My counter-intuitive portfolio advice for applying to CSM Fashion

I used to get more people asking me "How do I make a portfolio to apply to CSM?".

They probably stopped because I'd never give a straightforward answer with THE SECRET.

Also, why would anyone think it's that simple, since I spent a whole year + a lot of money on Fashion Folio (read about my experience here)???

Let me challenge the assumption that a good-looking portfolio is all you need:

Blog bonus: some afterthoughts that came to me as I was publishing the video

  • Pre-Fashion Folio portfolio-prep courses:

Okay so you need to already have the skills before getting into any full-time courses at CSM, but I've heard of a number of people who applied to Fashion Folio, didn't get in and were directed to a preparatory course so they could apply again the following year.

I think that's overkill.

One thing is doing Fashion Folio and not getting into any CSM courses, another thing is doing a course to prepare you for the course that's gonna prepare you to apply to CSM... yeah that was a repetitive mouthful, but it drives me so mad I can't find any other ways to explain how much that doesn't make sense!

If you don't get into the course you want, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE consider that's for the best, because you're not ready!

It could be that you're just lacking the skills, yes - but maybe you have some other growth to do and it's not simply a matter of doing this other course.

And another, and another, and another until you go way over budget and get deep into debt before you're at the course you initially dreamed of.

Could be you're not a good fit for the course - and the course might equally not a good fit for you.

Please don't be me!Don't be so willing to burn money on your education simply because "you never lose knowledge", or "you gotta go to the best school to succeed".(tell that last one to Elon Musk...)

  • The Korean "Factory":

In order to get into CSM ---> you need a portfolio.

A portfolio needs to show a creative process, which is ---> Research and Design Development.

Design Development is making lots and lots of sketches via collaging the images from your research again and again and again on a model template, in the craziest way possible.

Then you get the craziest of the craziest, make them flashier and create a lineup.

Screw my holistic approach! If you just need a portfolio-making formula, someone cracked it and is selling it like hot cakes.

Apparently there were many Korean applicants to my Graduate Diploma year, all with very similar portfolios. But when everyone follows the same cake recipe, everyone ends up with the same cake - even if you bake yours in a star-shaped tin.

Our tutor/ course leader still picked four applicants from the bunch, then proceeded to nag them for weeks about this "Factory". Like anyone needed extra bullying in that course...

Two of them got into an MA afterwards, so maybe you still think it's a good idea.

  • Test projects asked during job interviews, aka. free work:

I've seen recruiters counter-argument Fashion journalists on Instagram who were questioning this practice.

Poor them! They have to ask for test projects because many times they'll hire someone, then find out they don't know how to do proper design work...

Or were they fooled by a pretty portfolio, and couldn't even spot a weak creative process and fake Design Development?

  • If you're in a situation where it seems like CSM is years + tens of thousands of £££ away, start small:

How can you improve your research skills?

Don't just sketch whatever and put it next to a picture to say you did research.

Keep digging deeper, draw more quick studies (try my free runway model template:

How can you get the hang of this Design Development thing?

Upcycle some pieces from the thrift shop, style them, take them apart, piece them back together in unexpected ways...

And don't forget to document all the process = take pictures with your phone, draw over them, write notes and what not.

Or try to tszuj up the stuff you already have in your closet - that'll even be an icebreaker in interviews.

Don't get fixated on getting the diploma, have fun being creative right now. And without spending a lot of money 👍