From education to employment

UKFT Drapers award bursaries to Plymouth College of Art Fashion Design students

UKFT, the biggest network for fashion and textiles, and Drapers, an industry magazine and website covering the fashion industry, have awarded four £600 bursaries to BA (Hons) Fashion Design students at Plymouth College of Art.

The bursaries were awarded to four students, supporting them with travel and accommodation while they take up prestigious placements across the fashion industry. Bridget Bimha, Millie Jenkinson, Olivia Neighbour and Deniz Nikol Bilgin all took part in industry placements, from The British Alpaca Fashion Company to Davy J Swimwear, to Makers HQ and Aesthetic Laundry.

Bridget at The British Alpaca Fashion Company

Bridget Bimha, who will graduate from BA (Hons) Fashion Design in 2022, took part in an internship with The British Alpaca Fashion Company, supported by the UKFT x Drapers bursary programme. Based high in the hills of Exmoor National Park, The British Alpaca Fashion Company pioneers the production of alpaca fibre in the UK and the processing of fibre to create commercial quality textiles and knitwear. 

Bridget said, “The team at The British Alpaca Fashion Company are amazing, teaching me so much and sharing information without any limits. Words fail me to express my gratitude for the bursary and for the very huge difference it has made for me and my family.”


Bridget is a mature student, who undertook a fashion degree after a traumatic event caused her to completely change career. “Since being assaulted by a mental health patient during a night shift I was working in July 2019, I have never gone back to work and that same year, my indefinite leave to remain came through in August. I decided to fulfil my dream as the first graduate in my family and also fulfil my passion for fashion by doing a degree.”

“I’ve enjoyed the placement so much. I feel so refreshed being there and I’m learning so much. I am grateful that I am still welcome to visit the studio even after my placement, as I have always desired to work with wool and incorporate it into my collections, focused around recycling, upcycling and sustainability.”

Millie (left) working with Davy J

Millie Jenkinson, a second year BA (Hons) Fashion Design student took on an internship at swimwear brand Davy J, an emerging swimwear brand based in Plymouth, designed to last longer and fight the trend of throwaway fashion.

Millie said, “I’ve been getting on really well with the internship and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I have been learning a lot more and applying my own technical skills within the company with support from the owner, Helen. I have been doing work in many parts of the business, including returns, packaging, posting, labelling, making technical drawings for new designs as well as working on new designs for suits. I also got to assist with two photoshoots, which was really fun and I’m helping plan another one that’s coming soon.”

“It’s been very different from what I expected as I feel part of the growing team at Davy J, so I will actually carry on working at the brand, alongside finishing my degree, despite the internship being over.”


Founder of Davy J, Helen Lofts said of Millie’s placement, “Millie has been a fantastic asset to Davy J as a core member of our growing team, and we have really come to value her time, skills and diligence. Her work ethic has been outstanding and right from the start she was happy to get stuck in and get involved with whatever tasks were asked of her. It’s rare that I can trust an intern entirely with jobs without heavy oversight, but Millie is an exception and it became clear very quickly that we could ask tasks of her and she would quietly get on with what was required and the output was always of a high quality. We hope Millie got as much out of the experience as we did and we hope Millie will stay involved with Davy J alongside completing her degree.”

Deniz Nikol Bilgin, third year student on BA (Hons) Fashion Design, interned at Makers HQ, a UKFT member and collaboration between Plymouth College of Art, Millfields Trust and the local Stonehouse community, designed to reignite fashion and textiles manufacturing in the city.t. The Plymouth-based sampling studio provides high-quality services to the fashion and textile industry, including pattern drafting, single samples, manual and digital pattern drafting and grading, and short production runs.

Deniz at Makers HQ

Deniz said, “I am extremely happy with my internship so far. Makers HQ let me explore all and any opportunities that I’m interested in and wanted to try out. This ranged from assisting at their teaching studio to helping with the day to day manufacturing tasks.”

“Makers HQ is not only an incredible business but also an amazing and supportive group of people that are a joy to work with. I am learning so much, experiencing the industry and finding my way, like what I would like to do after graduating. I have been as proactive as possible, and now they are even considering me for a position as teaching assistant and machinist!”

Makers HQ, a unique and visionary community interest company created to provide cut, make and trim services to the fashion industry, works in partnership with Plymouth College of Art to provide work experience for students of fashion, textiles and more.

Senior lecturer and Subject Leader for BA (Hons) Fashion Design, Heather Martin said,

“It has been so wonderful to hear just how valuable this experience was for our students, to hear them reflect and relate it to what they’re learning in our programme. To also receive such positive feedback from the industry placement contacts about our students has been fantastic as well.”

Financial support from the Drapers’ Company was available annually to ten students, to take up internship opportunities they may otherwise struggle to afford. UKFT provides mentoring, guidance and networking opportunities to each student, ensuring their internships are safe, enjoyable and valuable. 

Elliot Barlow, Manufacturing Consultant at UKFT said, “Internships have become a crucial first step for individuals embarking on their careers in the fashion and textiles industry. By providing access to bursary funding the students can develop their initial industry connections and work experience with support, helping them to prosper.”

The bursary scheme is part of UKFT’s work to increase the industry knowledge and experience of graduates, as well as opening up new routes into the sector.

Plymouth College of Art’s BA (Hons) Fashion Design course provides a comprehensive design education for independently-minded fashion thinkers and makers who are looking to influence change within the fashion industry.

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