DMU for Life's Alumnus of the Month for December is Sam Tretton, who graduated with a First from the Contour Fashion BA in 2010 and has since gone on to lead a successful career in the fashion industry. After completing her degree, Sam went to work as a Junior Designer for Tommy Hilfiger's swimwear and loungewear team in Amsterdam, where she worked her way up to the position of Design Manager over a seven-year period with the company.
She has since adopted a variety of design consultant roles including working with the recently established Lionel Messi apparel line, alongside founding her own sustainable vintage clothing start-up brand 'Jam Boutique'.
Sam spoke to us about her studies, the development of her career since leaving De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) and her passion for creating sustainable fashion:
"I was first attracted to apply to study at DMU by the unique and specialist nature of the Contour Fashion course, which seemed to be a good blend of creative and technical elements. I knew I wanted to engage with a programme that was specialised in nature and a lot of the courses on offer elsewhere were very generic in terms of the content.
"Leicester was also appealing to me, coming from a small northern village, as it was not quite as large and intimidating as some other major cities but still offered plenty to see and do.
"I really learned a fantastic amount during my time at DMU, the blend of digital design work and practical elements like pattern cutting, sewing and using industrial machinery gave me an appreciation for all stages of the production process. There was a strong emphasis on designing clothing that balances creativity with comfort and suitability for practical form fitting which is incredibly important in the lingerie business.
"We also had the chance to work with some great quality materials provided by corporate sponsors and had the close support of an amazing teaching staff.
"Over the course of my degree I had the chance to gain a range of hands-on experience, such as working for a local bridalwear shop in Leicester called Pretty Maids Bridal Wear. This gave me the opportunity to practice fine detail work and hand stitching to complement my other skills. I was also able to participate in the Triumph International Inspiration Awards, a contest challenging students to come up with an innovative bra based on an iconic design.
"After I finished at DMU in 2010, I went to work for Tommy Hilfiger in Amsterdam as a Junior Designer on their swim, sleep and loungewear collection. Working at Hilfiger taught me a lot about the fashion industry and the helped me develop my career. I have always been interested primarily in sustainable fashion, which has really come into the spotlight across the industry in the last decade.
"When I started leading my own team I felt a responsibility to create long-lasting products that people would love and wear for a long time by developing clothes that are seasonless and don't date quickly.
"I really pushed to make use of quality cotton, recycled polyester and alternative fabrics like Tencel and Lenzing products which would have a positive impact both environmentally and for the rights of workers involved in production. I'm very proud of an initiative I started with one of Hilfiger's Portugese factories, where I secured the excess, cast-off raw materials for use in creating limited edition, one of a kind designs.
"After almost eight years with Tommy Hilfiger, I made the decision to return to the UK and my design roots by establishing my own vintage clothing brand, Jam Boutique. It was pretty scary leaving a secure job and setting out on my own, but I took a year out to work on the initial line for my new brand, which reflected a lot of the passion from where I first began designing at DMU.
"It was a big shift in terms of design process for me, at Hilfiger I had worked mostly digitally with a laptop but I went back to making a lot of use of the sewing machine in my kitchen. Working for myself also gave me the time to pursue various freelance opportunities with a range of brands. Recently I've worked with Ginny Hilfiger on designing and launching 'The Messi Brand' of clothing which was an incredible experience.
"The fashion community has been so kind and receptive, at the start of this year I had the chance to showcase my Jam Boutique line at the Paris Interfilliere Bodyfashion trade show in the 'changemakers' section on art and handicrafts. As a result I was invited on to represent this section of the show by making a ten minute presetation on my story and sustainable fashion to 500 VIP guests.
"I feel very passionate about promoting environmentally conscious fashion, I've tried to promote my message about reusing and repurposing old clothing and fabric to create something fresh and new. As part of trying to spread that message and give back, I've been back to DMU to guest lecture and also worked with Keighley College to help children with behavioural or disability issues to get interest in design and fashion.
"Staying in contact with my lecturers at DMU has allowed me to go back and work with aspiring young designers. I was excited to hear about the development of an Fashion Network focused on linking students and alumni in the industry to help them develop their careers, and I look forward to continuing to share my experiences with students."
Sam will be opening a new store 'Jam Box' in Margate this year.
To learn more about our Fashion Network, visit the LinkedIn page.
Posted on Wednesday 18th December 2019