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Texprint Council: new member Andrew Stevenson of Paul Smith

13 June 2017 by Harriet Wolstenholme & Marijn Brok

Texprint alumnus Andrew Stevenson, now a senior textile designer at Paul Smith, has joined the Texprint Council which meets twice-yearly to monitor and review how the charity is performing against its aims and objectives. We talked to him about his career and memories of Texprint.

The interior of the Paul Smith head office in central London has the exact quirky ambience you’d expect from the designer. Andrew Stevenson, who has been working as a woven and printed textile designer at the company for four years, fits in perfectly – relaxed and stylish, but with a quirky silver nose ring.  

Before all this, there was the student Andrew. In 2010 he graduated from the Royal College of Art and won both the Texprint Chairman’s Prize and Interior Fashion Prize. Winning the accolades boosted the young designer’s confidence. “I think it is great recognition for what you’ve done, because at university you’re in this closed world just looking out,” he says.

From Andrew's RCA weave collection 2010

Andrew Stevenson has worked twice at Paul Smith, leaving for a while to join Tom Ford as a womenswear fabric designer. He recalls “an incredible experience that really rooted my knowledge in fashion and textiles.” He worked in a small team and was involved in every single aspect of the design process: “Tom Ford is brilliant, really charismatic and friendly.”

But then Paul Smith came back to him with an excellent offer, so Andrew returned to the menswear department, developing both woven and printed textiles. Four years later, he appreciates the playful creative environment of the company. “It is a brand that really celebrates textiles and fabrics,” he says.

The London headquarters of Paul Smith has creativity built into its DNA!

It’s an involvement that perhaps was written in the stars from the start. It had always been a dream of Andrew’s to work for a brand such as Paul Smith. Born and raised in Northern Ireland, his interest in fashion was a natural progression from his youth. “When I was younger I was always inspired by, and wanted to wear Paul Smith,” Andrew recalls. “I first saw a Paul Smith shirt when I was on a school trip and thought it was amazing.”

Despite working for a brand with a strong and long-established design signature, Stevenson enjoys plenty of room for creativity and implementing his own ideas. “I think you are hired for your handwriting and your DNA, which is great – and it does develop and change a bit for every brand,” he explains. “I have developed a knowledge of the market, and Paul Smith’s colour sensitivity.”

Paul Smith spring/summer 2016 collection

Now Stevenson is returning to Texprint, this time as a new member of the Texprint Council. “I am really glad I have kept in touch because I think what Texprint does is really exciting. It’s really beneficial for students to have this kind of exposure when they leave university.”

The designer understands the pressures of the industry and what young designers have to endure after graduating. He treasures “the advice that I received on what it is like to work for a company and how to present and price your work.” That’s knowledge he now intends to share with a new generation of aspiring textile designers.

He thinks that London is an amazing platform for textile designers starting out. However the economics of the industry have changed a lot, he notes. “Especially since Brexit. As a company we have to negotiate for that, because we work so much with mills in Italy, Portugal, all over Europe.”

Stevenson believes it is important for fresh talent to be as open-minded as possible. “You need to open your eyes to what fabric can do, whether it is in a collaboration with an engineer or an astronaut.” But ultimately it comes down to aesthetics for Stevenson: “What the kids come up with is really exciting, really fresh. Innovation doesn’t have to be through LED lights or 3D sculpture. It can be aesthetic as well.”

Attitude and personality are important if you want to make it in this industry. “This is really important – as well as how your work fits in aesthetically.” Experienceis invaluable too. “It is great if you can get an internship – something which I didn’t do and always wish I had,” he admits.

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