Jen Efremova

Can you tell us something about what you were up to before you started the MA?

Fashion has always been of interest to me as my mother works in the industry. During my BA in Media and Cultural Studies, I got interested in how dress can be interpreted, not just as an individual expression of creativity, but how it is intrinsically embedded in our understandings of gender, identity and society. 

Parallel to this, I was working for Ermenegildo Zegna, an Italian luxury menswear, brand which made me fascinated with suits and men's tailoring. Consequently, I wrote my BA dissertation about the presentation and performance of masculinity in the retailing of menswear.

Why did you choose this particular postgraduate course?

The MA at LCF seemed a unique opportunity to explore fashion from a theoretical perspective. Although the history aspect is interesting, what particularly appealed to me was the possibility of studying and researching dress from a sociological perspective.

Can you give us an example or two of particular projects or pieces of work that you undertook during the course?

The course is linked to museology and fashion curation, so one of our first assignments was to review a fashion exhibition. I wrote about 'Valentino's bubble of glamour', based on an exhibition staged in Rome a couple of years ago. My favourite and by far the most difficult, personal and interesting piece of work was my final dissertation in which I explored the suit as an embodiment of masculinity in the context of gender studies, power relations and feminist geography.

In a way, the dissertation best represented what this course was about and what I loved the most - the opportunity to research something you are really passionate about and explore it from a perspective of your choice, whether historical, sociological or feminist and having the scope and support to come up with some new and interesting arguments.

How was the course structured and how it was taught?

During the first two terms of the course, we experienced a variety of modules, ranging from how to situate fashion in an art-historical perspective, to how dress is linked to the psyche and gendered and individual perception. 

We had numerous guest speakers from the most diverse corners of the fashion industry or dress studies, and we were also taken on some archive and museum visits to the V&A, the Fashion and Textile Museum, the Museum of London etc, which offered the opportunity to learn more about the principles of fashion curation or working with old garments.

What about your fellow students? Can you tell us something about them?

What I loved most about my fellow students was their very varied backgrounds, not only geographically but personally and professionally. Some students had a more business orientated background, some had a background in history and some, like me, in social and cultural studies. I think this not only resulted in a very wide variety of projects and interests but also enabled some really interesting discussions and exchanges.

What have you been doing since completing the course?

Straight after graduating I started a job in the wholesale department at Joseph, which was exactly the area I was keen to go into. A couple of months later, I got offered a more exciting opportunity at Burberry, where I now look after the Ladieswear wholesale business for Northern Europe and work a lot in the showroom.

How do you think the MA helped you with this?

I think the MA's greatest achievement for me was the opportunity and stimulation it offered to really experiment with ideas, arguments and theories and the hugely exciting but difficult challenge of researching and writing the thesis during two self-taught terms. It was amazing, hard, often exhilarating and occasionally depressing, but I think it was a huge personal step for all of us.

Although the Masters was not business-based, it definitely helped me to acquire skills like organisation, time management and the ability to work independently, which are very useful in every job.

And finally - any words of advice for students who may want to follow in your footsteps?!

I think what prospective students should be aware of is that, although this course deals with a creative subject, it is predominantly theory based. When it comes to choosing a topic for the thesis, or any project, I would recommend going for something you are really interested and passionate about, otherwise 8 months of writing the dissertation could feel really long.