Case study

Taking it
step by step

Coming to university was a big step for Chloe Twigg. She’d spent the first 18 years of her life in a little farmhouse in the middle of a field in the Oxfordshire countryside. Moving to a city, any city, seemed a daunting prospect. Now, she’s a Fashion Design graduate and she’s creating custom race suits for global names in motorcycle racing.

The first decision

Chloe admits she wasn’t sure about going to university. She says: “I was definitely 50-50 on whether I should go. I didn’t have any older friends or older siblings to ask them what their experiences were like. So I was going into it completely in the dark.

“And I came from quite a small school where I knew exactly where every room was so to go to a university that was spread around a city was just so intimidating. But I didn't know what else to do.

“I didn't really think I wanted to go into a job and I didn't know what that job would be so I thought let's widen my education and go that one step up and get a degree and that will open more doors. And it did. And I'm glad that I did it.

“Before uni, I didn't really know a lot about my strengths and I hadn't even really had the chance to learn about them or the chance to explore and figure out what I was good at. That's definitely changed now. I definitely now know how to use my strengths and I know what they are, I know what I'm worth, so definitely much more confident.”

Chloe's story

Chloe Twigg smiling

View Chloe's story video transcript

Starting small

Chloe knew she wanted to make the most of her opportunities at university. But she also knew her limitations. She says: “Part of university is being able to build your portfolio because it gives you the time and resources you need. And then also the connection it gives you to possible employers and placement opportunities. Opportunities above anything else.

“We did a four-week placement in the second year and that helped me get a foot in the door. I did mine at a little museum. I wanted a small placement, something that wasn’t too intimidating because I was afraid and not very independent. If I was ever going to do a placement year, I needed to just start with something and take that first step.

“The University has so many connections to these huge companies but also to these small companies. It does give you quite a variety of options to go for.”

After that first step, despite her fears, and with the encouragement of her placement tutor, Chloe took up her placement year with BCI, a firm that designs licensed clothing for Primark and other brands. She worked most of that time in product development, then moved to the design team.

She says: “I had that fear to do it, and doing it anyway, I think that was important. I learned so much and experienced so much. It opened so many doors for me and showed me what I actually was capable of.”

a close-up of Chloe Twigg's hands, with orange nail polish, pushing blue denim through a sewing machine

Fashion and function

Chloe is now working for Motodirect, creating racing suits for riders such as Alex Lowes, Lee Johnston and Sébastien Charpentier. She’s even made one for Olympic gold medal winning cyclist Ed Clancy.

This seems a step away from the designer whose final-year outfit was inspired by 1980s hip-hop and graffiti. But Chloe disagrees: “I am passionate about anything that I can make look cool or beautiful.

“In my final year of fashion, I really honed in on my main passion which would be mixing function with fashion and them being one and the same. I don't think we see it enough, especially in women's wear. But just in general, mixing safety with fashion and functionality and making clothes more than just how they look. And creating products that I'm proud of.

“I do that in my job now designing motorcycle gear. Every suit is unique to each rider, which is really cool. And then it's my job to explain how that works, how it protects the rider, the different parts of the suits, the protective cups and the armour and where the Kevlar is and just the build of the suit itself. And explain the airbag systems. Yes, we do have an airbag suit now. The airbag is integrated into the suit. I had no idea anything like that existed before I worked at the company.”

Chloe can trace her passion for fashion with function back to her dad working on the farm, when the clothing he used for one job wasn’t necessarily suitable for the next. She explains. “On the farm, there's hundreds of different jobs that you do even just in one day. I just automatically wanted to put it all in one piece so these garments could be worn for so many different jobs.”

Why choose Derby?

Chloe went to Open Days at a number of universities, including Derby, to help her make her decision. Or rather: “My mum was dragging me. She had to force me into the car. I was so scared.”

Her first impressions of Derby? “I was more overwhelmed than anything else,” she says. “I was impressed by all of the students who were at the stands on the Open Day and how much they wanted to talk to you and how willing they were to answer your questions. And, yeah, I was very shy and I didn't really speak to that many people.”

She was convinced Derby was the right place for her when came for an interview. She explains: “It was when I saw the Fashion building in Chandos Pole Street. Despite the fact it's in what, to me, was a big city, there was this building just for Fashion and Textiles. It's just two storeys but it's got everything you need in there. It was just a really nice, it felt very communal in there.

“And I started speaking to the lecturers and just meeting other students. And I got excited and sort of the fear turned into excitement. I could actually see myself going to university.”

Chloe Twigg headshot

I thought, oh yeah, I actually want to go to university now. I actually want to do this. I want to work here and I want to learn in these rooms. It's kind of like a wedding dress, I think, like, when you know, you know.

Chloe Twigg
Fashion Design
Kedleston Road, Derby Campus entrance

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