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

Texprint Council: new member Carlo Volpi

16 July 2017

Texprint alumnus Carlo Volpi, the Italian knitwear designer, 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.

Every year Texprint invites one alumnus to present his work at the entrance to the Texprint London event. For 2017 – a year when Texprint designs have been full of creative, contemporary use of colour – there could have been no better choice than Carlo Volpi.

The Italian designer, who was a Texprint designer himself in 2012, loves vibrant clashes of colour, not to mention stitches and textures. There is a joyous, celebratory, yet subversive element to his work. Fashion needs more designers like Volpi: upbeat, exuberant, happy. Barbara Kennington, honorary chairman of Texprint, says: “Carlo is such an original talent. We’re delighted he brings his energy and passion to the Texprint Council.”

Vogue Italia raved about Volpi’s Autumn/Winter 17/18 collection, calling it “totally wild – a concentrate of youthful enthusiasm.” Volpi himself has breathed in the irreverent energy of London and turned it into something special. “My point of reference is irreverence. I am interested in the parameters we use to define what we consider attractive or ugly.”

                              Carlo Volpi - Autumn/Winter 2017-18 | Pitti Immagine Uomo

That is also expressed in his mix-it-up approach to construction, thinking nothing of combining traditional cable knit with heat-sealed polyurethane. For Volpi, rules are there to be broken.

                               Carlo Volpi Knitwear - Domestic Queen Collection, film by Josie Phillips

While Volpi has taken his own route, he advises young designers to think carefully before they start up alone. “It’s a million times harder. You have to be completely dedicated because you will be tested. There’s a view among some young designers in Britain that going it alone is like being a bohemian artist. The Italians are more workmanlike about it – they appreciate the importance of sales and marketing and business.”

Volpi has had brilliant press coverage, but he warns: “It’s great to get your name out there, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into sales. It’s important not to forget that and to focus on building a business.”

Texprint back in 2012 was a whirlwind of networking for Volpi. “It was such a great experience. I was just out of college and Texprint kept me motivated. It helped me make contacts and meet people. And all the Texprint team were so nice and helpful.”

In an interview after leaving the Royal College of Art, he explained the pleasure of knitting: "I've always thought knitting is a magic process, a bit like alchemy, where you can create these amazing garments with one strand of yarn and a pair of sticks. Anybody who loves knit will tell you this discipline is very addictive – it occupies my thoughts all the time.”

Volpi was perhaps destined for a career in knitwear. He grew up near Florence surrounded by cones of yarn and knitting machines – his grandmothers both worked for a small knit factory. He initially studied textiles for a BA at Goldsmiths, University of London, then returned to education a few years later at the RCA.

Besides building his own label, he continues to collaborate with a number of leading brands, and is a consultant for the Research Area at Pitti Filati. An important milestone in his career came last year when Volpi won first prize in the prestigious Who Is On Next? Uomo competition, promoted by Vogue Italia and Pitti Immagine. The judges highlighted his “marked technical and innovative skill combined with a brilliant interpretation of Italian manufacturing traditions in a unique knitwear project with an international look.”

A succinct summary of Volpi’s talent – and the reason why he’s a true inspiration for the new generation of Texprint designers.

http://carlovolpi.com


Texprint Council: new member Andrew Stevenson of Paul Smith

13 June 2017

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.


Spring/summer 2016 Chanel ready-to-wear

Alumna Stories: Flett Bertram, Lesage

03 May 2017

One designer’s trip to Paris with Texprint in 2014 turned into a job opportunity at the legendary couture embroidery atelier of Lesage. Flett Bertram tells us how Paris became her home.

Designer Flett Bertram, from Cambridgeshire, is loving the experience of living in Paris and working for Lesage, the historic couture embroidery atelier.

She first heard about Lesage while studying at the Royal College of Art in London for a Master's degree in Mixed Media textiles. “Hubert Barrère, artistic director at Lesage, came to give a talk and I was fascinated. When I came to Première Vision in 2014 with Texprint, I asked Lesage if they would take a quick look at my stand. They did – and things developed from there.”

They certainly developed fast. Three years on, we interviewed Flett to learn more about her French experience.

Images of Flett's work for Chanel: left and right - spring/summer 2016 couture; centre - spring/summer 2017 resort

Where is the studio based, and how many designers are in the team from what kind of backgrounds? 

The studio is based on the outskirts of Paris, just next to the canal which is super in summertime for picnics.

There are about 70 people working at Lesage in total. That includes a large team of highly skilled embroiderers, a drawing team and a weaving team. Not forgetting everyone involved in quality control and production.

The design team is fairly small. Some of the girls (we're all quite young so I still consider us girls!) studied textiles to Masters level as I did. Other members of the team come from a Haute Couture background.

How is the experience of working and living in Paris?

I find life in Paris incredibly peaceful in comparison to my previous life in London. It's wonderful to be able to cycle home along the canal or take a stroll up to Montmartre after work. Paris is a city of observers: everyone loves to sit en terrace and watch the world go by. It's ideal for designers like me who are always searching for inspiration. People are rarely in a rush and they like to take their time to enjoy life's simple pleasures. I know it's a cliché, but they also really value the work/life balance much more than we do back in Britain. Leisure time is sacred. As is good wine.

As a student, I rarely stepped away from my desk. With hindsight, I realise how important it is to take time out just to do other stuff, and then to return the next day feeling refreshed, full of enthusiasm and with a new perspective on things. To come back with 'fresh eyes' is how I like to describe it.

Flett, out-and-about in Paris

You studied as a textiles designer at London College of Fashion and the Royal College of Art. What are the additional skill sets you need to design at Lesage?

At college I was very reflective and took a lot of time over every decision. In industry, you have to be far less attached to what you're doing. You have to make decisions faster and learn to view your work from the perspective of the client. There are no additional skill sets required – all you need is your creativity.

Has your own design aesthetic evolved since you left college?

My role at Lesage is to design and create exciting embroidery swatches that we then present to clients. Here at Lesage, we already have one of the largest archivesof embroidery swatches in the world, so it's imperative that each of my swatches brings something new and inventive. I find that my design aesthetic is constantly evolving as I search for new ideas and techniques.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Each day begins with un petit café when I arrive between 9-9.30am. If I skip this step, then all hell will be let loose. After that I go directly to my metier (that means embroidery frame) to get swatch-making! We usually work towards a theme that we will have each individually researched.

Once I get going with an idea, I know not to stop even if I'm not convinced it's going well. Often I'm pleasantly surprised by the end result! I usually manage to make one or two embroidery swatches a day. There's not too muchpressure, we all work at our own speed. Sometimes the inspiration is there, and sometimes it's not.

We usually finish at around 5.30 or 6pm. If it's the run up to a big catwalk show, then we'll end up staying later – it's all hands on deck to get everything prepared.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Colour, form, texture, technique, material – inspiration is everywhere. I use the internet a lot but that's mainly just a starting point to get the juices flowing. A lot of my inspiration comes when I'm already working on a swatch, so I like to keep a little notebook nearby to jot down my ideas.

What are your memories of Texprint?

I have great memories of our trip to Paris and of Première Vision. I remember that we were all extremely nervous when carrying out our first few sales but I think our confidence slowly improved... as did our sales banter! I also recall that the last day of Première Vision was my birthday, so it was great to be in Paris for that.

Flett, out-and-about in Paris

Flett, out-and-about in Paris


Texprint alumna stories: Cherica Haye, designer, Rolls-Royce Bespoke

17 April 2017

Cherica Haye, a Texprint designer in 2013, now creates beautiful car interiors for Rolls-Royce.

She’s a designer who specialises in material makeup and innovation for the luxury goods sector. Cherica Haye, who initially studied textiles at Central Saint Martins, became interested in the sector while building a portfolio of conceptual textiles for carmakers at the Royal College of Art.

After Texprint, Rolls-Royce design director Giles Taylor invited her to join the bespoke division of Rolls-Royce, the studio of designers and artisans who create the marque’s most prestigious custom models.

Her work includes the Serenity Phantom, displayed at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, and praised by CNN as “the world’s most beautiful Rolls-Royce”. The interior of the Serenity Phantom was upholstered with pastel green raw silk, sourced from Suzhou, China and woven in the UK. Flowers referencing Japanese royal robes and chinoiserie were embroidered and hand-painted. Simply beautiful.

Cherica reviewing material finishes at the Rolls-Royce studios

Tell us about how you came to work for Rolls-Royce Bespoke.

At my RCA Graduation show in 2013 I was introduced to Giles Taylor, and had the opportunity to present my work to him and talk him through the conceptual thinking behind it. Mr Taylor took my details and about a year later, whilst working for Lululemon in Vancouver [Cherica had won a Lululemon Texprint Award, which included a three-month internship], an opportunity became available for me to join the Rolls-Royce colour and materials team. I started in Goodwood in July 2014.

Where is the studio based, and how many designers are in the team from what kind of backgrounds? 

The Rolls-Royce Bespoke design studio is set in in the beautiful West Sussex countryside in Goodwood, England. Goodwood is the home of Rolls-Royce, where every car has been handbuilt since 2003. Bespoke design is currently home to a team of 20 designers, including one intern and two bespoke design engineers. Each designer brings specialised expertise to the team in a variety of fields, not just from the world of automotive design.

Embroidered and hand-painted detailing

Rolls-Royce (and you) received some excellent publicity for the Serenity Phantom shown in Geneva in 2015. How did that come about?

The Serenity Phantom was one of the very first projects I worked on when I joined the team in Goodwood. It was incredibly exciting and not at all what I expected! I was really amazed at the possibilities we had at our fingertips at Rolls-Royce, and how some of our customers trust our taste to the extent that we have almost a free reign on the design, layout and aesthetic. With Serenity, the head of Colour and Materials at the time really wanted to create something exceptional to elevate the brand and enchant our patrons. My background in textiles and as a weave designer/maker fitted perfectly to the one-off nature of this project, as I am used to making unique, one-off materials to suit each client.

Serenity introduced a completely new level of individualised luxury to a modern Rolls-Royce. We were inspired by the amazing interiors of elite Rolls-Royces of the past, where leather was seen as a more functional material, and high-end bespoke fabrics and silks were seen as the ultimate luxury. We felt inspired to share this heritage with our customers in a very modern, contemporary way.

Interior of the bespoke Serenity Phantom shown in Geneva 2015

You studied as a textiles designer at CSM and the RCA. What are the additional skill sets you need to design car interiors?

Along with a strong knowledge of materials, fabric construction and design, a good working level knowledge of how to use the Adobe suite of programs (Photoshop, Illustrator) will really help you visualise your ideas quickly and effectively. You also have to be prepared to learn a lot about the additional factors in addition to design that affect a car interior – safety, construction and durability all play a part.

Has your own design aesthetic evolved since you left the RCA?

I would say so. I think I have become more of a perfectionist with a much more intense attention to detail.

Where do you find your inspiration?

My background in fashion naturally means that couture is a big influence, but I also find inspiration in nature and architecture. I especially like using them together. I find that the juxtaposition of these subjects brings unexpected beauty. 

So how would you bespoke decorate a Rolls-Royce for yourself?

I would have everything Bespoke. Come to think of it, I would probably create a car from the ground up, because for me a Rolls-Royce is a work of art and should be passed down from generations to generations like one-off couture garments. 

To start, the model of my choice would have to be a Phantom bespoked with a one-off exterior two-tone paint, which has paint technology that allows the paint colour to do a complete shift from one colour to another when seen at different angles. The colour palette is inspired by the vibrant natural world of the tropics and my travels.

For the interior, I would have all the seat front tailored with layered woven silk. The seat backs and the driver’s seat would be colour matched to the fabric and covered in leather. The interior environment would be complementary to the exterior, adding considered colour/material breakup throughout that tell an authentic story.

And to finish, I would most definitely add Rolls-Royce signature starlight headliner (the headliner features a series of fiber-optic lights mounted inside the ceiling of the car, the design of which is unique to the owner, and looks like star constellations in the sky).

Interior of the bespoke Serenity Phantom shown in Geneva 2015

 

 


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