We have a chat with Nuala Convery the girl behind FEM. Fatale and the winner of the fashion marketing award at Graduate Fashion Week, about feminism, mental health and her advice for other fashion students going into their final year.
Tell us a bit about yourself
Heeeya I’m Nuala (pronounced Nu-la), a 24-year-old fashion design & marketing graduate from Belfast. Personal interests include: watching Netflix in the bath, cheese-based food, changing my hair lewks regularly, Skyping my sister, the upside-down face emoji, my pupper, GENDER EQUALITY *bicep emoji*, mental health awareness, self-care, selfies, glitter, yoga and cocktails.
Tell us about FEM. Fatale
FEM. Fatale is my final year project, a feminist womenswear brand for bad bitches. It’s a heavily print-driven brand and the first collection’s prints act as a love letter to a young woman’s experiences in the UK and Ireland. So I included ‘toilet-wall doodle’ style drawings of tampons, condoms, contraceptive pills, female genitalia, feminist slogans and tough-girl placements. My aim for the brand was that customers wearing FEM. Fatale are not only creating a discussion point and connecting with their beliefs through the garment graphics, but directly helping to raise money for empowering charities. It was important to me that the brand would actually give back to the cause it’s raising awareness for, so for each garment purchased a percentage of the profit would go to a charity such as ‘Brook NI’, which provides free contraception and sexual education services to young people in Northern Ireland.
What inspired you to use your final year collection to tackle this social issue?
I was really inspired by Polyester Zine and Clio Peppiat’s ‘Female Matters’ exhibition, a one-night-only, all-female art exhibition, which raised awareness for the issue of female genital mutilation, and donated money raised to The Dahlia Project, a FGM support group in London. I also went to the Polyester Zine launch in London (and met you, Charlie!!) and I was inspired by everyone there and how people were using their creative platforms to promote activism. Some issues that were really on my radar at the time, and still are, were tampon tax, sexual harassment & sexual consent, and the power of girl gangs and female collectives. It was important to me that I used my graduate brand/collection as a platform for me to express my beliefs and the beliefs of the women who I considered my target market. A lot of my friends, peers, and inspirational people around me are feminists. In the run up to final year I had noticed a massive trend in feminism being discussed in the media and by my peers on social media etc and I wanted to give this group of women a brand that they could connect to, and that actually helps a cause.
What’s your advice for students about to go in to final year and begin their FMP’s?
First things first; before anything else, please remember that YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN UNI. Always! The final year of a fashion degree can be an extremely stressful time and it can trigger a lot of mental health issues for people. If you’re not feeling mentally well go to the doctors, tell your tutors, tell your friends, tell your family, and take regular time for self-care. I cannot stress how important that is. Other than that, final year can be a very rewarding and exciting experience, and it’s the one year where you get to truly get to explore what YOU want to do. So my tip for picking your Final Major Project topic is to choose something that you are truly passionate about. Don’t pick something because you think your tutors will like it! When you graduate you won’t have those tutors anymore; you want to be applying for jobs with a portfolio that reflects YOU, not your tutors.
Get inspiration from everywhere, actually go outside and photograph/draw things, don’t just use the internet. Think about social issues, political issues, cultural issues, advances in technology and science – how will this affect the future fashion market? How can you make something new and exciting inspired by these issues? Who or what truly inspires you and why?
It can seem really hard to at times but try to have fun with whatever you choose to do, remember this might be the last time for a long time that you’ll be able to literally just use all these resources to make whatever you like.
So I hear you won an award at Graduate Fashion Week 2016, tell us about that!
OMG yes I won the ‘Fashion Marketing Award 2016’ for my marketing plan for FEM. Fatale! It was literally the BEST day, like honestly one of the happiest moments of my life haha, how geeky am I!?
No but in all fairness what made winning that award so nice is that my tutors and all my girls in my class were sooo made up for me and so supportive. They all gave me a big group hug when I came back with the award and I started crying, and it set everyone else off crying and laughing hahaha it was sooo CUTE.
What are your plans now that you’ve graduated? What’s next for you/the brand?
I’m back home in Belfast at the minute and doing freelance illustration work from here. (Also looking for WERK so holla at ya girl £££) It’s been great being home and getting to spend time with my Belfast pals, my fam and my pupper- but I’m missing England vibes and also all my uni babes! There are some exciting things in the pipeline for a FEM. Fatale collaboration…but I kind of have to keep that secret for now haha :D. So keep your eyes peeled on my Instagram for updates on that.