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New Award: The Marks & Spencer Texprint Fashion Textile Award

07 September 2017 by Roger Tredre

Inspiration board for M&S Autumn Winter 2017 ranges

Iconic British retailer Marks & Spencer has sponsored a new award for Texprint this year. We spoke to Libby Allan, Trend Lead, Womenswear & Lingerie, to find out more.

Fashion – in particular women’s fashion – is changing fast. The boundaries that used to clearly define categories are blurring. Designers need to be more versatile, creating ultra-flexible collections of clothes that might play a role at work, in the gym, and forthe special occasion.

Retailers such as Britain’s Marks & Spencer are responding to these challenges by reinforcing their design credentials. The energy and enthusiasm of fresh young talent is an important part of the mix – hence the new Marks & Spencer Texprint Fashion Textile Award.

In fact, Marks & Spencer has had a long relationship with Texprint as a long-term supporter and foundation sponsor. The new Award is like the icing on the cake. Libby Allan, Trend Lead, Womenswear & Lingerie, at Marks & Spencer, explains: “We’re really excited about the Award. It allows us to deepen our relationship with Texprint and establish a relationship with a young designer that we will hope will evolve beyond the Award itself.”

Libby Allan

Allan has drawn up a shortlist for the Award, which will be announced at Première Vision Designs in Paris on September 20. Relevant heads of design at M&S were consulted and participated in the selection process. The three Texprint names on the shortlist are Olivia Qi, Lucy Day and Roberta Fox.The winner will receive £1,000 and a paid three-month internship with the M&S print design team.

Allan saw the Texprint designers for the first time in London back in July. “There was so much great work. The variety was impressive, and so was the confidence of the designers. These days it’s not just about the work but also how the work is presented. When you’re in the industry you have so many people to convince – an ability to present your work effectively becomes really important. Textiles is such a good grounding for a designer because you learn all about texture and colour usage.”

Allan herself studied an interesting hybrid of textiles and fashion design management at the Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels (now the Heriot-Watt School of Textiles & Design). The mix set her up perfectly for her career.

She grew up in Edinburgh and was taught to sew by her mother, learning about design by experimentation. “We would buy patterns, adapt them and make clothes. I even made my dress for my high school prom.”

Allan worked for several years for a trend consultancy in London before joining M&S in 2007, “My current role is Trend Lead for all womenswear and lingerie. At the beginning of this year we created a centralised team to bring it all together. The role is about research and communication – it’s the start point of the design process.”

Inspiration is everywhere, she notes. “There’s so much inspiration around these days – everyone has access to it – but it takes more skill to cut through it all, to absorb and identify what’s important. It’s what you do with the inspiration that counts.”

Marks & Spencer has the status of a national institution in the UK, its every initiative scrutinised. This autumn, the design team are highlighting a season very much inspired by textiles – with modern interpretations of heritage cloths and decoration, and full of the rich tactility of soft knits and lustrous, fluid velvets. The retailer has its fingers crossed for a positive reaction from media and customers alike.

It’s an exciting time to work at M&S – and just as exciting for one Texprint designer who will become the first winner of the M&S Texprint Fashion Textile Award on September 20.

Inspiration board for M&S Autumn Winter 2017 ranges

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