How to study to become a handbag designer of the future

It is the time of year when study courses are being confirmed.  And in London it is reported that handbag design is one of the fastest growing areas of fashion.  With a variety of courses, universities and colleges offering different ways to study are you best to take a selection of short courses to specialise in specific areas, or invest in a 3 to 4 year degree, with qualification at the end?

This isn’t an article about which colleges to choose from.  There are a lot out there that have pros and cons, are well established or new, offer placements or trade on their brand reputation.  Having said that, if feel you are destined to create wonderful accessories for us in which to carry our most important belongings, there are subject areas you need your course to cover:

  1. Bag design
  2. Bag pattern cutting
  3. Bag making

A choice between a collection of short courses or an undergraduate degree course isn’t a realistic comparison.   If you are already working within the industry and want to perfect selected skills, short courses may just be want you need.

To be clear, some short courses are intensive; 20 plus consecutive working days.  So if you are working, you may need to store up your annual leave if your employer isn’t sponsoring you to study.  There are also one day courses but these are just to give you a taster or overview on what to expect on an average length short course, which averages around 5 days.

To progress to manufacturing your own handbags, it is inevitable that you will be tempted to make one bag in leather and a leather sewing course may be worth adding to the list.

A full-time undergraduate course will involve academic research into the industry, markets and getting context from historical trends.  So expect reading lists and essay/report writing.

Whilst it is advantageous to know if you have a creative streak in advance of embarking on a design course, it is arguable if a course can teach you creative skills.  There is a well used saying ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink it’.  Most colleges will expect you to demonstrate a level of creativity in the selection process prior to confirming your placement – expect to produce a portfolio of design influences for a undergraduate degree course.

What you will gain by 3 years of study is the ability to respond to a brief.  You will be assessed, tested and if all goes well, you will arrive at the end of your studies with a qualification.

Financially, there is a big difference between levels of investment.  Let’s take a quick look at UAL, arguably London’s home for the study of the arts.  Its London College of Fashion caters for both types of students; part-time or full-time:

Short courses:

  • Intensive 10 day bag design course – £825
  • Intensive 24 day bag making course – £2995
  • Bag pattern course 5 days – £495
  • Surface pattern course for leather 5 days – £450

The selection of short courses above covers most areas of bag design and manufacture; requires an investment of just under £5000 and 44 days (prices based on courses available in 2017).  Check out the selection of courses at UAL’s London College of Fashion.

A full-time course requires a minimum investment of £9250 for annual fees.  If these fees stay static (tuition fees has been a hot political topic this year) you will be investing a minimum of £18,000 for a 3 year course.  UAL heroes their alumni on their website and you can see the range of skill that can be developed on an undergraduate fashion accessory design course.  Aleksandra Klimek’s handbag designs from 2016 caught my eye.

UAL isn’t the only reputable college in the UK for studying full time fashion handbag design. This year I was lucky enough to visit London’s Graduate Fashion Week whereby I spotted 5 graduate handbag designers of the future, from a variety of educational institutions in the UK.

So whether you might be considering seeking an internship or are already working in the industry, short courses might be just what you need.  However, if you can invest the funds and time in a full-time course, a qualification and industry relationships should be gained.

Good luck to all 2017-18 handbag design students.

Featured photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash.



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