Now here’s a field that awaits our full attention: Fashion. This is Hurtwood, after all, and one of the unchanging pleasures for me is to see the glorious sense of style manifested unfailingly by our students year in and year out and decade after decade. One who made her mark back in 2006 was Lucy Hammond. Known for her often outrageous Vivienne Westwood concoctions, as well as her laughter and energy, she has worked her way through the rigours of some of the best institutions in the country, through internships galore requiring little short of her whole time: evenings, weekends, the lot, into the totally inspirational role of Senior Knitwear Designer, Menswear Catwalk collection for Burberry. A dream come true? I think so. So let us investigate.
I join Lucy for a catch-up chat at the end of a show, exhausted and ready for a recuperative trip (to Hydra, Leonard Cohen’s Greek island idyll – colour me green) before she begins gathering cultural and global inspiration for the next stunning Burberry collection. I am Othello green. (But this is not about me. Grr.) Fortunately, Lucy is so full of energetic enthusiasm and self-effacing modesty about her obvious brilliance in the field of fashion and design that it is impossible to be anything but super-impressed. So let's share the journey on from Hurtwood. A Levels in Theatre, Textiles and Media took her on to a foundation year at Wimbledon, specialising in Fashion, followed by a degree in Womenswear and Design at Kingston, this time specifically focused on knitwear and jersey. From the start, Lucy tells me, she secured internship work to fill pretty well every study break available, for a knitwear designer called Sid Bryan, and here she really learned the ropes of design in action, helping in the production of the catwalk showpieces for artists like Giles Deacon, Todd Lynn, Markus Lupfer and Jasper Conran. She found herself helping out with every aspect, from production to collection and show, and everything in between. This commitment continued through into her MA work, and covered the setting up of Bryan’s own label Sibling London. ‘He basically taught me everything,’ Lucy tells me, and it is clear that this is at the real heart of her success – her ability to secure work experience with those at the heart of the business, and commit to it with total energy.
She ended up working ‘every weekend and night, every time that I could. An internship is the only real way into this industry, it’s completely invaluable. You have to work with everyone; you have to start from the bottom.’
All this was of course unpaid. Phew, I think. But the rewards are tangible. ‘You also get to party together and you meet lots of people,’ she tells me with evident satisfaction. It is obvious that this industry is very much about the connections. So where did her initial contact come from, I ask. The links lead back to her university tutors, but it is clear that she responded with total commitment, and this is where the secret lies, of course.
Even while all this was going on she was also working in the theatre with costumes, courtesy of an intro from our very own theatrical impresario, Doug Quinn, working on Evita in the West End, and followed by Hairspray (dressing Doug’s lovely wife, Ellie), and then the Donmar season.
‘You don’t really need to sleep when you’re that age,' she quips, and I can see why both her talent and energy have taken her this far. She has quite simply worked her socks off. An MA at the Royal College of Art allowed her to build on her expertise as well as her self-knowledge, as she continued to gather the kind of amazing friends and colleagues that shape her working world to this day. ‘I met my husband on my foundation year,’ Lucy tells me. ‘We were friends for a long time before dating,’ and adding that she had made ‘fab friends throughout art school all in all.’
A year working with Sibling Sophie Hume led on to over two years in Paris and the hugely influential fashion house Kenzo, and even more ‘amazing people’. ‘It was like a dream to work in Paris,’ Lucy tells me, with her characteristic modesty, but it had its limitations, she admits, and was even a little insular.
Burberry lured her back to London and that is where she has been ever since, working in the influential and fascinating world of the men’s knitwear runway collection. So her day-to-day working? In a team, under the driving force of creative director Riccardo Ticci; famous for his work at Givenchy, he drives the team hard but inspirationally, and Lucy is clearly in awe of the collective talent of the team she works with. She finds herself regularly mixing across the globe with the creative teams of all the big houses, and indeed including her husband who has a parallel role to her own within Alexander McQueen.
She has achieved so much, I think, and, modesty aside, she accepts that she has lived a kind of dream. The commitment is clearly total and, in terms of the future, she adds, 'You know you are always replaceable.' There is also a time limit on a career like hers, she tells me, accepting that she will develop in new ways in the coming decades.
So what about Hurtwood – how did it help launch her into this brittle and desirable world? Lucy’s immediate response is that it gave her a belief in herself and her abilities that remains to this day. ‘I always say that I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to have entered this world without Hurtwood,’ she tells me without drawing breath. Her happy memories of teachers and student life, the flat-out work and the mischievous japes in between, the encouragement and support of teachers like Russell and Bella in the Art department, Clive, Doug, Miles and Andy in the Theatre. She positively bubbles with enthusiasm for the support and inspiration she received, to work flat out but also to play hard. She speaks energetically of the charm of the teachers who encouraged and challenged her and her friends to be highly effective young adults, with total dedication and commitment, and prepared them all for the working reality of the wider world. Encouraging praise for us teachers, I think, and very welcome in these tough times.
So now what? After the sunny Greek break it is work as usual. With the Spring/Summer show now in the bag (take a look online – it is indeed an extraordinary show) she will be getting down to seeking out the vibes for the new collection next year. She has the enviable task of seeking out, soaking up and realigning the next desirable set of ‘looks’. Where? All over, it seems: ‘Art exhibitions, gallery openings, 3D printing possibilities, whatever ideas and talents are coming out of the colleges, young students' ideas’. Phew. Like the rest of the team, she assumes a ‘sponge’ role, soaking up the moods and ideas that will ultimately collate into the coming collection.
Time to let Lucy get on with her packing and her well-deserved break. Professional and generous to the last, she offers final advice on what she looks for in potential employees in this glamorous but exhausting world. ‘I always think that when I am interviewing a candidate that what I am judging them on is 50% work and 50% personality. They are going to slot in a team; there’s no room for any kind of ego, any kind of drama. At the end of the day it’s about teamwork that really gets the show started. It’s about how we function together.'
This is one amazing role. Her passion for this world and her team is clear and inspirational; her generous thanks for our support and encouragement are especially welcome in these dark days. Is Hurtwood proud? You bet we are. Bring on the girls, bring on the style. Thank you, lovely Lucy, for sharing your wisdom with us.