“The National Certificate in Fashion Design and Manufacture is the ideal course for anyone of any age who would like to acquire or improve their existing skills in the design and manufacture of garments for the fashion industry,” explains Netty Sopata, the Isle of Lewis-based designer who runs the fashion design courses at Lews Castle College UHI in Stornoway.
“The year-long course focuses on introducing students to how to create their own garment designs, from their own research, in alignment with the trend forecasting rotation used within the fashion industry,” adds Netty.
To reach this level of skill, the course has a strong focus on providing students with practical skills and knowledge in illustration (both fashion and digital), pattern drafting and manipulation, and machine production, and introduces them to the Harris Tweed industry.

As the designer behind kilt-making company Diggory Brown, which has been featured in Vogue and seen Netty travel to the likes of Norway and Mexico for work, she knows first- hand how the fashion industry works, and can pass that knowledge on to her students.
“I think the most important aspect is that for every subject area we have studied, I can provide real-life examples of scenarios, solutions, and contacts to enhance the students’ understanding and experience. I also feel that it’s vital my experience is current, and continues to evolve, which is why I’m still running my own business and will continue to do so.”
The course, which was launched at Lews Castle UHI in August 2018, has been well received by students. Jane, one of the current cohort of students, describes it as “a must for any creative-minded fashion student,” and fellow student Charlotte agrees. “We have become a group of people with so much creativity, that now has renewed confidence, all from a tutor and course that believes in us.”
The National Certificate course has been so well received, in fact, that a new HNC in Fashion Design and Production with Retail is planned. What can students expect from this proposed course? “An increased workload!” laughs Netty. “The course steps up a gear to increase the skill level in pattern cutting, machine and design skills, and illustration. But it also provides an in-depth insight into textile technology and the business skills involved in the fashion industry.”
As well as building on skills developed in the National Certificate course, the new HNC will introduce students to millinery, designing and producing fashion garments, store design and layout, and merchandising.
Netty notes that teaching the course for the
first time this year has been “a learning curve,” but “one that has been fully supported by the College and the students on the course, all of whom are working incredibly hard and have demonstrated real creative flair throughout the year.”
The designer is “excited” at the prospect of the new course and her second year as lecturer, not to mention “delighted” that there is a plan to recruit
a second member of permanent staff. “This will mean that both the NC and HNC students will have a tutorship team to support them as they progress through the year,” says Netty.
As the students gear up to start their final projects, recruitment for the autumn is getting underway – and much like in the real world of fashion, it’s all being documented on Instagram at @creativehublcc. In the words of one current student, “if you want to explore your creative side, this is the course for you.”