Behinds The Seams With A Garment Technologist – How I Got Into The Fashion Industry

Fashion-Enter’s Garment Technologist – Elle Argyrou talks about how she got into fashion and the journey to her current job role…

‘Believe it or not, I’ve not always wanted to be in fashion. I actually wanted to be a physiotherapist!

‘It was not to be. My capability to understand Pythagoras’s theorem and other such maths equations was not up to par. Hope was not lost; I soon fell in love with watching my aunt put together pieces of fabric, which turned out to become beautiful wedding dresses. I would sometimes go round and help her hand sew some sequins onto the bodice and sleeve areas.

‘Most of my family members were either working as hairdressers or running a clothing factory and when I was of age, I worked with my uncle in his factory. I helped with ticketing, bagging and sometimes trimming cottons off the garments. We had to make sure the garments were perfect before sending out. This was fantastic as it earned me a little pocket money. As a teen in the 80’s, I was straight into Woolworths buying the latest LP record and a Jackie magazine (This is probably foreign to most of the younger readers).

‘My mind was made up and I wanted to follow in the path of fashion. I went to Southgate Collage and did a 2-year BTEC National Diploma in Fashion & Design. I passed with distinction and before applying to do a Higher National Diploma at London College of Fashion I was offered a job as a Design Room Assistant in the West End.

‘This company was a big supplier to C&A Europe, BHS, Debenhams, M&S, Wallis and many more of the UK’s high street retailers. I was there two years, cutting samples and carrying out small amendments to patterns. I found work very different to college and learnt the trade very quickly. It’s amazing what I picked up from just cutting out samples.

‘I went on to join a company called Lella Bros as a Junior Pattern Cutter. This company was another supplier to many high street stores mainly ladies separates, skirts, blouses and dresses. I took a slightly different role when I joined Alexton shirt company. Here I took the role of designer and did fewer patterns, I designed my own embroidery too.

‘I was fortunate enough to travel and explore fashions and shows from other countries and then bring back ideas to the office, transferring them into ranges for our customers. It was a great feeling to walk into the shops and see your designs displayed. Some of their customers were for BHS, Wallis, Cassidy’s, Mackay’s, Debenhams, Jane Norman to name a few and sadly most not trading anymore. I was there nine years. It was about that time that Lycra was introduced and fashion took a u-turn.

‘After having my children, I decided to take the path of Senior Pattern Cutter and did this for a few years, working with Walmart, producing their European blocks for men and children, which lead me to helping Asda produce all the patterns for their four seasonal catwalk shows. This was exciting and meant working 24-hours for two weeks to get the job done. I met loads of different designers, who would always pop into my office for pattern advice and costings. As fast fashion grew, more rules and guidelines were introduced. Garments had to measure and fit correctly and had to meet specifications agreed. That’s where I came in.

‘I took my new role when I worked for Katrina Marketing, another supplier who was big to I was Senior Pattern Cutter there too but kept being sent down to ASOS’s fit sessions to find out why the garments did not fit correctly. Luckily because of my pattern knowledge, I was able to rectify the problem and approve the fit. So the rest was history, my new role evolved.

‘I also worked for Jaded London and Wanted as a Garment Tech, which lead me into my current role here at Fashion-Enter Ltd. I have always worked on the supplier side, mainly on ladieswear.

‘A good Garment Tech must have good knowledge of how a garment should fit and what they can do to put it right. Part of our role is to visit factories and ensure they are run correctly and ethically. I still remember when we started giving work out abroad. We were sent a blouse back with three sleeves in it! Don’t ask me how or why, we still can’t make it out, but we had it pinned to the wall for ages and still chuckle about it to this day. I made sure from then on that clear instructions and sketches where sent out to be followed.

‘I have had many nightmare scenarios too. I remember once, the garments came back 6cm shorter than the specifications agreed. The fabric shrunk quite a bit more than it should of. The customer was obviously upset and after a long discussion and much persuasion, we agreed to put the garments out on a trial basis. Luckily these sold well and we were saved our blushes. That’s also why I insist that the final garment is done using bulk fabric to avoid such issues. There have been many similar incidents during my working career and this can be helped by having good communication skills. If you maintain a good relationship with your customer, some of the most difficult situations become slightly easier to deal with.

‘Would I change anything or take a different path had I been given the opportunity? No! I would definitely do this again…though a better understanding of maths formulas wouldn’t go amiss!’

Interested in becoming a garment tech? Tap this link to find out about the latest fashion apprenticeship vacancies – garment tech roles regularly come up.