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Dressed to skill: Rory's flair for fashion

Julia Horton meets designer Rory Andrew, who has two big dates lined up in Oxford Street and at the Skills Olympics

Julia Horton meets designer Rory Andrew, who has two big dates lined up in Oxford Street and at the Skills Olympics

Dressing a window for a leading British fashion store in the heart of London is an unfulfilled dream for most young designers. Scottish graduate Rory Andrew has proved, however, that he is a cut above the rest.

The 19-year-old from Bathgate has not only been given his own window, he will also be the star attraction, sewing his creations right there in front of shoppers passing Debenhams flagship Oxford Street store.

Rory (pictured above) has been offered the unusual and unexpected opportunity to showcase himself and his work after being selected to represent the UK in the Skills Olympics. Officially titled WorldSkills, it is the biggest global vocational talent competition aimed at fostering talent in young students, apprentices and employees.

Rory is the first person to represent the UK in fashion technology at the contest, prompting hopes that he will lead a resurgence of the beleaguered Scottish fashion industry. He is also living proof that having severe dyslexia - which he continues to battle with - is no barrier to success.

Still stunned by his selection to Team UK, he says: "I can't believe it, I'm still getting used to it. It's going to be quite daunting being in the window of Debenhams - Oxford Street is so big. I think it will be good, though.

"It's also quite scary being the first person to represent the UK in fashion technology. It's quite a lot of pressure - it's not just me I'm representing, it's Victoria (his WorldSkills training manager) and Debenhams, too."

The fashion retailer is one of the companies supporting WorldSkills and has given Rory intensive training at its London store since the 87-strong UK squad was confirmed last November.

For months, Rory juggled his training with an HND course in fashion technology at North Glasgow College, which he completed around the same time that the Team UK membership was announced by Westminster skills minister John Hayes this June.

Rory lost no time in showing off his talents - and Scottish roots - wearing a colourful tartan suit, which he created, at a royal reception held for the team at Buckingham Palace.

"I was a bit naughty really as we got told to wear a dark suit, but I thought I don't want to do that!" Rory laughs. "If your skill is carpentry you can't really take something you've made with you, but I can. I spoke to John Hayes while I was there and he said he liked it."

As an inherently practical and creative course, fashion technology (incorporating everything from pattern cutting and designing clothes to sewing techniques) has been easier than more academic courses for Rory, who was diagnosed with dyslexia at primary school.

He does still encounter difficulties, though. "In fashion, for WorldSkills anyway, we don't have a lot of written work. At college, we had to do a lot of writing, though, and I did struggle with that," he says.

Rory has already won several awards for his work, taking home a silver medal at EuroSkills, a similar European competition last year, ahead of his selection for WorldSkills.

Anne Wood, North Glasgow College's head of fashion, put Rory forward for the competition. She believes his growing success will inspire others.

"I'm quite sure this will give other young people in Scotland a boost and make them want to do equally well.

"The industry needs young role models who are doing well in an industry setting. I really do think he can go places. He was never shy about saying he had dyslexia and needed additional help. Dyslexia has never been an issue for him."

People with dyslexia are often very creative. Rory's father, Alasdair Andrew, who is also dyslexic and chairs Dyslexia Scotland's south-east branch, believes that having the learning difficulty may even be the cause of Rory's success.

He says: "Being severely dyslexic has not held him back. I would even say it is because he is dyslexic that he has been able to achieve this."

Rory will be among 1,000 competitors from more than 50 countries at WorldSkills in London in October, competing for gold, silver and bronze medals in 46 skill areas over four days.


The other Scottish members of the 43-strong Team UK are:

Ryan Sheridan (pictured)

Age: 19

Skill: mechanical engineering

Current position: part-time teacher

Home town: East Kilbride

College: Motherwell College

Employer: Motherwell College

Rachel Terras

Age: 22

Skill: painting and decorating

Current position: apprentice painter and decorator

Home town: Galashiels

College: Borders College

Employer: Peebles Hydro Hotel

Emma Fitzpatrick

Age: 20

Skill: caring

Current position: care assistant

Home town: Ballieston, Glasgow

College: Carousel Training Centre, Edinburgh

Employer: BUPA East Bank Care Home, Glasgow

Frances McMenemy

Age: 19

Skill: caring

Current position: care assistant

Home town: Paisley

College: training provided by BUPA

Employer: BUPA East Bank Care Home, Glasgow.

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