Nana @ Ralph and Russo0Nana Bonsu, Fashion and Textiles Apprentice at Ralph and Russo
Nana swapped a Pharmacy degree for a Fashion apprenticeship as she sought to pursue her long held dream of becoming a designer. After a year of invaluable experience with top fashion houses, her decision has paid off and she is now preparing to launch her own clothing range.
Career change: From pharmacy to fashion
Budding fashionista Nana Bonsu, now 27, London, left school with 12 GCSEs and four A Levels in Sociology, Chemistry, Biology and English. She had always been academically gifted and with the encouragement of her parents, enrolled in a Pharmacy Degree at Brighton University upon leaving school. Despite progressing well with her degree, during her second year of university, Nana realised that she could no longer suppress the feelings of 'what if' and decided to drop out to pursue her dream of forging a career in fashion. Initially she faced disappointment from her family, but Nana was determined to prove that her decision was the right one and immediately began interviewing for apprenticeships. Her dreams came true in 2012 when she was accepted on to an Intermediate Apprenticeship in Fashion and Textiles. Her apprenticeship would enable her to experience working life in two top fashion houses while studying at the City of Westminster College.
During Nana's first placement, she worked at Ralph and Russo, a British luxury goods company and haute couture fashion house. From day one she was fully immersed in the trade and learnt a variety of skills, from pattern cutting and machining, to hand beading and adjusting the measurements of garments for high-profile clients. Within the first few months of beginning her apprenticeships, it seemed that her risk has paid off, when she was part of the team working on dresses for celebrity clients including Beyoncé and Angelina Jolie. In Nana's second placement, as a full-time Production Assistant at Anthony Vrahimis Leather Goods, she furthered her skillset even more. Nana says: "In addition to the technical skills I have learnt, I have gained so many wider skills. My confidence has improved, I'm a better communicator and I've learnt about all the different business functions, from sales and marketing to finance. Also, it has been a dream come true to be able to work in the same environment as such well-respected designers."
Making the move from university student to fashion apprentice has not been without its challenges. Nana found it extremely difficult telling her parents that she wanted to leave university, as they had very traditional views and expectations about the type of career she should pursue. She says: "Because my parents didn't initially support what I was doing, I had to be extremely resilient, and certain about the choice I had made. I had to be determined to make a success of my fashion career." Upon finishing her apprenticeship, Nana felt inspired by those she had worked with and confident enough in her own skillset to take the leap and start her own business. Faced with the prospect of the financial costs involved, Nana told her story on social media and successfully crowdfunded enough money to buy the industrial sewing machine she needed to begin.
Building a business
Nana now works in a shared design space in Canary Wharf where she is preparing to launch her very own bespoke womenswear collection, August Devine, this summer. She says: "I decided to start my own business because I wanted to build something that would be long lasting, to leave my own legacy and follow in the footsteps of my father who was a tailor."
Looking back on her choices, Nana believes that choosing to do an apprenticeship has completely changed her life. She says: "Apprenticeships give you that crucial insight into the industry. I'm so grateful for the endless opportunities my apprenticeship has given me and I strongly encourage all young people to consider what an apprenticeship could bring them."
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