to partner with and support such a life-changing organisation.”
The course provides opportunities for anyone under the age of 25 who has an interest in fashion and is seeking a change of direction.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call/leave a message on (01382) 220330 or visit www.frontlounge.org