Meet the Graduate: Alannah Cooper

Alannah Cooper is a Fashion Communication graduate from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. We talked to Alannah to find out more about her course, her final project ‘Teran’ and how it feels to graduate in 2017.

Photographs taken from ‘Teran’.

Can you tell us about yourself and your course?

I grew up in the Orkney Islands in the very north of Scotland. It is very cold and windy there but you get to see a lot of beautiful things, like waves crashing into cliffs and the Aurora Borealis (known locally as the ‘merry dancers’). I spent a lot of time cutting pictures out of magazines and sticking them to my bedroom wall, as well as painting and charity shopping.

Then I moved to the Scottish Borders to study Fashion Communication at Heriot-Watt University, where I spent even more time cutting pictures out of magazines, painting and charity shopping. My course included a broad mix of subjects, such as photography, graphic design, journalism, styling, events and marketing. It suited me well because I loved doing everything and was initially unsure what I specifically wanted to pursue as a career. By the end of the course, each one of us had found our own individual handwriting and was able to demonstrate it within our work. I was very fortunate to receive the Bernat Klein Award and Watt Club Medal from my university, as well as being awarded the Fashion Photography Award at Graduate Fashion Week. In January, I will begin a Masters in Fashion Communication and Promotion at Central Saint Martins, where I will be focussing on image-making.

Can you tell us more about your final project?

I created a publication titled ‘Teran’, which focussed on rural out-migration within youths. It’s common for young people to be encouraged to leave their home following school to attend university and pursue career ambitions but I questioned whether creatives could be missing out on unique and interesting opportunities where they lived. Whilst reading poetry written by my great grandfather’s cousin, Robert Rendall, I could see my own personal experiences of growing up in Orkney – as opposed to picturing his own stories. I decided to use these poems to inspire each editorial, in an attempt to show my own interpretation.

I made a conscious decision to include no makeup or retouching and to use only natural light. I cast people who weren’t models professionally but I felt were interesting and beautiful. The clothes were all second hand, vintage or borrowed because there are no high street shops in Orkney and I wanted to stay true to that. I interviewed some really interesting people who were having successful creative careers in the islands, such as the Cathedral Stonemason, who as a 24-year old woman was likely to be the first female in the position, and had taken such an interesting creative career path.

How has your course and school prepared you for life after graduating?

My course was quite demanding, which I think helped me to build a strong work ethic. I think having a balance of internships/jobs as well as academic learning was really important, because I gained experience and skills through working but refined my knowledge and expertise within university. My course gave me the room to experiment, make mistakes and figure out what worked for me. I learned in depth about ethics, sustainability and a number of other important issues within the industry, which has shaped my perspective dramatically. I have left university feeling very aware of my responsibility to create positive change within fashion.

How does a graduate feel in 2017?

Personally, 2017 has been a very surreal year because I went from showing my work to mostly friends and family to exhibiting my work in London and being interviewed by ELLE magazine. I am feeling really excited about creating new work and motivated to improve my abilities. I’ve been reading a lot, trying to see as much art as possible and exploring topics that could be interesting subjects for editorials. After this year, I really believe that if I work hard enough and am persistent, I can achieve my goals.

If you’ve graduated in 2017 and would like to be featured on our blog, please send us an email to with some information about yourself and your graduation project.

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