Grandmother fashions a new career for herself after graduating from university at 65

Susan Campbell on graduation day with her granddaughter.
Susan Campbell on graduation day with her granddaughter.

A grandmother has set her sights on a new career in fashion after graduating from the University of Northampton aged 65.

At a time when most would be adjusting to a leisurely life of retirement, Susan Campbell has no intention of putting her feet up, and is instead pursuing a job in the industry.

A model showcasing one of Susan's designs on the catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week.

A model showcasing one of Susan's designs on the catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week.

“University was amazing, I had so much fun and the course was fascinating, allowing me to really run with my creative ideas,” said Susan, who spent two years studying textiles for fashion at the University of Northampton.

“At first, I was like a rabbit in the headlights, adjusting to being on campus and getting used to learning at degree level, and of course, being the oldest person on the course,” she added.

“It was a little daunting, to know I would be studying alongside people who had only just left school, but I soon found out I had nothing at all to worry about. My course-mates didn’t treat me any differently, we were all in it together and we’d pop off to the canteen with each other, and became close.”

Susan also held her own when it came to the work, being just one of 11 students selected to showcase their final year collections on the catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week in Shoreditch, the culture capital of London.

Susan's designs were inspired by the popular Brummie BBC Two show, Peaky Blinders.

Susan's designs were inspired by the popular Brummie BBC Two show, Peaky Blinders.

Indeed, one of her designs – a Peaky Blinders-inspired outfit – drew plenty of praise on social media and was even featured on local BBC news.

“Just a few years ago I would never have dreamed that I would get the opportunity to design and make my own collection, and then see models wearing it on the catwalk,” said Susan. “It was an incredible experience and I loved every minute of the show and it’s given me a taste of what I want to do next, and that’s to work in the fashion industry.”

Susan, who comes from Countesthorpe, near Leicester, and is married to Duncan and has two grown-up children and a second grandchild on the way, is now contemplating life, post-graduation.

She said: “I’d like to work for a fashion company and get a feel of the industry. I don’t want to just stop now I’ve graduated. I might be 65, which is when most people are settling into retirement, but I want another crack at a more creative career.”

Susan has always had a creative side, but had never pursued her passion professionally, instead undertaking a variety of admin roles throughout her working life.

“Although I enjoyed my jobs, I had always wanted to be more creative, and I remember I used to rush home from work and make clothes when I was younger,” said Susan.

When her children, Laura and Tom, were small, Susan attended evening classes at college, where she tried her hand at art and design, but then put her creative side on hold until she was 50.

“I enrolled on a botanical illustration course and loved it – I remember thinking ‘at last, I know what I want to do with myself, I want to be creative’,” she said.

She then went on to study an AS-Level in textiles at Leicester College, before completing a one-year HND course in fashion and textiles at Warwickshire & Hinckley College. From there, Susan progressed to the University of Northampton in 2016.

The University’s Head of Fashion, Dr Julie King, said: “Susan is proof that age is no barrier and that fashion is for everyone. We are excited to see what the future holds for her and are sure she will inspire others to pursue their dreams.”