Features: Alumni

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.

If you are a Texprint alumnus, tell us what you're doing now, we would love to hear from you - info@texprint.org.uk

Features

Meet the Alumna: Alice Selwood

21 November 2017

When she’s not surfing the cold waters of the British coastline or walking in the countryside, Texprint alumna Alice Selwood spends her days creating digital embroideries at a small studio in a farm in Cornwall.

Alice Selwood first became interested in textiles when she was considering studying chemistry at university but instead decided to take a year off to pursue a foundation degree in art. At the time she reflected that she could do “something scientific and academic – or something I really love: textiles and embroidery.”

Alice Selwood - textural piece

Selwood went on to study Textile Design at Falmouth University – and since then she’s never looked back. After being shortlisted in 2015 for the Texprint Pattern Award, she won the New Designers Wilcom Associate Prize. The embroidery manufacturer gave Alice software and a six-month loan on a machine to kickstart her solo career. “I don’t think I would have gone into freelance so quickly if it wasn’t for that initial boost,” she acknowledges.

Now she runs her own label, selling beautifully hand crafted cushions and bags digitally embroidered with multi-layer stitchings. With a little crowdfunding help, she was able to acquire for her studio a digital embroidery machine that she has nicknamed Happy. “Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not," she jokes.  

Digital embroidery machine Happy at work

Since her Texprint experience, Selwood has built up a significant following for her work. Most recently, she become a Harrods Art Partner through a partnership with Gingerlily, one of 20 names including the likes of Wedgwood, Dolce & Gabbana and Missoni. She says: “I met Deborah, the owner of Gingerlily, at a street exhibition whilst she was on holiday in Cornwall. She spotted the cushions and fell in love with the embroidery. From there, we explored different design possibilities and played around with the layering and replicating hand embroidery in digital. At this point Harrods became interested and invited us to join them as an Art Partner – I have to admit at this point I thought I was heading to a showcase evening by Gingerlily, not realising Harrods was hosting and definitely surprised when I walked into a room full of all my favourite and legendary designers. I even asked if I was in the right room. So far we have worked on the one collaboration project, but who knows what the future holds.”

Harrods Art Partner project 

An important part of her business philosophy is to employ local makers.  Selwood works closely with a seamstress and lampshade producer, both from Cornwall, to create interior and illumination products. She says: “With digital embroidery, I could easily send it out to India or China, but I really want to use the people around me so that my work is British made.”

And her creative work is also hugely influenced by Cornwall. “My graduation project was based on Cornish mining, looking at the structures and engineering in mining and how it affected the culture of Cornwall. This was the collection I brought to Texprint and also the collection that started it all.”

While still very much at the beginning of her career, Selwood is taking every opportunity that comes her way. She acknowledges the struggles of starting out, noting the pressure and instability. But, she says, “the freedom to be able to design my own stuff and actually have my name attached to my design is a really big thing for me. In the design market it’s so easy to get lost. For me, I just take each day as it comes and hope that it will keep going.”

Alice Selwood studio

One project she is enjoying is a collaboration with a shoe designer. “Caplait is a start-up shoe company, I was approached by the owner to digitise the pattern work on the Pakistani-styled sandals. It has been a really interesting project learning how to apply embroidery to wearable items. The curves of the body and the consideration of wear with everyday use makes a fantastic challenge – I’ve learnt a lot with this project and I get to have a pair of shoes by the end of it!”

Caplait footwear project

How does she see embroidery and textiles evolving? “Hopefully towards intuitive digital embroidery," she says. “I really struggle with quick stitch logos found on t-shirts and hats. So to advance what we have seen before and look at embroidery as art — almost as you would with a paintbrush – that would be amazing. For myself, I love experimenting with layering and creating works that are over 10 cm deep, and seeing how far I can push the machine.” 

Even though much of her own work is digitised, Alice makes it clear that finding a balance with traditional embroidery and craft is her goal. She says: “A lot of my design work starts off by hand. To make it more commercial, I produce it as a digital file. To be able to do digital — yes, which is a little mass produced but you can sort of watch your embroidery grow. And with my high-end clients, I get to play with hand embroidery: it’s nice to have the contrast.”

Her final advice is for young designers wanting to start out in the industry. “If you have something that you are really passionate about and something that you absolutely love to do, just go with it. And open any door that comes your way. Your career may not start out the way mine did, which was incredibly quick, but you never know for sure how things will evolve. Keep going — enjoy what you do.”

https://www.aliceselwood.com/

Alice Selwood collection of Home Accessories

Alice Selwood collection of Home Accessories


Texprint alumnus Fleet Bigwood / photo: Azra Sudetic for 1Granary

Meet the alumnus: Fleet Bigwood

05 November 2017

We’re sitting in a quiet corner at Central Saint Martins next to the MA Fashion studios. We’re with Texprint alumnus Fleet Bigwood, the textile designer with arguably the most secretive career in the fashion industry.

Fleet is showing us a book that he has published that is so secret it will never appear in any bookshop. One hundred copies only, distributed to a hand-picked list of clients. It features an astonishing panorama of the fashion houses and designers he has worked with over a 25-year career. And – incredible but true – none of them want him to talk about it!

We start laughing at the bizarre nature of his career and the bizarre nature of this interview. We can’t discuss anything, and we certainly can’t photograph anything. Because Fleet Bigwood has built his career on taking on special commissions for leading international fashion houses and designers that are credited to the commissioner contractually and never to Fleet himself.

The studio in Clapham, south London

Is there anything we can talk about? “Er,” says Fleet, brow furrowed, looking a little anxious. “Early McQueen?”

Bigwood taught Alexander McQueen at Central Saint Martins, the college where he still lectures and is pathway tutor of Textiles for Fashion on the MA Fashion course. “When McQueen graduated, only Isabella Blow showed any interest. There was a sense of anger and frustration about him. Between us, we decided we would do something together. So I made fabrics, he cut clothes, he made fabrics – and he launched. The first three seasons I was paid with one pair of Converse shoes. There was no money, not a penny to be had.”

Image from 'the Bigwood book', early Alexander McQueen

Then a call came from New York. “I got offered a position at Donna Karan for what was then a vast amount of money, and I obviously had to take that. I was Donna’s Director of Print for 20 years.”

There was a point when his contractual obligations at Donna Karan allowed him to work elsewhere as long as it wasn’t with direct competitors in America. Among the few names he will mention is Phoebe Philo, with whom he worked very happily at Chloe. “Phoebe and McQueen are some of the most creative, visionary designers I’ve ever worked with. Both unorthodox, both obsessional characters, both trying to push boundaries.”

When he’s not at CSM, Bigwood works from his studio in Clapham, south London, with partner Birgitte Appleyard. The business is titled David Fleet Bigwood, but don’t look for a website – it’s all a secret!

The studio in Clapham, south London

Bigwood studied at Camberwell College of Art and then added an MA in printed textiles at Saint Martins College of Art (CSM’s former name). On graduating, he was selected for Texprint. “It was a fantastic experience. They were very organised and really helped me to see where I might fit into the textiles world. I realised quickly that I was never going to be a studio designer. I’m too fidgety. I love the fact that at CSM I can flit around from one student to another. I don’t have to sit down all day.”

The studio in Clapham, south London

He could be a global fashion name, but Fleet Bigwood is content being a backroom creative. “I am quite happy to morph into the aesthetic of a particular client. If I had the money, I still wouldn’t choose to do my own label collection. I am happiest being creative behind the scenes.”

The briefs he receives are unpredictable, ranging from thorough mood boards to “something just the size of a postage stamp”. His exceptional ability to empathise with a designer and adapt to the designer’s creative handwriting puts him in a league of his own. But ssshh! We’ve already said too much…

The studio in Clapham, south London


Alumna stories: Emma J Shipley with Clarke & Clarke, Liberty and Harrods

25 October 2017

Texprint is so proud to be associated with its alumni, many of whom have created some of the most dynamic brands in the textiles, fashion and interiors worlds.

One such is Emma J Shipley, whose eponymous brand encompasses scarves, accessories, clothing and now an extensive range of beautiful cushions and wallpapers.  All feature Emma’s fantastical and intricate hand drawings that take as their starting point myth, legend, history and pop culture. She is truly an inspiration.  She is also a member of Texprint’s council.

Photo taken at Emma's recent Press Day and collection launch

Emma graduated from the Royal College of Art and won her place on the Texprint mentorship programme in 2012.  In just a few short years her focus, her creative and media skills, and her ability to collaborate and engage with outstanding partners has enabled her to build a very exciting luxury brand of the future. 

Here we have images of Emma’s latest collaborations - with UK-based Clarke & Clarke, a global leader in the home furnishings market, and with two of the world's most iconic London stores, Liberty and Harrods.

From the Clarke & Clarke Animalia collection

The Clarke & Clarke collection, which launches January 2018, opens up a fantastical ‘Animalia’ world of prowling tigers and iridescent birds, coordinating fabrics and wallpapers, rich velvets, satins and shimmer effects. While the luxury cushion menagerie featured in Harrods' Knightsbridge windows looked equally amazing.  

Quite something for a textile designer who graduated just five years ago - emmajshipley.com

Emma J Shipley collection featured in Harrods' Knightsbridge store

Emma J Shipley luxury cushion collection


Jess Quinton (right) with Jane Chadwick

Meet the Alumna: Jess Quinton, Quinton Chadwick

15 October 2017

Knitwear designer Jess Quinton secured a job with Missoni straight from Texprint and went on to set up her own business with Jane Chadwick. She tells us her story.

Colour has always been my passion. I was lucky to be spotted by Missoni, those maestros of colour, at the Texprint exhibition in the late 1980s and landed my first job as a knitwear designer with them.

I remember so well those first months after graduating from the Royal College of Art. I was unsure of my direction, with many different options all seeming equally uncertain. What I found so helpful was the input of the Texprint panel and the experience of winning a place and exhibiting at Première Vision.

As a graduate, you’re inexperienced when you first start selling work. Texprint provides information that you sometimes don't pick up at university. It was amazing to have the support as I made the transformation from student to professional designer.

I have aways felt incredibly grateful to Texprint so it is great to give something back. Now I’m on the Texprint judging panel as well as being part of the Hero Mentoring scheme – sharing the knowledge I've acquired over 30 years in the business.

Quinton Chadwick is the knitwear label that I run with business partner Jane Chadwick. Jane had previously run her own ready-to-wear label and forecast consultancy developing smart yarns with the IWS and DuPont.We started our business 20 years ago, selling our first collections in Barneys New York and Tokyo, and Le Bon Marché, Paris, as well as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols here in London.

Quinton Chadwick autumn/winter 2017/18 collection

Thanks to our early success in sales abroad, we won the UK Fashion Export Council small business design award. This was amazing and really helped establish the brand. We soon realised that what overseas buyers liked, apart from our idiosyncratic English design and quirky colour sense, was that our product was good quality and highly crafted here in Britain. They loved our modern take on heritage knits.

We launched at a time when UK textile mills were hit hard by the competition from overseas. It was sad seeing so many spinners and knitting businesses in decline, so we became determined to support them and passionate about keeping the traditional knitting skills of the UK alive. 

However, there were a couple of scary seasons in the early days when factories went bust in the middle of our production run. But we stuck to our guns and started working with a cooperative of hand framers in Devon with whom we still collaborate today.

Quinton Chadwick autumn/winter 2017/18 collection

We also found a couple of family-run mills in Nottingham and Scotland that have weathered the storm by staying small-scale and consistent in their high quality. While it has not always been easy, we are very proud that “Made in Britain” has always been a big part of our brand DNA.

We never wanted to be associated with ‘fast fashion’ or the poor ethics and labour conditions of so much manufacturing in the Asia and the Far East. Sustainability is increasingly important too: the company only ever uses natural fibres and keeps to British spinners for yarn supply.

And today we still export across the world. Australia is a new and expanding market for us, while closer to home we have just had our third successive sell-out season at Liberty in London. It’s such a wonderful store for supporting real British brands like ours.

We have our roots in the craftsmanship of knitting, yet move our designs along with current trends. We also enjoy working collaboratively – any excuse to experiment with yarn, texture and colour. Recent initatives have included bespoke collections for companies as diverse as Dashing Tweeds and Anthropologie. And we are about to embark on an exciting handknit project with a big American firm – watch this space!

www.quintonchadwick.com

Quinton Chadwick autumn/winter 2017/18 collection


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