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When friendship creates fashionista success

As a high school student, Lauren Holland wasn't academic or interested in sports, preferring to pursue creative subjects.

"While my teachers said I wasn't going to amount to much, my mum believed in me and encouraged me to explore my interest in fashion," explained Lauren.

Seeing Lauren's passion for beautiful garments, sewing, style magazines and watching fashion shows on television, her mum researched how she could study fashion with TAFE Queensland.

"I started night classes to study sewing and pattern making, which was fantastic. Mum would drop me off and pick me up weekly for two years. I enjoyed it so much and looked forward to it more than school. I couldn't wait to go to those night classes," she recalls.

Thanks to the classes, her mother's support and her inspiring teacher, Lauren learnt the skills to enrol straight into the Advanced Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Merchandising (MST60119).

"The facilities and equipment at TAFE Queensland are amazing - everything prepares you to know how garments go together and every aspect of fashion."

Inspiring Lauren to become a fashion professional was her experienced teacher, Carol Costa, whom she today calls a friend, having stayed in touch for over 20 years since she graduated.

"Carol is an inspirational teacher. The first time I met her, she was sewing at night after teaching all day. She puts in long hours because she believes in her students and her dedication to helping people. Her ability to explain things is fantastic, and I admired that immediately, and I just clicked with her."

Knowing she wanted a career in the retail side of the fashion industry, the advanced diploma was perfect for Lauren, as the qualification provided design, merchandising, and customer service units as part of the course.

"I began my career in customer service and merchandising with Pumpkin Patch, giving me a view from the ground floor of what working in the fashion industry involves."

"From there, I worked in fashion boutiques and learned so much about the industry. From overseas buying appointments, customer research and selling garments on the sales floor were essential to helping me get to where I am today," she said.

"I'm forever grateful to those business owners for giving me a holistic understanding of the international and Australian fashion industry."

Armed with qualifications, skills and experience, Lauren walked into Brisbane's Joli Boutique in 2008 and asked the owner to buy the business – where she's now worked for the past 13 years.

"I've built the business up, honed in on what my customers want, and I now work with them to give them a wardrobe-building experience. I also go on international buying trips to bring my customers exactly what they want from all over Europe," explained Lauren.

Despite graduating years ago, Lauren stays connected to TAFE Queensland through her lifelong friendship with her former teacher, Carol Costa.  

"Carol travels with me on buying trips, and because she sees garments differently, she's great at helping me decide what to bring back to Australia. She then takes that experience back to the classroom, giving her students insights about the fashion trends from overseas," continued Lauren.

"She's like family to me - we're such great friends. She made my wedding dress, my children's Christening Gowns and gowns I've worn to ‘Fashion On The Field’."

After two decades in the industry, Lauren knows first-hand how hard you work when following your passion. Success takes technical skills and knowledge combined with an appetite for continuous learning, starting with studying.

"Studying prepares you for the industry so well. Knowing what aspect of fashion you want to work in also helps, as does doing work experience or speaking with TAFE Queensland's teachers. They're very experienced and available and will honestly tell you where your skills are at."

"I graduated knowing how to care for garments, how things wash and the different sorts of fabrics there are, being able to pattern make something and knowing how a garment would sit – skills that helped me immensely, and I still use them today."

Having been a high school student told that she wouldn't amount to much to now owning her own successful business, Lauren has solid advice for anyone seeking a career in the industry.

"Be realistic with yourself - not everyone will graduate and be the next Christian Dior, but there are many career paths in the industry to specialise in. Owning my own business is amazing – I have a great work-life balance and wonderful customers."

"I love that my passion has turned into my career, and I have my mum to thank for starting me on this path and my amazing TAFE Queensland teacher Carol Costa for inspiring me to be the best version of myself," concluded Lauren.