Why did you decide to attend the Fashion Program at Ryerson?
Since a young age I have always been a very hands on person. I loved to create, to play dress up, to get my hands messy in any sort of “artistic” way. In my early teens my mother introduced me to sewing and I ran with the creative freedom it allowed me. I enrolled for all sewing and arts classes at my high school and by the time I was in my last few years of high school, I knew I wanted to pursue fashion further as a career option. I looked into a few schools, but Ryerson felt like the best fit for me as it offered a big city experience with so many opportunities to explore new interests.
How did your academic experience at Ryerson help you with getting to where you are today? What led to your interest in pursuing Technical Design?
Technical design was something that actually found me, but it was a very happy accident as it combines all the things I enjoy most about fashion design into one job. When in my 4th year at Ryerson, I dreaded the question, “So what are your plans for when you’re done?” because honestly, I had no idea. I knew I was in the right field but I had no idea what type of “real” job I wanted. Ryerson has so many good connections that some companies come and recruit right from the school itself and Abercrombie is one of these companies. The whole process was really quite quick, involving an interview at the school, right to a trip to the home office in Columbus, Ohio, and within 4 weeks from the start of the process, I finally had an answer to the dreaded question and a job offer in my hands. While that process was a bit easy, after accepting the offer I had to figure out a visa, moving across the continent and the whole fact that I was about to move to a place I didn’t know and where I knew no one. I’m the kind of person who saw this as exciting rather than scary, but there are definitely a few blind leaps of faith you have to take to end up where you want to be. Going into my first job, I was still a touch unsure if tech was right for me. Tech sounded like it would be a good fit for me, with pattern making being a big role, and problem solving skills required, both things that came pretty naturally to me and that I enjoyed, as well as the hands on approach to working with samples, but it wasn't until I was fully immersed into my job at Abercrombie that I truly knew I had made the right choice. There are still days when I miss the more creative design side of the business, which is partly what led me to start my own small business on the side, but essentially the positives outweigh the negatives and for that I am very happy. Ryerson showed me what the responsibilities are of an entire team at a fashion company. At school, you are responsible for every single aspect from start to finish. In a real company, all those roles are broken down into specific jobs and you take responsibility for one area. Ryerson allowed me to dabble in all areas and really choose for myself what specifics I found exciting and played to my strengths. These areas for me aligned better with a technical design career.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you change about your time here at Ryerson and why?
There is not much I would change about my experience at Ryerson. Good or bad, everything I experienced shaped my understanding and personal opinion of myself and this industry. I do find myself relying much more than I expected on my internship experience, so if I had the insight I do now, I would likely participate in a wider variety of internships.
What does a day in the life of Corinne Furniss look like?
Thankfully my days are never the exact same, but there is still enough structure to keep me organized and balanced. I begin my work day around 9 a.m. by answering emails from my vendor partners overseas. These emails consist of confirming samplecomments, send dates, and other logistical commonalities. I also generally will have emails regarding problems with a few samples, including photos and sometimes measurements, asking how we want the factory to proceed. All of these issues need to be responded to quickly, clearly and as concisely as possible, as most of my vendors speak English as their second (or third or fourth!) language. From there I will usually prep my fits for the day. This consists of measuring each garment, looking over the construction, and checking it against the tech pack standards for the style. I will also look at the garment on a body form. This is an essential step in my job as it allows me to better speak to the fit of the garment later on in fits when I’m with my team.
My late mornings/early afternoons are usually filled with either team touch bases or fits. Team touch bases are when the whole team (merchants, creative design, technical design, CAD design, and sourcing) for a certain department, in my case swimwear, get together to go over any issues or concerns we are experiencing. These could be things such as fits not meeting our planned timing schedule, cost issues, print/pattern not meeting our colour standard, or any other issue that needs to be addressed. Discussing as a team helps us all stay informed and on the same page so these meetings happen very often. Fit sessions also involve the whole team and are led by technical design. My job is to present the garments on a live body to the team and go over all the fit corrections that need to be made. Creative designers also play a large role, ensuring their vision is being executed correctly. After fits, I will send out comments on the samples, either telling the factory they are approved and should begin production, or they are not approved and what corrections need to be made for the next sample submission. Comments can be simple and quick or incredibly complex and long depending on the style. Again, clear and direct communication works best, so lots of photos, diagrams, and patterns are sent along with written comments. If I’m lucky and we’re not overly busy, my work day will end between 5-5:30p.m. From there I will usually go home and spend the evening relaxing with one of my friends, most of whom I’ve met through work when I first transplanted myself to Ohio. I also run my own online shop where I sell my own accessory designs, so that takes up a lot of my free time as well. The side business allows me to satisfy my designer/creative needs while making good use of my basic business skills that I learned while at Ryerson. Someday I hope it will become a bigger part of my life and be my main source of income, but for now I’m liking the balance I have established for myself between the big, corporate design industry and my own small, handmade world.
What is your favorite part about your job?
My favourite part of my job is having ownership for my specific area. What I mean by this is that I know that all swimwear that is sold will have made it through my hands, and because of that, it should be perfect fitting every single time. Now I know that’s optimistic, and even a bit daunting, but I like knowing that my job has a big impact on the final garment, and consequently the overall company, and by meeting my responsibilities the customer should have the best fitting garment possible. Still being relatively new to this industry, I think it still amazes me that what I do every day impacts the final product on such a large scale.
Do you have an area of expertise you want to grow and learn about?
I would like to continue to evolve my knowledge of the intimates industry, especially swimwear and lingerie. These areas have many specific challenges and constructions, and although I have learned a lot in the past 3 years, I know there is plenty more for me to soak up. I have taken the steps needed to surround myself with some of the best mentors in this industry, each with vast and unique knowledge, and I hope that by working with these experts day in and day out, I will be able to further my knowledge and specialties.
What is your favorite part about working in the Fashion industry?
There are many perks to working in the fashion industry (sample sales are not an urban myth and associate discounts are awesome) but my truly favourite part about working in the fashion industry is getting to do what I love and actually being able to support myself with it. The people I work with are dedicated, hardworking, and some of the most talented people I know, not to mention they are incredibly friendly and openminded. Constantly being around these talented people and having a goal that we reach towards together every day allows me to positively grow and learn in a professional and personal way.
What advice would you give a fashion student interested in Technical Design?
For anyone with an interest in technical design, I would highly encourage them to become very familiar with pattern making and pattern corrections, both by hand and on CAD software. Research how to manipulate a pattern in more than one way to expand your pattern making abilities. Look further into things such as grading and marker making, as these are not usually things you have to do manually, but you need to have enough knowledge and a solid understanding to be able to direct another person (or a computer) to receive the outcome you desire for all aspects of making a pattern. I would also recommend being comfortable with Illustrator, as this is used daily by any technical designer. It would be a great idea to start looking at clothing on a dress form and being highly critical of the fit of the item on the body (whether it’s something you or a friend have made, or something you’ve bought from a store). Most people can tell once they put on an item if it fits well or not, but when you are a tech designer, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be able to try on all the items that you will be responsible for fitting. Take some time to evaluate a garment on a dress form and try to pin and fix the item so that it fits the form perfectly. My last piece of advice would be to truly evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses, and make sure that technical design is the role that will fulfill your career goals. I love my job so much because it’s a great role for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. If you love what you do, it will truly reward you.