A fashion student graduating today from Heriot-Watt School of Textiles and Design has been invited to showcase her work in New York after winning a Designer of the Year award.
Carina Pratt, a care-experienced student who has overcome diversity including deafness and bipolar disorder, will exhibit fashion designs inspired by Mary Queen of Scots in Manhattan next spring at the Angelman Syndrome Collection Showcase.
The showcase and its related awards raise awareness of a rare genetic disorder of the nervous system called Angelman syndrome, which affects about 500,000 people worldwide and affects the ability to walk, talk and perform other everyday tasks.
Carina is being invited to the New York showcase after being named Angelman Syndrome Designer of the Year 2023 at an event in London held by the Fashion Designers’ and Craft Makers’ Network, a non-profit group set up to promote exceptionally gifted new fashion designers.
Completing my degree and winning this award has helped me to believe in myself and know I can do anything I put my mind to.
Carina will graduate today with a Master of Arts in Fashion and Textiles Design from Heriot-Watt School of Textiles and Design, where she previously completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fashion in 2022.
“Heriot-Watt University has been amazing and my tutors have been incredibly supportive,” Carina said. “I’ve always wanted to study fashion and feel so privileged. Sometimes I doubt myself and am my own worst critic. But completing my degree and winning this award has helped me to believe in myself and know I can do anything I put my mind to.”
Carina, who was born in London, but grew up in Scotland and now lives in Stirlingshire, said she was inspired to learn to sew after the birth of her daughter in 2015. For the Manhattan showcase, she is designing 12 garments, including a corseted bodice made with repurposed bicycle gear wires and a kilt with a modern spin. Her designs will use donated fabrics including velvet and tartan from Scottish companies. Carina is passionate about sustainable fashion and design and is committed to using recycled and upcycled materials in her designs.
“I want to become a successful Scottish fashion designer who promotes sustainability and slow fashion – and also encourages Scottish fashion production – because there’s a lack of it in the industry here,” Carina said.
The theme of her Manhattan showcase – ‘Mary’s Reckoning’ – reflects the later life of Mary Queen of Scots, who Carina describes as an inspiring and strong Scottish queen who was not to be reckoned with.
Carina herself was born with only one ear and lived in and out of the care system from the age of 12. She left school aged 14 before sitting any exams and started work experience in a hair salon. Around the age of 17, Carina was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a type of mental health condition that can cause extreme mood swings. Carina also lost her older brother to drug and alcohol abuse about six years ago.
“I took that badly, but you learn from things,” Carina said. “Adversity has made me stronger and I’m a very resilient person. I’m always striving to achieve things. And if you get knocked down, just get back up again.”
To help pay for her travel expenses to New York, Carina’s friends have set up a GoFundMe page to raise £2,500. The showcase will be an opportunity to meet fashion industry contacts and media. If the event goes well, Carina also hopes to show her work at Vancouver Fashion Week in Canada in October 2024.
Dr Lucy Robertson, Assistant Professor of Design at Heriot-Watt’s School of Textiles and Design, said: “We are incredibly proud of our graduating students today. Carina’s collection and experimentation showed great innovation and material play, by including waste materials like bicycle wire and inner tubes from her local bike shop. It’s fantastic to see what she’s achieved.”
The Angelman Syndrome Designer of the Year award and Fashion Designers’ and Craft Makers’ Network were both set up by knitwear designer Joanna Marcella after her grandson was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome in 2015 at the age of two.
Funds raised from the events go to the charity Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics (FAST), based in Texas in the United States, which is dedicated to finding a cure for Angelman syndrome and related disorders.
Carina has also won a separate award from a programme called the Global Recognition Awards, which celebrates achievements in entrepreneurship, innovation and corporate responsibility.
Evelyn Tweed MSP, Member of the Scottish Parliament for Stirling, has lodged a parliamentary motion to congratulate Carina on winning the Angelman Syndrome award.