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Teen has designs on a fashion career

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Learning the fashion business has made it an intriguing summer for Margaret Dunne, the young designer behind the window displays at the AS Cooper department store.

Creating outfits from blank newsprint was no easy task, but the 17-year-old jumped at the task, saying: “The hardest part was designing the paper clothes so they could come on and off the mannequins.”

Incorporating red paint, the colour used for the sale notices, also required a delicate touch.

Just getting a job for the summer posed a formidable challenge: with budgets stretched and few positions available, it seemed no one could afford to take on a summer student.

“I was desperate for a job in the fashion industry, so when I had my interview at Cooper's, I asked if I could work here shadowing the staff as an intern,” Margaret said.

“I'm not getting paid but I'm learning. It's been fun for me — the staff here have been very nice and great mentors to me.”

Managing director Somers Cooper praised her as “a talented young lady with a strong interest in fashion”.

“We first learnt about Margaret when she was a participant in Bermuda High School's 2015 Eco Runway Fashion Show, which features student-designed clothing made out of recycled material,” Mr Cooper said. “She was mentored by our resident fashion expert and ladies' department manager, Jacqui Neath-Myrie.

“Margaret won the contest and took the initiative to approach AS Cooper's to see if there were any summer opportunities with us. We were able to create an internship under fashion buyer Kate Dunmore.

“Margaret was able to see exactly how our business works and was able to experience most aspects of the business, including visual merchandising, customer service and back office administration.”

Margaret's unusual designs for the Front Street and Reid Street window displays gave the store a unique look for the sale period between fashion seasons.

“I have a feeling that Margaret will certainly be one to watch in the future,” Mr Cooper said. “She has the brains and creativity to achieve anything she wants.”

Margaret learnt to sew when she was 5, courtesy of her grandmother, Denise Dunne, and cousin Eryl.

Her passion for the industry took off when she saw the exhibition “Savage Beauty” in tribute to the late designer Alexander McQueen, at the Met in New York.

“That was my turning point — it was a mind-blowing show,” Margaret recalled of the McQueen retrospective, held shortly after his death in 2010.

“It had his entire life's work. You got inside his mind, saw fashion the way he did.”

Margaret ended up transfixed by a display of gowns while the group with her finished, and eventually “had to drag me out”.

Ever since, she had followed fashion news, and contemplated fashion school — a difficult choice to balance with her academic inclinations, particularly science.

One possible compromise is on offer at Cornell University, which offers a programme of fibre science.

“You can go for the materials engineering approach, but also there is the textile, fashion design approach,” Margaret said.

Part of the challenge in securing a summer job was the three-week break to Cornell for a course in fashion design and visual thinking.

That course furnished her with a theoretical basis in fashion: everything from “mood boards and story boards to designing a collection”.

She hopes to continue working over the summers at AS Cooper — especially when the America's Cup gets to Bermuda in 2017.

“Working here has given me that insight of what goes on behind the scenes, the things you wouldn't know about as a customer,” she said.

“I want to learn more about the business side of fashion. That will be really helpful for me when I decide where I want to go next.”

• AS Cooper would like to add its thanks to Jamie Walsh at Island Press for organising the paper for Margaret's project free of change.

Dressing to impress: Margaret Dunne has wowed her bosses at AS Cooper and shoppers with her window displays (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Fashion intern Margaret Dunne created eye-catching windows displays for AS Cooper (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Fashion intern Margaret Dunne (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 24, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 24, 2015 at 1:02 am)

Teen has designs on a fashion career

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