A University of Bolton student has proved she has designs on a great career after she was contracted by an internationally renowned fashion house.
Talent spotters from Alexander McQueen were so impressed with Sharon Halladay’s designs that they whisked her off to Florence, Italy.
There she spent five days creating hand painted pieces for high-quality bespoke garments.
Sharon, aged 47, from Lowton, near Leigh, Greater Manchester, said: “I couldn’t believe it when I was offered the job.
“It is amazing to think that just weeks after graduating I was doing work for Alexander McQueen.”
Sharon had previously studied a Foundation Degree, for which she was presented the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement.
She graduated from her three-year degree course in Textile and Surface Design at the University of Bolton in July.
She said: “My initial interest had been interior design, but the Foundation course gave me the opportunity to experience a variety of creative subjects.”
She said: “I really enjoyed my time at the University of Bolton – it is so friendly and I know it sounds corny, but you really do feel part of the family.
“The tutors are very supportive and have so many connections to industry, which has been invaluable.”
At the end of her degree Sharon handed in her work in May.
A sample was presented at a London trade show called ‘New Designers’, alongside approximately 3,000 other graduates.
She said that a representative from the Alexander McQueen fashion house saw her work and took her details and not long afterwards she was invited to go for an interview in London.
She said “I was petrified. I took my portfolio and remember getting to London and thinking I should just turn around and come straight back – I felt so out of my depth.”
Sharon was interviewed at the Alexander McQueen HQ and by the time she arrived at Euston station to catch her train home, she had received a text telling her she had been successful and was being offered the opportunity to work on a hand-painting project in Florence.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
She spent five days in Italy, painstakingly hand-painting designs on to Alexander McQueen garments, along with five other artists from the UK at the end of September.
They spent 12 hours a day in a window-less room carrying out preparatory work and delicately applying paint to pieces of high-quality leather which were then taken to the nearby Alexander McQueen factory to be worked into bespoke garments.
Sharon said: “It was really hard work. We had to cut out templates of the motifs used in the design and then apply them to the piece of garment before using an intricate technique to paint each motif individually and apply a final coat to protect the hand painting.
“Everything had to be placed to the millimetre.”
The designs are so top secret that Sharon is not allowed to show examples of her work.
She said: ““I was worried about getting something wrong and although they were long days, it was an amazing experience.
“I hear a lot of people making excuses not to follow their ambitions, but it goes to show that if you have the desire and the support of your family that you can go on to achieve something you have always dreamed of.
“If I had not come to the University of Bolton I would not have been able to have such a fantastic opportunity.”
Sharon is continuing as a freelance designer and hopes to possibly work for Alexander McQueen again in the future.