My education journey: Emma Manley – fashion designer
The greatest amount of learning was from all the internships and work experience I did
Emma Manley: “My advice to anyone who is disappointed with their results is to take rejection with a pinch of salt. You will be upset but always know that it just means there is something better down the line for you.”
“I went to Coolmine Community School in Dublin where I studied all the main subjects as well as business, biology, French and art.
The thing is, I probably have everything I needed to take the academic route but I had more of a creative brain. For me, being as artistic and creative as I am, school probably wasn’t the most enjoyable experience.
I was very much in a rush to move on to the next thing. I felt as if the things I was learning were a waste of time and I couldn’t see the value in a lot of the subjects I was studying. School wasn’t the happiest time in my life. I was just in a mad rush to get out of school and go and study fashion.
I applied to NCAD and the Limerick School of Art and Design but I was rejected three years in a row. I ended up taking a place at the Grafton Academy – a private college. It was not what I wanted at the time.
My mum had studied there back in her day and I kind of felt like I wanted to create my own path but, in the end, I had no choice. That said, I ended up getting a mighty education there. They had a very traditional way of teaching and I learned skills there I probably would not have learned in the main art colleges. It gave me the skillset I needed to do what I work at today and that I will have for life.
The greatest amount of learning was from all the internships and work experience I did. I spent some time living in cities such as New York and London, where I took up internships.
The experience of being in a creative environment is sometimes more valuable than the standard college experience. It equipped me to start up my own business. I would say to anyone doing an internship to be a sponge and say yes to everything and to try and soak in as much as you can.
Over the years, I have worked in retail, became a personal shopper and worked as a style adviser. I did all these different things and learned about all the facets of fashion and it has helped to inform my career and has made me the designer I am today.
When I got my first rejection from art college after putting in so much work with my portfolio and my Leaving Cert, I was distraught. I thought my life was over and felt like such a failure. The funny thing is now that I have had three big rejections year after year, I developed so much as a person and as a designer because of the rejection and because of the knock backs. They were character-building.
My advice to anyone who is disappointed with their results is to take rejection with a pinch of salt. You will be upset but always know that it just means there is something better down the line for you.
You can’t take the knocks without seeing what else is out there for you. I think it is a way of fate intervening and showing you there is something better out there for you. There is always another path so go chase it!”
In conversation with Áine McMahon