Letter To Your Younger Self

Hannah McCleave

Hannah McCleave - Textile Designer

Dear younger self,

Firstly, congratulations on your First Class Degree from Loughborough University, this is the first time you go after something you really feel passionate about! You have always had a natural flair for creative subjects, but the stigma surrounding creative degrees is one that has always been disheartening, and often stood as a barrier between you and doing what you love.

There have been lots of ups and downs throughout your time at university, and you will learn a lot in those four years mostly by stumbling through it. Life has no instruction manual, use this valuable time to learn as much as you can. Learn from other people, from books, museums, from all sources of knowledge. I would like to give you some pieces of advice. You don’t have to follow them, but I wish I had known them a little earlier…

1. Follow your passion

Ignore the stigmas surrounding creative degrees & do what you love. Trust me, it will be worth it! The fashion design industry is notoriously competitive, but the pond is big enough for many fish. Don’t be afraid to go out and get it, whether that’s a job, contact, experience or an interview.

2. Don’t fear failure. Be kind to yourself and forgive mistakes.

The dreaded F word! When we fear failure, we also limit our possibilities. We limit our potential. We limit our growth. Most importantly the fear of failure holds many of us back from change. As I said before, life has no instruction manual!

“I encourage you to make mistakes, you will learn from all of them.”

3. Stop comparing yourself to others

This is something I wish I had been told early on in my studies. It may seem a very generic piece of advice, but it couldn’t be more important & relatable to creatives. Throughout your studies, you will constantly look at the work your classmates produce and think “I wish I could do THAT”. In your final year at university, you will come to realise that by constantly comparing yourself to others and trying to design in a certain way, that you are only limiting yourself and your abilities. Why would you want to be a copy of someone else?! You will come to accept that your style is not “realistic” , nor are you going to create a collection of pretty pink florals. Instead, you will create something bigger, better and bolder than you ever imagined. In the end, people will look at your work and think… man, I wish I could do that.

4. Take on the curveballs with open eyes and make them into a boomerang

In 2020 you will face one of your most difficult challenges- completing your degree from home, in the middle of a global pandemic. You will face it head on, adapt to the situation and create your most successful collection to date. In fact, it will be shortlisted for a global design competition in collaboration with Gucci. Don’t make excuses, instead, make the curveballs work to your advantage!

5. You are Nothing Without Your Friends

Throughout your university years, naturally friendships will shift, change & grow. Your friends are your cheerleaders, your laughter and a shoulder to cry on. Remember to stay in contact, reach out when you think they’re having a hard time. Be a smile, hug and laughter whenever they need it. You’ll never know when you might need the same from them.

6. Try your best to be sustainable & do your research

You are not a designer in today’s world if you aren’t consciously designing with sustainability in mind. Consider the bigger picture- how will your work impact the planet, both positively and negatively. Ask local companies for off-cuts of material, upcycle from your local charity shops, try your best not to waste. There is only one earth, do your part in looking after it!

7. Don’t take it personally

You will face many job rejections and some employers won’t even email you back. Don’t take it personally! It’s not a reflection on your worth, talent or your personality. Some things are not made for you and that’s ok, there is something better waiting for you around the corner.

8. Cherish your teachers

Your teachers will come in many different forms over the years. Respect them, appreciate them but most importantly listen to them! They will be your best friends, harshest critics and biggest supporters all rolled into one. A little appreciation goes a long way, remember to always thank them and take their advice on board. When it’s time to move on, get their email address so you can stay in contact.

9. Work smart AND hard

Don’t work yourself into the ground, nothing revolutionary gets created at 3am (trust me, I know!). When it comes to finding a job, it’s not always what you know, it’s who. So I will say this: network, network, network! Start making contacts now, even if you’re still in school and even when you’re busy making ends meet. Connections are crucial for getting ahead in life. Don’t be embarrassed to accept help when its offered.

10. Keep on learning.

Education continues from this day forward! Your career is a learning journey, and it never stops. Soak up the knowledge of your peers and mentors at every available opportunity.

2020 is just the beginning of your career as a Textile Designer, and life will throw some curveballs at you. No, you cannot prepare for this. But this is a good thing. Finding a job post-graduation during a global pandemic seems nearly impossible… But that’s life! You need to take a couple of steps back once in a while before you keep moving forward. You have already achieved so much. One of your tutors will tell you- “You have to fight to earn your place in the sun”. So keep yourself humble and focused. Listen to your friends, and family, work hard and good things will eventually happen.


Your older, wiser self

Dear Hannah McCleave