Rhys McKenna – University of Edinburgh


Rhys McKenna

4th Year Menswear Design student / BA (Hons) Fashion

The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland

Exclusive Interview for


 Congratulations on winning this award, how does this award meant to you?

  1. Winning the award was a fantastic feeling. I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to present to the panel. Talking through garments and design books and project was brilliant and then talking about design styles, hopes for the future and plans after Edinburgh, the interview really was a hugely positive experience. It was extremely exciting and encouraging to hear their feedback and present my graduate collection in a professional context. I am really enthusiastic and inspired to be interning at Burberry soon, it’ll be a hugely potent place for inspiration and learning constantly about fashion and industry. To also be in the heart of London will be hugely beneficial from a research point of view as there are so many inspiring exhibitions and establishments a to visit.
    1. Tell me about yourself.  What course are you studying? 

    My name is Rhys McKenna, I’m from Stirling, Scotland and I’ve currently just completed BA (Hons) Fashion at Edinburgh College of Art as part of the University of Edinburgh, graduating with a 1st class degree. The course at Edinburgh is fantastic; we are mainly tutored in fourth year by Mal Burkinshaw our programme director. He directs us in our projects with personal, tailored guidance and retains out different hopes and aspirations for the projects meaning we are constantly building on our work with someone who understands it just as much as we do. We are taught in innovative and directional ways to challenge our thinking and build skills, abilities, techniques and processes whilst simultaneously helping us to develop personal approaches which go beyond the conventional sense of fashion. Aside from the course I really enjoy sport and train in Tae Kwon do. I’m a second degree black belt and I definitely feel the martial art has an influence on my work.


    1. What made you decide to pursue a career in fashion? Are you more focused on menswear?
      Film was a huge influence in my motivation to pursue a career in fashion. I am hugely inspired by science fiction and historical films and merging the two. Film captures the garments in a really dynamic, photographic and heightened sense, and in films garments are tied completely to their character. Therefore i think the idea of creating identities and characters and stories through clothes is something that compelled me to pursue fashion. Also the concept of doing everything in fashion from drawing to prototyping to illustrating/painting to constructing to fabric treatment to accessories to design books, the subject allows you to become specialised in a wide array of different disciplines which I believe is the catalyst for innovation.


    I am focused on menswear. It’s an exciting field to be in with designers taking more risk with fabric and cut which makes it fast paced and innovative which I really thrive on. Material innovation is an area which is core to my design practice and menswear has let me explore this in a way in which i can reference both the predicted future and historical, heraldic past.

    1. Define: “Fashion”.

    I would define fashion as an artistic practice/medium in which the designers’ ideas are expressed. Just as painting is a medium to explore concepts and a fusion of different thoughts so to I believe is fashion only in fashion the medium is clothing and accessories.

    5. What makes you standout from other competing candidates?

    I find or make a path. There are many tough parts of fashion or ideas that are not easy to bring to fruition however this part is what i love the most. The problem solving, resourcing, digging and creating are all parts that inspire me. I am very confident in connecting with industry and enjoy building up relationships with companies outside of fashion to construct clothing using non-conventional fashion materials – a testament to this are the 10 sponsors I secured for my graduate collection. I also have connected heavily with industry in a working design capacity with internships for Burberry (London), H&M(Sweden), Rochambeau (New York) & Patrik Ervell (New York) and finding funding and ways to make these placements possible as well as performing consistently in competitions such as Mackintosh (1st place), Michael Kors (2nd place) and Diversity Now (shortlist finalist 2014 & 2016).

    In addition I have a real enthusiasm for history and innovation fused together. Research is extremely important and I love taking concepts which are worlds apart and finding common links, synthesising them together. I also am a strong believer in primary research. This year for example my project was inspired but the Order of the Thistle an ancient Scottish order of Chivalry. In order to research fully I secured a place to become an aide to the Knights of the Thistle at their summer ceremony winter and summer ceremonies. Garment sculpting and engineering is also one of my key strengths. I developed a Papier Mache constructing method this year and sculpted my garments as well as combing with exciting material innovation such as carbon fibre with resin treatments and lace-fibre hybrids.

    My capacity for professional graphics design is something I also take great pride in. Creating design book portfolios in coffee-table-style books is something I do every year to document my work and present in in a slick and professional manner encompassing my garment work and my love for painting and illustration.

    Furthermore, academically I recently received notification of my degree mark resulting in a 1st class degree and the highest marks across 5 design discipline son fashion, textiles, performance costume, product design and interior design at the University of Edinburgh.

    1. How do you see yourself in 5 years time?

    I see myself working across several industries of fashion, film, wearable technology and art direction. They are all avenues I want to pursue simultaneously and for them to influence one another. I also see myself working in the Far East after having a cultural trip there in school and being extremely enthused by the country. I want to bolster Scotland’s influence on the global fashion industry through technological material collaborations with its vast and specialised array of innovative material manufacturers. Concept design and set design for per-formative fashion shows is also an avenue I am keen to pursue.

    7. What is your advice for students who want to pursue career in fashion?

    That the creative potential is limitless. It’s the perfect medium to explore ideas within and bring to life ideas. It’s a hugely inspiration field to work in, I couldn’t encourage them enough to continue the study it and to bring themselves into their study; what interests they have, what books they read, what films they watch, their families, their nationality, their history, everything is important and everything is inspiring. Also I’d say don’t be afraid to ask for help, companies jump at the chance to work at students and its worth chancing your arm and asking with a solid pitch, chances are they’d love to collaborate. Also take good advice. Take constructive criticism but believe in the strength of your own ideas and identity too.

    8. What is your own fashion style?
    Very straightforward and minimal dark jeans and t shirt and normally a bottle green Macintosh, sometimes tartan trousers if we’re going to a Ceilidh (there’s plenty of them from studying in Edinburgh!)

    9.  What is your dream job?

    My dream job is a menswear designer or creative director of a global fashion firm whilst also designing film costumes for both historic and futuristic films. In such a role I’d love to be very hands on in research and material innovation as well as connecting with new and exciting industrial material companies & innovators of typically non-fashion materials.