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Texprint connects industry to selected graduate designers just emerging from college or university - also to Texprint alumni, many of whom now enjoy high profile creative roles within the international textile, fashion and interior design industries. Their success in industry, and in many cases, the success of their own studios and brands, are testimony to the Texprint programme. Many continue to support Texprint in a variety of ways.
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Texprint alumna’s story: Momo Wang, Museum of Friendship
10 December 2014
Alumna Momo Wang has progressed quickly and launched her own womenswear label since her time with Texprint in 2011. We spoke to her in London.
Though trained in textile design, Momo prefers to think beyond the individual textile, constructing garments from colourful fabric scraps she finds in random places, including night markets from her hometown back in China. Her works are an intricate mingling of mismatched fabrics and techniques, including PVC with pearl embellishments, and crocheted strips of potato sacks.
On the day of our interview, her tiny frame is buried under a loosely woven orange turtleneck. Wang’s studio has a folksy, down home feel, with doll heads and cat pictures as decoration.
After attending the National Opera School in Beijing to study Peking opera, calligraphy and traditional Chinese art, Wang won a place on the BA Fashion Textiles course at Central Saint Martins in London. After winning joint second place in 2011 in the L'Óreal Professional Young Talent Award for her student collection, Wang was interviewed and selected for Texprint and showcased her collection with Texprint at Indigo at Premiere Vision. She went on to found her own label, Museum of Friendship and is now in the midst of making her seventh collection.
The young designer stresses that the most important element of her designs is that her friends and family are involved. Skimming through her past lookbooks, she points out, “these are all knots and stitches that my friends helped out with. These ceramic beads were made by my father. My family and friends create different parts of my garments and I put them together,” she says. “I want to keep memories in my clothes. When I see the clothes, I can think about what I have been through and who helped me create.”
How did Texprint help your career?
When I was selected for Texprint, I didn’t know how to sell yet. All young designers are like that – they know how to create but don’t know how to sell their work. The Première Vision experience was really interesting for me. I got to talk to people from super huge brands including H&M and Nike. It was great exposure in a short time for a young designer like myself.
You didn’t grow up in a big city. What was your childhood like?
I was born in a really small city called Zhinzhou and lived there until I was 17. Then I went to Beijing for college. It was my first time in a big city and I studied for a major called Intercultural Communication at the National Opera School. I learnt about Peking opera, calligraphy, and history of traditional Chinese art. I got loads of inspiration on colors, from the old costumes in the operas and also came to know lots of interesting artists in Asia.
My father is a calligrapher and artist in Chinese painting and seal making. I really like traditional culture in China. My mother was a journalist in a newspaper in my hometown but she really likes making clothes. When I was really young, she always made my clothes… This was a really deep influence for me in becoming a fashion designer.
The name of your label is quite distinctive. How did you come up with that?
I am friendly with a gallery director who has a space near Dover Street Market in London. One day he had just come back from North Korea doing an art project there. He told me that while there, he went to an interesting place called the Museum of Friendship. Basically, the museum exhibits all these gifts that people gave to North Koreans, like items from the 60s onto 90s, from different countries. It’s kind of propaganda stuff, as they are showing people that they have friendships outside. I thought it was a really good name but it was quite tricky that the museum is in North Korea! But the meaning is, people putting out gifts in the museum to keep alive the meaning of friendship.
What did your graduate collection for Central Saint Martins look like?
My graduate collection was all about handcraft. I don’t use a lot of sewing machines and I use my hands to sew and crochet. I really want my friends and family to be involved in my collections so they create different parts of my garments and then I put them together.
The first collection I made was about my memories of the old Central Saint Martins college building. That’s why I used cloth I found in the studios. I wanted to keep the memories of CSM in my clothes.
And your second collection?
After graduation, the second collection was about my hometown, Zhinzhou. I went to the markets there and bought old fabrics to create the garments. I created upcycled clothes from these fabrics by redoing them. The fabrics I bought from Zhinzhou were old farmers’ clothes that kept them warm during the cold winters there. Read about this collection.
How does being Chinese play into your creations?
The Chinese influence in my work comes naturally. This is my identity. What is most important for designers and for people who create things is that they don’t forget their identity. I appreciate the 17 years I lived in my hometown. Nobody else has that experience so I should remember. Childhood is so important – you can find your direction from your roots. I don’t try to deliberately put Chinese elements in my clothes but I think it comes out naturally.
Besides fashion, what are you interested in?
I want to do a film/art project about my hometown soon. I would like to go back to my hometown and show my clothing at a booth at the night market there. I want to film the reactions of people when they see the clothes and put it together as an art project. It would be me saying I’m an international designer, travelling all around the world but I’m also a local girl from this town. It’s funny because I feel I don’t belong to one place now. My hometown is quite exotic for me now – we have a distance from each other.
Can you tell us a little about your next Museum of Friendship collection for A/W 15?
It is called Iceland Saga. It’s about my trip there to visit my friend who moved there for good after ten years in London. She’s an artist and wanted to concentrate on painting – it’s really romantic and brave that she did that.
I really like Reykjavik. I took loads of pictures of the landscape, the lagoons, the architecture, etc. I’ve also been looking at outdoor wear in Iceland. Because it’s so cold there, they always wear functional clothes. I never used outdoor clothing fabric because it’s quite difficult to make them look pretty – you know, some outdoor wear is ugly, for older men going hiking. I feel though, if I can make a nice print and silhouette showing curves a bit, it will be nice. Maybe girls can wear it for everyday.
I always want to do something contradictory – sportswear that is feminine, gangster look that a teenage girl might wear. It will be really interesting to combine lace with outdoor wear or other feminine, cute stuff. I’m planning on showing the collection in showrooms during London Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week early in 2015.
Momo visiting the Texprint stand at Intertextile Shanghai, October 2014
From Texprint to academia: Elaine Igoe
24 November 2014
Texprint encourages its designers to stay in touch. We love to hear how careers have progressed and share their news. So meet Dr. Elaine Igoe – yes, a doctor of textiles! – who was a Texprint designer back in 2001 and has gone on to a stellar academic career.
She remembers with fondness her Texprint experience. Winning the Breaking New Ground prize. Meeting the likes of Donna Karan, Ornella Bignami, Luca Missoni. Visiting Hong Kong and China ("something I could only have dreamed of doing"). Even the bad stuff is fondly recalled from the distance of 13 years – such as falling ill with food poisoning on her last day in Hong Kong and having to be nursed onto the plane by Texprint's Christian Dewar-Durie.
Step forward Dr. Elaine Igoe, Senior Lecturer in Fashion and Textile Design at the University of Portsmouth. It's wonderful to discover that a bona fide doctor of textiles has emerged from the Texprint group of distingished alumnae.
Elaine completed an MA in Fashion: Textiles for Fashion at Central St Martins after showing at Indigo and Interstoff Asia and designing a collection of menswear for London Fashion Week in 2003. She then embarked on an academic career at the University of Portsmouth and, after completing a PGCE, began a part-time MPhil/PhD study at the Royal College of Art in 2005.
After many exciting years of research (interrupted by maternity leave) she completed her PhD in February 2014. The title of her PhD is appropriately formidable: "In Textasis: Matrixial Narratives of Textile Design".
How did you find yourself drawn to the academic route?
After completing my MA at Central St Martins, I realised that I really enjoyed talking about and thinking about my working methods as a textile designer. I was always interested in a concept and process led approach to designing surfaces. I had long known that I wasn't a commercial textile designer, but that my textile designs were examples of what textiles could be, and therefore innovative and had a certain value to industry. I knew that by following an academic route, I would be able to pursue my interest in talking about the textile design process as well as undertaking more formal research to develop my processes and theories.
It's great that you are a Doctor? Do you find you need to do a lot of explaining to non-academics about what exactly you specialise in?
Oh yes indeed! In fact, the premise of my doctorate is based on the lack of knowledge about textile design, and that's not even generally, but even within the wider world of design. My thesis aims to begin an articulation of the textile design process and how this sits with design research theory. It touches on feminism and psychoanalysis to help explore the nature of textile design and the specific type of knowledge it involves. When explaining what I do, I stress that its textile design, and this seems to help people understand a little better...I think!
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
It's different everyday and never boring, each year you meet a new set of characters, my knowledge of both my subject and people builds and develops constantly. Working within academia has given me the chance to be myself within the design discipline of textiles.
What did you think of the new generation of Texprint designers in London this summer?
Wonderfully varied and extremely talented as always. I particularly admired the surface embellishment and constructed textiles from the likes of Federica Tedeschi, Tali Furman and Flett Bertram as well as Charlotte Beevor's exuberant use of colour and mark-making. When I visited the Texprint Londonexhibition I was really impressed by the confidence with which they spoke about their work. In fact, I have since invited Federica Tedeschi to the University of Portsmouth as a guest speaker, the student's were really inspired by her.
Elaine Igoe and colleague viewing the work of Federica Tedeschi at Texprint London, July 2014
Any more good stories from your Texprint days?
My overarching memory of my Texprint days was the comradery from the other finalists and support we were given and I have been heartened by the fact that I am still remembered by the organisers, 13 years on from my own moment in the limelight. I do also remember being abit dumbstruck when Donna Karan herself came to look through my work and shook my hand, never mind Luca Missoni giving me my award!
For more on Elaine Igoe's research:
Alumna’s Story: Dominique Caplan, Gainsborough Silk Weaving
14 November 2014
Two years ago, weave designer Dominique Caplan was fresh out of London’s Central Saint Martins and itching to apply what she’d just learnt. Just one thing stood in her way: she hadn’t a clue how to navigate the fashion or interiors industries.
Working at Gainsborough Silk Weaving
Dominique soon realised the fierce competition that lay ahead of her. “I saw how many other designers were also graduating – all wanting to move into an industry which is relatively small,” she says.
Fortunately she had been nominated for the 2012 Texprint programme by her CSM tutor and granted an interview. Dominique says she went into the interview with Texprint creative director Peter Ring-Lefevre and a panel of industry experts with ‘clammy palms’, but she was successful and subsequently invited to undertake Texprint’s unique mentorship and exhibition programme with 23 other emerging talents.
But it certainly wasn’t all roses for Dominique after her selection. Internships with high-profile designers including Mary Katrantzou and Holly Fulton followed, but making her way in the industry was a struggle, not least because she was not earning money.
Perseverance paid off however, and last summer Dominique landed a job at Gainsborough Silk Weaving, one of the oldest commercial mills in England – a dream design role that has enabled her to rediscover her creative edge, with a constant flow of interesting and challenging work that mixes computerized techniques with traditional weaving methods.
We caught up with Dominique to talk about her Texprint experience, her new role and recent projects, and the growing artisanal approach in textile design.
Working at Gainsborough Silk Weaving
What was it like showing at Indigo in Paris with Texprint?
Texprint gave me something to work towards. Exhibiting at Indigo in Paris was a high point, though both exhausting and rewarding, and the realisation that now I actually had to make money from the work I had created as a student was quite challenging.
For every person who stops and looks through your work, a hundred others will dismiss your stand with a flick of their eyes. Very quickly you realize this is not personal - your work is not going to cater to everyone’s tastes or requirements. I believe this is one of the most important things I learnt from Texprint.
Also of key benefit were the many useful connections I made which helped me greatly in the following months.
Working at Gainsborough Silk Weaving
Tell us about your current job as a designer at Gainsborough Silk Weaving?
We work with a lot of high-end interior and fashion designers and it is always very interesting, challenging work. Most of what I do is computerized, using the modern jacquard looms we have at the mill, but there is much scope to be technically creative and try new approaches.
Gainsborough also still has 15 Hattersley looms from the 1930s, making the mill truly unique. We have many of the original punch card sets and having access to the traditional method of jacquard weaving is very special.
There is also an extensive archive of amazing fabric samples dating back to the establishment of the mill in 1903. Among my personal favorites are the Crewell loom silks and the hand cut velvets. There is a real connection between past and present and I feel very lucky to contribute to Gainsborough’s rich history and future.
Textile installation inside the Oxford Brooks University
You were involved in designing an impressive, large-scale textile installation inside the Oxford Brooks University – a 3x10 metre installation that is a mirage of intricate textures, patterns and gradients. What was the experience like?
The installation was designed by Peagreen and woven by Gainsborough Silk Weaving. As the designer on this project I was responsible for liaising with Peagreen whilst altering their original design in order to make it weavable. At Gainsborough, the looms repeat two times across the entire fabric width, so we were weaving two artwork panels for the instillation at a time. However because Peagreen wanted each panel to be very different, I had to work out ways to create the colours they wanted, using the same wefts and weave structures, whilst only changing the warp colour. I had four warp colours in total and eight weft colours to play with. It was an all-consuming project!
How do you see the UK textile industry evolving? It seems there are two big trends – use of digital and a return to craft.
Trends are moving in an exciting direction with new approaches and methods of creating textiles emerging. From my own experience, I believe there has been more of a shift towards the artisanal approach as customers become better informed. There is also a premium placed on British made, which I feel is largely substantiated by the quality of the fabrics and skills involved. Craftsmanship is part of our heritage and I sincerely hope that the British textile industry continues to gain respect and overseas business.
Gainsborough Silk Weaving archives
After Texprint: how designers continue to prosper
13 October 2014
New textile designers selected by Texprint take their first steps in the professional world by exhibiting at Indigo in Paris. Later, many of them choose to continue the relationship with the industry's leading creative textiles show.
Besides the 24 designers who are chosen by Texprint every year to show at Indigo (part of Première Vision Pluriel) in September, there are plenty of other former Texprint designers along the aisles – now operating independently and thriving in their own right.
This year, we tracked down two alumnae, Hannah Hope Johnson and Pepe Lowe, who were with Texprint as recently as 2013. Now they're sharing a stand together – a sensible cost-saving decision, also helped by support from UKFT – and are enjoying working in the 'real' world.
Pepe Lowe (left) and Hannah Hope Johnson (right)
Hannah Hope Johnson, who studied at Leeds School of Art, can't stop talking about her experience since she was with Texprint – and her enthusiasm is infectious. "After Indigo I was approached by a couple of London-based studios. I had interviews at both and was offered design positions at both. In the end, I decided not to take up either offer, it was a gamble, but a decision I am now pleased with. I saw that working in a studio didn't give me the creative freedom I was looking for."
The designer shows us her new work, focusing on dark romantic florals. "The geometrics inspired by Art Deco were part of my graduation collection, but during the Texprint exhibition in London I found a lot of people looking through my other work and admiring my florals. So I showed light summer florals at Indigo in February. And now I'm developing them in a darker direction."
Hope Johnson is now living in Paris with her French boyfriend and working with the founder of a new accessories label launching in 2015. "She's offered me a fantastic contract where I work three or four days a week for her and on my days off I dedicate my time to painting and creating my own collection of prints."
Separately, Pepe Lowe has launched a digital print silk womenswear line under her own name. She likes to play with free-flowing colours, textures and patterns together with a rigid grid or controlled line. "I translate these ideas into fabric either through digital or hand stitch, together with digital prints from either my photographs or drawings."
She recalls: "Texprint was exactly what I needed after finishing at Chelsea College of Arts. That extra push after the final show was perfect – it set me up for the past year. Doing the Texprint shows in London and Paris really helped me form some of my first connections with companies I would not have had a chance to meet."
The fond memories are shared by designers who were with Texprint much earlier. Lisa Jukes was a Texprint designer back in 1998 and now shows at Indigo with designer Emily Sedgwick as Code Studio. "I don't think we could have done it without Texprint. It was such an eye opener into the industry, such an invaluable support. Some of those early contacts are still clients today."
Lisa Jukes of Code Studio
Jukes, who is a print specialist, found Texprint to be the perfect springboard. "It was actually more beneficial than my degree show because it placed us in the commercial arena. The whole experience was tremendous."
Many Texprint designers are now working in major jobs at some of the biggest exhibitors at Première Vision. For example, Italian giant Miroglio Textiles has an Irish senior print designer, Louise Somers, who took part in Texprint herself six years ago. And Miroglio now sponsors an Award with Texprint – to the delight of Somers, who landed her first job when she showed with Texprint back in 2008. The wheel has truly come full circle.