Interview: fourth year medic Serena Baker on winning the Great British Sewing Bee
We spoke to her about sustainability, keeping her win a secret, and getting spotted
It’s been quite the year for Edinburgh students! Not only do we have a champion baker in our midst, we now have a sewing super star too.
Serena Baker, a fourth year medical student, has won the Great British Sewing Bee. Her passion for sustainability and admiration for Killing Eve’s Villanelle translated into creative and daring designs that wowed the judges.
She sewed her way to success – after all, who can forget that jaw-dropping acid yellow tulle dress in the final?
So, The Edinburgh Tab spoke to Serena about her win, her inspiration, and her advice for anyone wanting to get into sewing.
Was it difficult keeping the win a secret? How many people did you tell?
After the final was filmed, only a handful of people knew (parents, siblings, and my flatmate) so at least I could talk to them about it! We really weren’t allowed to tell many people! It was so difficult to keep the win a secret, especially towards the end of the show coming out when everyone was getting excited about the final. But I knew I didn’t want to tell people, as the win would mean a lot more if people watched the whole ten weeks compared to me just telling them I won!
Have the uni and the medical school been supportive?
The medical school and uni were both very supportive of me being on the Sewing Bee. The medical school organised a really nice message of support for the night of the final. I had a lot of catching up to do when I got back from filming, but I did it eventually. The show was filmed September and October but luckily, I didn’t have exams until June, so I had a bit of time.
How have your classmates, flatmates, and friends reacted?
The response from everyone around me has been amazing, but it is really strange sometimes thinking of all the people I know who have watched it. Even people I knew years ago in school have been messaging me good luck and congratulation messages which is odd! Everyone has been so supportive and it is lovely.
Do you get recognised when you’re out and about in Edinburgh?
A couple of times! It was a strange feeling, but anyone who has stopped me has always been positive and just tells me they love the show, so I won’t complain about that! It’s always nice knowing local people are supportive of me.
How does your passion for sustainable fashion inspire your sewing?
I think each passion feeds the other. Sewing helps me become more sustainable in my fashion choices, and sustainable fashion tests and challenges my sewing skills! I became interested in both at around the same time, so for me they’ve always been synonymous. Being more sustainable with my fashion choices has let me explore new aspects of sewing like refashioning garments, which is great because I always love challenging myself and trying to learn new skills.
We know that students are increasingly trying to be more eco-conscious in their fashion choices. What advice would you give someone wanting to start sewing as a way to be more sustainable?
I always say start small and work up! Pick something up second-hand and make small changes to it so you can test out techniques and fabrics. Then you can maybe move on to trying out new styles, silhouettes, maybe use multiple garments to make an outfit, or try out a trickier fabric like stretch. I personally like to have a plan for what I’m making and suggest focussing on learning one new skill at a time.
Does Edinburgh uni fashion influence your designs?
Not really to be perfectly honest. I love the style of Killing Eve’s Villanelle, and that isn’t very similar to Edinburgh Uni fashion. But I’m always up for trying out new styles and garments, so you never know.
How does Edinburgh as a city inspire your designs?
Living in Edinburgh, I am very conscious that the clothes I make have to work for all kinds of weather, and even then we don’t get much chance to wear proper summery clothes for much of summer. For the past few years, I’ve tried to make garments that will be versatile in my wardrobe and suit multiple seasons, meaning I can wear them and enjoy them for more of the year. I do also have a pair of tartan trousers that I adore wearing – and spent about 7 hours pattern matching them too!
How have you celebrated your win?
On the night of the final I only watched with people who knew I won, so we kept it small. Also, Covid is still a thing so didn’t have much choice there. We had some drinks and nice food and just had a good happy time. I was finally able to show off my trophy to extended family and friends. The few days after the final were crazy and very overwhelming, since then I’ve tried to find time just to relax and be off social media. I also just need time for it to settle in!
You can keep up with Serena’s designs on her Instagram: @serenasews_