Where Are They Now – Anita Grey

What did you study and when did you graduate?

When at Goldsmiths, I was studying on my dream MA Fashion degree, which focused on having an ethical and sustainable take to fashion as a business. I finished the course last October, with a final presentation of my collection of digital dresses in a VR realm that was part of London Design Festival 2017. 

What did you do as a CEN8 volunteer?

I realised I was receiving more than I was giving, so that helped fuel my foundation as a CEN8 volunteer. In 2016, we worked on a Christmas theatre performance and it took me 6 hours to create about 30 costumes from scratch using any materials available. I was happy to have the idea of using Sainsbury’s orange plastic bags as ears for a few actors playing squirrels. That was a long day but one of the most fun moments of my life. You can see our highlight reel here!

In 2017, CEN8 carried out a series of master classes that led to the Children’s Art Exhibition and Fashion Show. Again, I was working on a project that lasted for a good few months in which the kids produced pieces they are proud of. This made a difference to their lives, which is reward enough. Adding to the collection of their last Fashion Show, we used men’s shirts to create a Batman look that won over a lot of hearts. This showed that sometimes it is about how we wear apparel that matters and the boy who wore that Batman outfit did himself proud indeed. 

What was the most useful thing you learnt by being a volunteer? 

For as long as I can remember, I have been volunteering all my life and I can’t imagine who I’d be without this experience. I believe volunteering helps us be human. Working with kids lit up the light within me, as they are honest, inquisitive and ask questions because they want to learn. I have picked up that curiosity from them. 

And of course when you volunteer, you are not alone out there; there is a great bunch of talented people to meet and be inspired by. The more I think about it, the more I love the idea of volunteering. 

What was the best thing about volunteering?

I must admit that the pace of life is very fast nowadays. When you slow down, you are believed to be losing out competitively. But while volunteering, you can pause life for a short time to enjoy normality and the very basics of happiness like helping, sharing and enjoying what you do. 

What have you been up to since leaving Goldsmiths?

Since concluding life in my cosy Goldsmiths studio where I spent days and late evenings nearly seven days a week, gone is the feeling of having a secure space where I can create and being everything with different media to support the design based on speculation. My life of comfort is now over and I am faced with a real world of paid jobs and grown-ups, but the identity I found as a designer when I was at Goldsmiths helps me to translate my inner state into the outer world and establish my practice. Using the lessons I learnt from the kids to be honest with my feelings and myself after trials and failures, I have managed to create a piece that incorporates my ethos and philosophy. It took one coat to decode my design aesthetics and philosophy into a tangible object that attracted a lot of attention. When there is one, there are more, and this led to six coats completing a collection that has been sold; that is how the whole idea of having my own sustainable brand appeared. 

Has/how volunteering for CEN8 impacted on you since you left?

I believe that everything we experience in life has an impact. The experience of working with kids who are so genuinely happy and grateful is good motivation on its own to make the world a better place for them. The type of fashion I am interested in cuts across different disciplines of ecology, sociology and philosophy, to name a few. By taking responsibility for the future, the items I design are based on production ethics and sustainability, both of which are at the core of my practice. I believe we have the responsibility to maintain planet Earth for the next generation and generations after them, for these kids and their kids to live in peace and harmony. 

What career advice would you give to students currently at university?

Everything we go through is an opportunity to learn and grow, and will always result in turning us into different people. I think we need to make mistakes and fail in order to be successful. I was looking for one perfect key to success for a long time and, ultimately, I realised that my experiences – good and bad – all moulded me into the person I am now. So don’t focus on imitating somebody else as we are all unique and different.

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