SUNDERLAND STUDENTS are gaining valuable skills in styling and visual merchandising, thanks to a partnership with a leading shopping centre.

The Bridges teamed up with Sunderland BID earlier this year to launch the Style Pod – a large glass case with mannequins showcasing the upcoming trends and offerings from fashion retailers in the centre.

And the latest displays, which have included an autumn look for the whole family and Christmas partywear, have been the work of the Fashion North team – a website and social media platform run by the fashion journalism students at the University of Sunderland.

Part of a monthly style pod challenge set by the Bridges, the third year students are tasked to come up with a theme and work closely with retailers at the centre to source clothing, accessories and other props for the pod.

While the project counts towards their academic coursework, it also gives the group hands-on experience and transferrable skills for future employment.

The team liaise with retail professionals, working to meet a deadline and making sure they fit a brief that will be seen by thousands of customers each day.

Samantha Czwordon-Auld, marketing and communications manager at the Bridges, believes it’s a fantastic opportunity for students.

“The Style Pod is a great way for customers to see a full outfit put together, rather than just on a hanger, and the Fashion North team have done a brilliant job so far,” she said.

“It has been really exciting to work with the students to see how they interpret the briefs we set and they have put together some really impressive displays.

“Not only does the styling challenge help them progress on their course but we hope it also gives them some unique experience working within a real retail environment, with skills they can carry beyond their studies.”

Liz Lamb, deputy programme leader of the Fashion Journalism programme and a former fashion editor, is pleased the students have stepped up to the challenge.

“The fashion journalism programme at the university has always had really strong links with industry and the styling challenge at the Bridges is a great example of this,” she said.

“Not only do our students get to experience styling for a retail market, alongside developing their skills, but they are also able to make contacts with key marketing staff too.

“We are really looking forward to continuing our arrangement with the Bridges, and our second year students will be taking on the Style Pod challenge next year too.”

Each pod display takes the students around half a day to complete with the next one planned for February 2022.

Lucy Britnell, a third year student on the Fashion Journalism course, enjoyed putting together the Christmas pod.

“The theme of Christmas party wear for the family was really fitting for the time of year and this meant that we had loads of options of outfits from all the retailers,” she said.

“On both occasions when we have styled the pod, we have had a great opportunity to work in a real life styling environment and it had been a really fun day.”

For more information on the Bridges visit

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