One of the most rewarding elements of studying at LCF is being able to communicate a shared passion for curation both within and outside the University. Lecturers on the MA Fashion Curation course invite students to flex their curatorial muscle outside of tutor-led assignments, offering valuable real-world experience and a chance to put ideas into practice.

In December, several of us were invited to install Birdsong London’s festive pop-up shop in Hoxton. Established in 2014, Birdsong is a female-run fashion brand that works with local women’s groups to offer migrant and refugee women an opportunity to receive a living wage for their work. Their mantra is to connect women from worker to wearer, ensuring everyone is offered a fairer deal in the process. Their brief to CfFC was to curate a space that would complement Birdsong’s clothes and accessories with a dash of festive flair; transforming a stark white room into an inviting retail space. Together, we decided on a Primavera-inspired scene and set out to create a sumptuous, scented banquet scene to last for the five days the shop would be open.

Matthew Whaley and I were handed the task of sourcing flowers, foliage and fruit to conjure a table-top feast, worthy of Sandro Botticelli himself – for £40. With the need to maximize our budget we bought winter fruits in bulk from a local grocer and opted for long-lasting eucalyptus branches to fill the room with a rich, woody scent. We arranged our finds Renaissance-style, amidst silver chargers and goblets sourced from local charity shops and finished the arrangement with candles to complete the decadent mood. Annabel Hoyng focused on merchandising Birdsong’s eclectic range of stock: everything from the softest hand-knitted sweaters to Frida Kahlo bodysuits and painted denim from local artists.

MA Fashion-Curation students Annabel-Hoyng and Matthew Whaley put the finishing touches to the Birdsong Festive pop-up in Hoxton. ©Natalie Tilbury

One of the finished displays featuring Birdsong designs. The organic cotton t-shirts (far left) are hand-painted by women at Mohila Creations; a group of low-income migrant mothers based in Tower Hamlets. ©Natalie Tilbury

A detail of the banqueting table laden with clementines, pomegranates and holly. All props were sourced from local charity shops, grocers and florists.
©Natalie Tilbury

Whether you are just starting out in a career in curation, or working in a museum, tight budgets are, and will continue to be, an undeniable reality. It is the way we handle these challenges with innovative and inspiring solutions that will stand us apart from our peers. Important too is understanding what feels right for the brand or institution you are working with. Everything we sourced for Birdsong was from Hoxton’s charity shops, florists and grocers; further supporting one of the communities in which they work.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! Treat every opportunity as a chance to show what you can do, rather than a drain on your time, and your postgraduate experience will be more rewarding than you ever thought possible.

Natalie Tilbury
MA Fashion Curation 2017/2018