How To Work In Fashion With Sisterhood & Bound | In Their Shoes

With the launch of our new season campaign, we’re celebrating the energy and enthusiasm of Manchester, the place we call home. While we’re inviting you to free your sole, we’re looking into exactly what that means to some of the brightest local talents around the city, talking to them about what makes them feel free and what they get up to in their shoes. As a city packed full of culture and excitement, we wanted to shine a light on some upcoming names in fashion and music, and the people pioneering great movements. First up, what does it take to work in fashion? We spoke to power couple Eve and Jake, Manchester-based designers and clothing line owners, about how to take your first steps into the industry.

#1 Can you give us a brief introduction to yourself and your brands?

Eve: I’m Eve and I started Sisterhood in 2016, a womenswear brand with a focus on sustainability, classic and feminine style which won’t date; pieces you can wear over and over.  

Jake: I‘m Jake and I run 2 brands, one called UN:IK Clothing and another which I started in the Summer of 2018 called bound.

#2 How did you start to work in fashion?

Eve: I began at Uni I guess, I did a Fashion BA at Manchester Met University. After graduating I got a job in China for 6 months where I worked on different projects for a design agency. After returning to the UK I spent some time interning in London before getting my first Junior Designer job at a supplier in Manchester. I was soon promoted to be the sole designer for their in-house brand and worked on it for 2 years before deciding to start up on my own.

Jake: I did Business Management & Leisure at Manchester University, graduated with a 2:1 and went straight into a grad job. It took me less than a month to realise desk 9-5 work wasn’t for me, although I think I already knew that, there is just this stigma around it being the ‘right’ thing to get a grad job after uni. I lasted 6 months in that job and then started UN:IK with zero experience in the fashion industry. 

#3 How do you start to design a new collection?

Eve: I like to start with the fabrics, I visit a fabric market and collect all the swatches of fabrics I love, I then select my favourites for the season and sit down to think about what kind of styles I’d like to wear in the prints and just work from there.

Jake: I design pretty much on a feeling of the time. I’ll unconsciously design or think of styles in my head, often at night while trying to sleep.  I then lock myself in and design for a few days straight, pick out the best and go from there. I basically just design to my specific style, the main question being, would I wear it? If the answer is yes, we’re all good!

work in fashion

#4 What advice would you give to people who are just beginning to design?

Eve: Get experience where you can of the industry, but be aware you don’t always have to have the best experiences to become successful. Focus on knowing how garments work and how things are made as this can help a lot when designing.

Jake: Stick to your own style, don’t focus on other brands, other people. Of course, take inspiration from the things that inspire you, but just embed yourself in your designs. 

#5 Can you work in fashion without a degree? What advice would you give to young people who think they want to work in fashion?

Eve: I definitely learnt the most knowledge of the industry from my first job. My experience at uni was great, I don’t think I’d personally be where I am without it, but it’s not that way for everyone. You have to be relentless and endure knock backs to break the industry but persistence is key. 

Jake: I did, so anyone can. Creativity is embedded in everyone, you just kinda have to dig to find it. The industry is quite intimidating, so just ignore the outside noise and focus on what you really want to do within fashion.

#6 As everything has become more digital, have the need for hands-on skills like sewing loosened? What are the must-have skills for designing and running a fashion line?

Eve: You definitely don’t need to have sewing skills yourself to run a fashion line, however, I find that after my degree, knowing how to cut patterns and sew garments hugely aids my design process and ability to communicate the designs with the factories who do the sewing for me. For me it’s something I greatly rely on when fitting my samples,  it allows me to understand why something may need amending or why it doesn’t quite fit right on the body.

I’d say if you wanted to design your own pieces as part of running a fashion line the must-haves for me are; pattern knowledge, CAD skills to be able to sketch and put together worksheets for your designs, a good knowledge of your customer base and what’s important to them and a strong brand ethos. 

#7 Owning a brand must mean you wear a lot of different hats, what does your general day-to-day look like when you work in fashion?

Jake: Hahaha, a good way of putting it. You’re involved in everything, the mundane stuff to the fun stuff. That’s the thing about running your own brand, it all looks super fun but when you’re sat crunching numbers for accounts and profitability etc for hours on end, people don’t see that not so glamorous side. I personally involve myself in everything, potentially a bit of a control freak, but I like to know what’s happening in every aspect of the business. This means, product buying, design, photo shoots, accounts, marketing, advertising and visiting all factories and clients.  

#8 Where is the first place you look when you need a bit of inspiration for a new season collection?

Eve: I love looking at vintage for inspiration and watching old movies. I like to rework styles that are classic and live through time so I tend to stay away from looking at any fast fashion trends or social media too much.

Jake: Pinterest is great for inspo. I’m massively into retro and that’s a big aesthetic on there. I look at a few brands to see what they’re doing but try not to do that too heavily, or their styles will subconsciously override yours. 

#9 Do you think sustainability is something people have to think about when they work in fashion? In your own careers, have you seen a change in this or it becoming a bigger thing?

Eve: Yeah I think this is massively important for brands right now. You have to care about the future and your impact on the environment, it’s just irresponsible if you don’t. I think naturally it’s something I’ve always cared more about but Jake is also making lots of improvements too. I think the focus now is much more than it was when I first started which is amazing as I work all the time to make improvements to how I do things and reducing any waste so love it when I see others doing the same.

Jake: In today’s age and climate, I don’t think there is any excuse for brands not to be trying to be better in. Paying fair wages, increasing sustainability, treating staff well. To be honest I don’t see some of the bigger brands doing enough especially fast fashion who sadly dominate areas of the industry at the moment. I went completely plastic-free with all packaging for UN:IK this year. That was easy enough, why don’t the companies sending 1000’s of plastic packages a day do this? 

#10 There’s a big misconception that you have to be in London to work in fashion, do you think northern cities are becoming more prominent in the fashion scene of the UK?

Eve: Yes definitely, I always used to think London was the centre of it all and that I needed to be there but now I really don’t feel like you have to ‘be’ in any place to be successful in fashion if you do your own thing. There will always be a lot more opportunities for jobs in London but some really cool brands are starting to move away from there so I think in a few more years we’ll see a lot more branching outside of London.

Jake: I’ve never been mad on London, love visiting but I just couldn’t live there on a personal level. You can make connections anywhere though, creative people sit in every pocket of the country, not just one place. It’s about reaching out and coming together. Manchester is definitely great for this now, there are so many good creatives and fashion brands budding here. It’s a shame that there aren’t more independent fashion shops, especially for streetwear, I don’t think the rent costs allow it due to the dominance of the food & drink industry here. In the next few years, I’d love to see more shops join the likes of Carhartt, Note and Oi Polloi here.

#11 It must be nice getting to work so closely with your other-half, how do you help each other?

Eve: It’s one of my favourite things about us, we understand each other’s job inside out so it allows us to give support to each other which I don’t think either of us would get if we didn’t do the same thing. We also both have different strengths in different areas which balance us out quite well. We help each other out pretty much every day, whether it’s advice on how to deal with something on the business side, creative decisions or opinions on designs or just giving a helping hand to make each other’s day run smoother. Because we both work on our own it’s nice to have someone to bounce things off who totally gets what it is you’re trying to achieve.

Jake: It’s great, I owe a lot to Eve in what she’s taught me about fashion and designing. A cliche but genuinely bound wouldn’t be to the level it’s at now without her. I think both of our businesses have grown as a result of being together and being in the same industry, bouncing ideas off each other, but also having that brutal honesty that other people may not be willing to give is priceless. 



Written by Lucy Harbron

Sarah Atkinson

Sarah Atkinson

Writer and expert