From Billy Blue student to Designer at Volley. Sam Colling shares her study journey and tips for aspiring fashion designers.

25 September 2016
Sam Colling – Junior Designer, Volley

Billy Blue College of Design graduate, Sam Colling, takes 10 minutes out of her busy shoe-designer schedule to answer a few questions about her journey from design student to junior designer at one of Australia's well-loved fashion brands.

For her, it's about networking, getting your teeth into a challenge, and knowing when to ask for help…

What did you study at Billy Blue?

I graduated from Billy Blue in April this year with a Bachelor of Branded Fashion Design.

What were you doing before you started at Billy Blue?

I was completing my high-school level studies in a small country town in Victoria.

Where are you currently working?

I work as a Junior Designer in Melbourne for the Australian shoe design brand, Volley, which is one of multiple labels owned by the wholesale network Brand Collective.

What do you do on a typical work day?

Actually, I don't really believe in a typical work day. My job teaches me so many exciting and challenging things every day!

I design and work across all collections, collaborations as well as source fabrics. I report back to the Brand Manager. I forecast trends for upcoming seasons, learn the technical aspects of shoe construction, design and select ranges, create specification packs, approve products, explore alternative designs and provide direction for the factories. So, I'm often corresponding with the factories, the China office and our collaboration partners.

Why did you choose to study design? Did you switch careers or upskill to improve your career prospects?

I knew from a young age that I would have to grow up and have a career, so from an early age, I chose design (originally interior decorating and design), and then at primary school, I settled on fashion. I have not questioned my choice since.

Why did you choose Billy Blue?

After exploring my options at Tafe and universities, I decided on a university (Bachelor or higher) degree. I began to explore university websites and courses which offered fashion inside and out. I went to open days and learnt as much about the courses as I could and where they could lead to after graduation.

I noticed that many universities set strict timeframes for portfolio presentations and interviews which stressed me out enormously. But, right from the start, I got a good vibe from Billy Blue– it was the little things, like the staff replying to my emails and their genuine interest in my intentions. 

In the end, I was sold on Billy Blue's small class sizes and the one-on-one time with lecturers as opposed to being a number at a large uni. I also appreciated being able to start my career after two years of gaining a degree, teachers that had both industry experience and a large contact base. I also liked that Billy Blue was a college devoted specifically to design. From here, arranging an interview was a simple process. The lecturers were flexible and happy to arrange a time that was suitable for me – considering that I lived four-and-a-half hours away!

What was your favourite part of studying at Billy Blue?

"My favourite part of Billy Blue was the fact that I got to experience the industry first hand. One of my lecturers arranged an interview for an internship and it developed into paid work! This taught me that it is extremely valuable to put yourself out there and begin to network. Actually, the relationships I built from this internship led me to the job that I have today."

How has studying at Billy Blue helped you reach your career goals?

Studying at Billy Blue taught me to develop professional skills and habits, which in turn, equipped me for the workplace. After getting a taste for the industry from the internship, I now have a job where I put into practice all the knowledge that I learnt throughout my degree. I never would have thought it possible to score a design role straight out of uni. Throughout the job application process, I felt that having both design and technical skills helped to set me apart from other applicants.

What advice would you give aspiring design students?

Explore all options before deciding that something in unachievable. That's something Billy Blue taught me. At first, I was devastated when I didn't receive my advised ATAR and was ready to walk away, but Billy Blue worked with me to achieve my desired outcome.

You can't make enough contacts or get enough industry experience throughout your degree. This is what got me my job! You have nothing to lose, so reach out to anyone.

I learnt a lot about myself during stressful, assignment-preparation periods. There will be many challenging times but, once completed, you realise what you can achieve. You also develop portfolios and content that you'll use for life.

You need confidence but you also need to know when to let your lecturers and industry contacts help you. If you can't admit you have a lot to learn then no one is going to chip in and support you. I've been in my job for just six months and, while I have learnt more than I ever thought imaginable, I still know that there is more knowledge to gain each and every day.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I couldn't express how lucky I have been in this role and the opportunities that I have been given. Besides working alongside a welcoming and supportive team, I have built relationships with our design collaboration partners and have also travelled to China to source fabrics and liaise with factories there.

Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?

I'd like to be in a position where I have the confidence to lead rather than observe. This includes building efficiencies in the design process and having the knowledge and experience to be a head designer. I never thought that I'd end up in the shoe game but I really enjoy it and it's shown me a different side to the industry. I enjoy the fact that I specifically studied apparel and now work with shoes. I feel as though I have a little bit of experience in both.

Fancy following in Sam's footsteps? Check out our Bachelor of Branded Fashion Design course.