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From an early age Jessica Harper would make towels, dresses and cushions for the family home with her mum, which became the first threads of a passion for fashion.

While her interest in sewing saw her excel in home economics in high school, she initially studied business after graduating while also working in her family’s baking company.

“I was driving forklifts, packing orders, supervising teams of people, and mixing the dough while I studied, learning many skills along the way,” explained Jess.

However, her love for designing grew over time, and she decided to enquire about studying fashion to become a designer and ultimately create fabulous garments.

“I’ve always wanted to study fashion, and after working and studying in different areas, the timing felt right,” she said.

While searching for a course in Brisbane, her main priority was study flexibility due to family commitments. After discussing her study options with TAFE Queensland, Jess quickly enrolled and began her journey with the Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Merchandising (MST50119) in 2020.

“Choosing to study with TAFE Queensland was an easy decision as the Fashion Centre of Excellence has the best facilities and state-of-the-art equipment and their teachers are from the industry. Plus, it has flexibility so I can balance my family life with my studies if I need to,” said Jess.

Jess describes her training experience as excellent, with her teachers and the computers she uses to design each day making complex techniques and concepts easy to follow.

“I’m blown away by the computers here. We use CLO, a computer program to design clothes with true-to-life 3D garment simulation. It’s incredible how we can instantly see our designs on an avatar and make changes before we make a pattern,” she said.

“I’ve gone from not knowing anything, not being able to draw, to now being able to bring designs to life on a computer. It’s been amazing.”

Her hands-on training has seen her confidence grow as she learns new techniques, surprising herself with what she’s capable of and has led to her finding her niche. Jess has already taken the next step and continued her training in 2021, studying the Advanced Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Merchandising (MST60119).

With a speciality in designer day wear, Jess wants to focus on creating unique pieces that stand out from the crowd. She’s already made a Burberry-style jacket as part of her diploma studies, which always draws in lots of compliments.

As part of her entry for TAFE Queensland’s graduating student fashion show, Protégé, she’s currently creating belts and bags from leather sourced from a Caboolture supplier partner, Packer Leather. To take her designs to the next level Jess is using industry-standard leather machinery, laser cutters and printers available in the Fashion Centre of Excellence.

As fashion is her passion, Jess plans on enrolling in TAFE Queensland’s Bachelor of Creative Industries (Applied Fashion) delivered in partnership with the University of Canberra once she graduates. She's passionate about bringing fashion design and manufacturing back to Queensland to create jobs.

“I want to start a small label then go into manufacturing, combining what I’ve learnt from my family business and my passion for designing unique one-of-a-kind, bespoke fashion pieces.”

“Bringing fashion manufacturing back to Australia is a big job, and I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m not deterred, I’m determined,” concluded Jess.


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