Guest lecture — Coming full circle

Guest Lecture Twenty Years Ten Lessons- Yulan Creative — Joanne Yulan Jong

How wonderful to find myself, back on the grand staircase of Edinburgh College of Art, returning to where my journey in fashion started. I’ve come here to deliver the guest lecture and talk about my business Yulan Creative. So I find myself, coming full circle standing right there on the steps, where I met fellow students who were to become lifelong friends.

From my year, two of us progressed into the Royal College of Art to complete an masters degree, a move that many more from ECA have since made — a testament to the continued high quality of teaching. At the time I graduated the BA Degree was the only degree course in Scotland. Fast -forward to 2017 and there are many more courses in the UK and many more fashion graduates, than ever before. As a result, it’s become very competitive out there.

Claire Ferguson, Joanne Yulan Jong and Mal Burkinshaw

It’s great to know that the Head of Fashion, Mal Burkinshaw is fully on board, working to expose his students to wider industry insights early in the curriculim and he was keen for his students to hear from my experience.

In my last piece “Fixing Fashion Education” my focus was the lack of business training in fashion degree courses. I believe passionately that fashion production, logistics and business should be part of the course and taught to the students earlier rather than later. Its infact in these areas that we are really seeing great innovation and progress today.

Learning about business and strategy, rather than a hindering creativity I believe is now part of the creative process. Its exactly this alignment, that I work closely with clients to achieve. I encourage them to be as passionate about the numbers and strategy as much as design. A hard sell perhaps to fashion students, but a necessary tonic for businesses trying to stand out in todays challenged market.

This lecture “Twenty Years Ten Lessons” on the other hand is structured around my personal journey, which actually started well before attending the ECA. It charts how I made the leap from small town girl, to working with some of the greatest fashion brands in the world. Mal added a phrase that captured everything in a nutshell “its a journey…from Aberdeen to Anna Wintour” he said, and he’s quite right.

I take the students through my experience designing for many iconic brands and explain how very different they can be. Each business structure, the internal culture and what’s expected of a designer can vary immensely. They hear of the many challenges that arrived and were overcome, opportunities taken that succeeded, and wrong decisions taken with the painful consequences that followed.

“The point is, nothing is a straight line, but you will get there and it’s worth the journey”

I take the students through my experience designing for many iconic brands and explain how very different they can be. Each business structure, the internal culture and what’s expected of a designer can vary immensely. They hear of the many challenges that arrived and were overcome, opportunities taken that succeeded, and wrong decisions taken with the painful consequences that followed.

My top three lessons? The Three P’s

PASSION

“The fashion business is dynamic creative but also very demanding. Your passion will open doors if it’s true and authentic”

PERSEVERANCE

“Taking knocks and bouncing back with renewed resilience and a smile is par for the course”

PERSONAL SKILLS

“Be punctual, professional, polite, reliable and easy to work with. Seems so basic yet these qualities are frequently lacking in new employees”

Mind you, along with these, they have to back that up with another crucial P and that’s a brilliant Portfolio. I’ll leave that task in the safe hands of Mal, Claire and the wonderful team at the fashion department of Edinburgh College of Art.

Joanne Yulan Jong is a fashion designer, creative director, author, and founder of Yulan Creative. Her consultancy specialises in helping established and up and coming brands, to align their creative vision with their business strategy, and grow. Her book ALIGN will be published this year. She will talking at the V&A on March 11th 2017.

Joanne Yulan Jong works with fashion brands to develop both vision and commercial viability. She owns a consultancy with a global client list including Giorgio Armani, Missoni , Daks Simpson, The Austin Reed Group, The White Company, Liberty, ME+EM and Petit Tribe and runs exclusive workshops for fashion entrepreneurs in the UK and internationally.yulancreative.com * Follow Yulan Creative on Twitter