26th January, 2021

Some RSN Degree Graduates progress on to further their studies, expanding their knowledge in other areas whilst incorporating embroidery.   Read 2018 Graduate Alex Standring’s story and her fantastic achievements so far….

“Soon after graduating, I was approached by the embroidery designer Cathryn Avison to assist her with specialist Goldwork embroidery which is featured on three different costumes for the recently released live action remake of Disney’s film, ‘Mulan’. The most notable costume which I was delighted to work on was Mulan’s purple and pink matchmaker costume.

After initially freelancing for the London-based haute couture fashion company Ralph & Russo in summer 2018, I was then asked to join their Embroidery & Finishing team full-time. During my employment, I worked on three of their haute couture collections, which were shown during Paris Fashion Week, along with many client and celebrity orders. I found that working within this prestigious luxury industry is both exhilarating and extraordinary, yet requires hard work and long hours of dedication.

In 2018, I entered my ‘Final Major Project’ collection, entitled ‘Faith & Fears’,  into the esteemed Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery competition and was delighted to receive both the 1st prize in the Student Textile Art category and the Associate Award given by The Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers. My winning sculptural and wearable headdresses explore the idea of the conflict and contrast between the two themes of faith and fear and takes inspiration from the Byzantine mosaics in Sicily as well as my phobia of spiders. Through intricate designs and use of traditional and modern embroidery, the pieces show how my fears are overcome by changing the perspective to instead make them into something exquisite and beautiful.

Since keeping in contact with The Worshipful Company of Gold & Silver Wyre Drawers (GSWD), I was honoured to be invited to join the company and was made a ‘Trade Freeman’ in January 2020. The GSWD is one of London’s many charitable Livery Companies and prides itself on creating a community in which crafts and skills may be shared and exhibited whilst bringing trades people together. I will be looking forward to getting involved more with the company’s activities in the coming years; unfortunately many planned events had to be cancelled this year due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

This summer, I entered a visual arts competition for young creatives with a series entitled ‘Windows of Hope’* in which I was selected as a Finalist; the competition was part of the ‘Carlisle Festival of Hope 2020’ and was in collaboration with Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle. As I was shortlisted, my work is featured as part of the Emerge Visual Arts Show and hopefully will be exhibited in the near future in the Tullie House Art Gallery.

Most recently, I achieved a Master of Science in ‘Textiles’ from the University of Leeds which I passed with Distinction.  The course allowed me to develop my knowledge of the entire textile process and supply chain from raw material to manufacturing and final product.  It also expanded my understanding of sustainable textiles, dyeing and finishing. For the final semester of my MSc, I focused on my independent research dissertation entitled ‘Breaking Binary Fashion: Ungendering the Skirt’. This novel study looks to both the recent and historic past to understand why garments became gender assigned and how design may be used to deconstruct the gender divided clothing market. It explores the potential of how fashion may be used to support movement towards a gender-neutral society and tackle the issue of toxic masculinity.

For the next step in my career, I would like to continue my academic studies either in the form of a PhD or a research-based job. I believe that research is such a key starting point to any piece of work, whether it be academic or creative, it is an essential step in the understanding and purpose of each piece. Furthermore, I am hoping to expand my embroidery practice in the near future, specialising in the traditional Goldwork technique. I am planning on continuing my exploration of monochromatic pieces, focusing on a single colour whilst using different textures, techniques and materials to create depth, movement and shapes. My goals are to start showcasing my work in more exhibitions and to build my reputation as an Embroidery Artist.

My advice to creatives and potential Degree students would be to follow your creative instinct and do not compare yourself to your peers. Art is about expressing yourself and exploring creative aspects which you find interesting rather than reinterpreting someone else’s vision.

You can follow Alex on Instagram.

We are so proud of the achievements of all our Degree Students.  You can read about more of our student success stories here.


* Accompanying statement for ‘Windows of Hope’:
“‘Windows of Hope’ is a series of hand embroidered artworks representing the power of hope during the great lockdown. 2020 was an unprecedented year with many of us having been stuck inside the home looking out of the window to the same quiet and deserted scenery. Each morning as we view the sun rising, it provides a little glimmer of golden hope showing that better times are ahead. The certainty of the sun rising, as it has done for millennia, has provided reassurance that the world will keep turning and we will get through these strange and uncertain times.”