CATC graduate and Director of rapidly-growing Australian fashion house ShowPo, Shantelle Pross-Vale, discusses the significance of studying graphic design to upskill and get ahead and how this helped her to grow an e-commerce brand that now has more than a million Instagram and 675,000+ Facebook followers.
See Shantell's top tips for aspiring creatives looking to make their mark in the industry
Q&A with Shantelle Pross-Vale
What's your favourite aspect of your work at ShowPo?
I'm obsessed with fashion, and my qualifications and experience in graphic design, marketing, fashion and public relations made me a unique candidate for this position. The design side of my role is massive, as is the ability to constantly think creatively, devising ways to re-invent our offering, and my CATC studies were instrumental in giving me the technical tools I need to get it all done!
What was your background prior to joining ShowPo?
I started working in fashion retail at 15, then studied fashion business and design immediately after school, securing internships with a range of brands including Dolce & Gabbana, Sass & Bide, Gucci, Fashion Week and several agencies, which led me down a path into fashion PR at The ARC Factory, which is where I really learned about graphic design and its impact in the fashion sphere…..I used to liaise with the graphic designer there and think 'Wow, I really want your job'.
That was what prompted me to enrol at CATC, which turned out to be one of my best professional decisions as it's a really hands-on learning environment, with terrific industry connections and work experience opportunities.
After graduating with my Diploma in Graphic Design I undertook some freelance work, then was fortunate to find this role at ShowPo which I love, as it ties my studies and experience together in one full-on position.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your current role?
When I was new to graphic design I didn't realise that a pretty design isn't just that, there's a whole strategic process behind a standout design idea – from packaging and advertising to illustration and web design – and how to tie it all together to achieve business outcomes. My studies helped me hammer down the business side of design, which has been especially relevant in my current role.
What about for fashion retailers? What are the industry's current challenges?
Fashion is an incredibly competitive sector, so constant innovation and predicting trends is essential to stay relevant, and successful. It's a super fast-paced industry but the way Australia approaches it is a little different. We're really good at taking inspiration from what's happening overseas – we're pretty trend driven – and then adapting it to a more casual, local style. Getting that balance right is tricky but also really rewarding, and design skills are key to interpreting those trends and showing them to our audience in an appealing way.
How tough is it to break into the Australian fashion industry?
Look, it's definitely not easy and I really recommend education and hands-on learning through work experience wherever possible. By adopting the broadest possible range of knowledge and practical knowhow, such as studying graphic design and web design, or fashion and photography, it will open more doors to employers seeking multi-skilled employees – especially in start-ups and fast-growing businesses like ShowPo where everyone pitches in across a range of roles.
"From my experience, I couldn't recommend CATC highly enough, it's a college which offers a wide range of industry-focused courses that are really relevant to what's going on in the local fashion scene".
Shantelle's FIVE TOP TIPS for aspiring creatives: how to make your mark
- 1. Personality is as important as experience. Even if your resume looks fabulous, in fashion if your personality doesn't shine through you'll struggle to make the cut. Confidence is key!
- 2. Get as much practical experience as you can, especially when you're studying. During my Diploma of Graphic Design studies at CATC I undertook a number of work placements and make some crucial industry connections which really helped me when I graduated.
- 3. Design is a really competitive field, so market yourself in a major way. Create a unique website to showcase your talent and use your social media assets – Instagram, Behance, The Loop, LinkedIn - to create a strong digital footprint as the internet is the first place potential employers will go to check you out.
- 4. Continue your creativity – especially outside of work and study. It may sound silly but when being creative becomes your full-time job, sometimes creative blocks become a problem so it's important to pursue whatever inspires you, whether that's music, art, reading, film, painting, dancing, performing – whatever!
- 5. Be resilient. Easier said than done I know but it's important not to take criticism personally. Design is subjective and people will always have different reactions to your ideas. Sometimes it can hurt your feelings when you've put in a huge effort and your client or boss isn't impressed but being able to bounce back and have another crack is essential to succeed in this sector.