Enriching stitching: learning the tricks of the fashion trade at the carnival

Enriching stitching: learning the tricks of the fashion trade at the carnival
By Nial OReilly
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A voyage of discovery and fulfillment for a group of young Irish fashion students, supported by the EU's Erasmus Plus programme


Tamsin Nolan knows all about overcoming limitations to achieve her dreams: “I can’t draw at all. So I always thought I couldn’t do fashion because I can’t draw, I can’t make anything. So when I found this course, I was delighted. We do mostly styling and visual merchandising, photoshoots and that.”

Tamsin is doing a fashion course that includes a foreign work placement element called MAKE, supported by the EU’s Erasmus Plus programme. She and five other students from Ireland went to Tenerife to help make the outlandish outfits of candidates for queen of the local carnival.

Daniel Pagés, a designer of the costume the students worked on really appreciated the help: “We’re 25 to 30 people working on two outfits. On top of that, we have the help from the group of Irish students.”

Since 2010, the Galway Technical Institute has given foreign work experience opportunities to more than 350 students, ranging from Journalism to Sports Monitoring.

For Mary Breheny, one of Tamsin’s fellow students, the Carnival was an opportunity not to be missed: “I’ve always had a huge interest in fashion and since last year when I found out about their Carnival, everything about it just called me towards it. The amazing costumes and everything.”

Tamsin says the work was like nothing she had ever taken on before: “They’re huge [the dresses], they’re absolutely massive. We’re in this big warehouse. I think it’s mad how secretive it is. They are so sparkly… so, so sparkly.”

The mobility concept emphasizes the importance of introducing students to different cultures.

“These are professional placements,” says MAKE coordinator Mariví Gracia,
“It’s about being integrated in a working context, to adapt to a team and to a way of doing things that these students probably don’t have in their countries. It makes them open their minds, stimulating their imagination and their ability to adapt to different work teams.”

For the students it was a unique opportunity to share their work with millions of people. The Queen’s Gala was their big moment.

“This specific project is even more gratifying because on their last day of work they see all their efforts on stage, when Tenerife’s Queen of Carnival is chosen, says Gracia. “They witness something unique that belongs to our culture.”

The point is emphasised by Cathal O’Doherty, another student taking part in the project:
“To come here and see all these pieces made from hand… it’s just amazing to see. The amount of things we did… all the feathers, all the jewels had to be placed exactly in different places. The best experience of my life, I can honestly say.”

In the end their costumes did not win, but all agree the experience was very worthwhile.

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