On a rainy day in The Courtauld student café, Alexis Romano and Katerina Pantelides, both of whom have recently completed their PhDs in dress history at The Courtauld, generously agreed to tell me a bit about their work. Due to the length of the interview the first half was posted last Friday, it continues here:
Do you have any advice for people who might be thinking of doing a PhD?
Alexis: I would say be as organised as you can and treat it as a nine-to-five job. I think if you professionalise it you will be more productive.
Katerina: I would say that it’s really difficult to write and research things if you’re worried about money, so try and get that sorted. It’s a really practical thing but it helps so much with treating it like a job. I would also say make sure you have a topic that you are really passionate about. Be open minded. Make sure you have the supervision and support that you need, for example if you have a topic that bridges disciplines, try and get supervision from both.
You’re both co-founders of the Fashion Research Network. Can you tell me a bit more about it?
Katerina: We are both co-founders with Nathaniel Beard and Ellen Sampson, who are from the Royal College of Art. It started off because we felt that there were lots of institutions in London with students who were doing research in fashion and dress but they all seemed like these separate little fiefdoms, and we thought why don’t we try and get them together, put on an event, and get people talking to each other. It started with a pilot event in summer 2013 and it was a really big success. Since then we have done quite a few events: museum tours, artists and designer talks, symposia and reading groups. We have had some interesting people involved and it’s been pretty interdisciplinary.
Alexis: Yes, the interdisciplinary aspect is a central part of our mission, because the other co-founders are not historians; they work on fashion but they come from different fields. One of the obstacles for us in our own research was coming to terms with the fact that fashion is not just history and it’s not just image, it’s an industry, it involves so many different types of people, languages and disciplines – things that, as art historians, we might not understand without having conversations with people from other fields. Through the FRN, we wanted to get as broad a definition of fashion as possible to work with!
What are your plans for the future now that you have both finished your PhDs?
Katerina: I’m writing my first novel, teaching English and am in the first stages of planning a small exhibition about fashion and the senses with Alexis.
Alexis: I am hoping to put together a proposal for a manuscript and some exhibitions, and a course from my research. So that’s the current project, but I am also looking for funding to make that happen. I am currently Exhibition Reviews Editor for Textile History Journal, am also starting a project making greetings cards, and of course, we are in the very early stages of curating an exhibition together about fashion and the senses. So stay tuned for more!