Award tops off stellar year for Jaime Lee

Central has always prided itself on the quality of its graduates and fashion is no exception. Former Central students featured in all three nominations this year in the City of Perth’s Most Innovative Fashion Designer of the Year award. These were Jaime Lee (Jaime Lee Major), One Fell Swoop (Daniel Romanin and Nikolina Ergic) and Zhivago (Lara Kovacevich and Lydia Tsvetnenko).

In a ceremony held at the Heath Ledger Theatre on 6 March it was Jaime Lee who took out the top award.

Jaime Lee, who graduated from Central in 2008, has had an amazing year of success and critical acclaim, most notably at the 2013 Perth Fashion Festival where she opened the event with her ‘Light Magic’ collection. One critic calling it “the best catwalk presentation in the event’s 15-year history.” In 2012 she was thrust onto the international stage with her collaboration with Kimbra across her European and US tours. Jamie Lee’s designs featured in music videos, on stage and on multiple television shows.

Jaime kindly took some time out from her busy schedule to answer some questions about her very first steps into the fashion world…

When did you first realise that fashion design was the career for you?

Like most high school kids I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’ but I knew it was in a creative field. I probably didn’t realise until I was studying that it was what I wanted to do, and I didn’t really realise it would be a profitable career for me until a few years ago.

How did you end up at Central?

I applied straight from high school along with a few other courses and got accepted and heard it was hard to get into so I gave it a go. And I loved it!

What were the most valuable skills and knowledge you took away from your time here?

I think the best thing about Central is it’s an environment for you to self-explore creatively. I think studying fashion is about finding out your own style and being guided by people that have industry experience, more so than learning skills. I definitely learnt skills and knowledge in areas like marketing etc. But generally it was just creative exploration that I wouldn’t have explored without a brief and a deadline. My favourite units were figure drawing and textiles. Whilst in my second year, I did a summer course in Milan at a pretty prestigious college and came home and really appreciated how hands on TAFE was. What I think is so special about Central is that we learnt the whole process from sketching the design, making our own textiles and then making and sewing the finished garment. Working in the industry, I feel like this has given me a greater advantage over other designers in a commercial environment as they are sometimes only taught to sketch.

Would you say a Central Fashion Design course is a good springboard to getting started in the industry?

Yes. I am more hands on with my approach, so going to university to study fashion wasn’t appropriate for me.

Is there any advice you would give young budding designers just setting out?

I know everybody says it. But… go work for someone first. I started my label straight after leaving Central and then had the opportunity to design for a few different commercial labels. While they are totally different markets to the direction I want to go in, I learnt so much and gained so many contacts. Now that I am back doing my label full time I have a much greater understanding of how fashion business works in an international sense.

All of the designers in this article (apart from Lydia Tsvetnenko) studied the Advanced Diploma of Art and Design (Fashion and Textile Design) at Central.

See a video from the award night