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Hero mentoring: helping a new generation of designers

21 March 2016 by Roger Tredre

Hilary Scarlett, Hero Mentor and Texprint alumna

Texprint has stepped up its support for new designers through a Hero Mentoring scheme that is proving very popular.

It could be said that Texprint is one giant mentoring scheme – identifying new design talent emerging from higher education across the UK and helping 24 names every year to take the first steps in their careers.

But sometimes a designer needs someone else – an external mentor, who is not too familiar with the work. Georgia Fisher, who was a Texprint designer in 2014 and was subsequently mentored by textile consultant Hilary Scarlett, remembers: “After two years of focusing on my work, I was too close to it, too convinced it simply spoke for itself. To have someone looking at it who was completely outside was really helpful.”

Hilary Scarlett is an experienced and well-known London-based fabric and colour consultant who worked for many years with East Central Studios and is a long-term contributor to Textile View magazine. She has a great network of contacts as well as a finely tuned understanding of the importance of presentation – perfect for commenting on a young designer’s portfolio.

She recalls her first meeting with Georgia at her house and studio in late 2014. Despite their gulf in experience, the two designers found they had plenty in common: Scarlett was herself a Texprint designer back in the late 1970s and she also studied at the Royal College of Art.

Hilary was thrilled by Georgia’s “beautiful, beautiful samples” – Georgia won the Texprint Interiors award in 2014. But she observed that her portfolio needed revision to demonstrate a much broader display of her talent. “Georgia has an innate ability for the handle and feel of fabric, and a great sensitivity for colour and proportion. The portfolio needed to show her diversity, particularly in colour and drawing skills.”

Georgia Fisher, winner of 2014 Texprint Interiors award sponsored by the Clothworkers' Company; shown here with Christopher McLean May, then Master of the Clothworkers' Company

Georgia appreciated the comments and quickly reworked her portfolio. She also remembers how much she enjoyed hearing about Hilary’s own career. “There are so many different jobs in textiles that you don’t know about. It was really helpful to learn from her experiences.”

Georgia Fisher on her stand at Première Vision, September 2014

The two designers remained in contact by email and phone, and met again at Première Vision in September 2015. After her Texprint experience, Georgia had worked freelance for a while, selling some of her samples. But she really appreciated continued contact with Hilary as well as Texprint sponsorship director Joanna Bowring, who helped arrange a paid work experience opportunity with Laura Miles’ WOVEN Studio (May 2015 interview). That morphed into working with Miles as part of the fashion team of Vanners, a silk mill based in Sudbury, Suffolk, with a 275-year history. And that led in turn to the offer of a job at Vanners in the autumn of 2015. Mission accomplished.

Did Hilary enjoy the experience? “Oh yes! It’s such a delight to see a talented student’s work. And I was delighted to help out because Texprint helped me at the beginning of my career: I met lots of people through Texprint and got a job soon after it finished.”

From Hilary Scarlett in 1979 to Georgia Fisher in 2016 – that’s 37 years! And these two creative talents, separated by many generations of Texprint, have both built successful careers in the textile industry – the perfect end result for the charity.

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