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

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

 

 


Alumnus update: Mikey Womack, Design Union and Textile View

08 April 2017

It’s certainly unusual for a young textile designer to see his work on the front cover of an international magazine just months after graduation.  But thanks to the keen eye of designer Eileen Gleeson, and her instinct for talent, Mikey Womack found himself working on a special print forecast edition of Textile View published for top European trade fair Premiere Vision.

Eileen Gleeson set up Design Union first in New York after graduating Brighton Polytechnic studying under John Miles, then moved back to London where she is now based with her team of artist/designers.

She first spotted Mikey while interviewing graduates for Texprint in June 2016 (in order to be selected for Texprint, over 200 graduates put forward by their college tutors and are interviewed by panels of industry professionals).  Eileen says her first impressions were of a young designer who worked in a highly sensitive and original way, “painting from the gut” as she describes it. 

Front cover, Textile View special edition

Eileen continues: “His work impressed me with its strong and fluid painterly style – unique and very individual with a hauntingly beautiful colour sense, not over polished instead a little strange and ethereal.  Individualism was the theme for our View shoot, we were looking at portraits and in particular paintings of Marlene Dumas, his work slotted perfectly in.”

Eileen had previously worked with David Shah publisher of Textile View magazine, so when she got the brief to work on the autumn/winter 2018/19 print trends for Issue 117 the timing was right and the work Mikey developed with such a natural ease was adopted - the results are just brilliant.

From Mikey’s point of view, the opportunity was mind-blowing: “With Eileen, I started brainstorming ideas, we looked at Basquiat and Marlene Dumas, and looked through my portfolio to decide on which direction to go. She gave me a lot of creative freedom, which was fabulous. I came up with the name 'Soft Punk' for the trend as it combined pastel, spring time shades and delicate, ghostly colours with an energetic punk-style drawing. The whole process was very instinctive, I literally decided on the colours by picking up used brushes that had been tinted by paint over time and taking the colours from them (the image of the brushes ended up getting published in the edit!) 

Seeing my work eventually being turned into a garment worn by a model and styled with an amazing backdrop was a proud moment for me. Then having the director of Textile View magazine love the spread enough to want it on the cover was mind-blowing. I can't thank Eileen, Design Union and Textile View enough for the opportunity!”

Looking forward, Mikey is freelancing and exploring a number of exciting new projects including a print collection for a womenswear brand in China, a collection for a new London menswear brand (which showed at Copenhagen Fashion Week), and designing the album artwork for an up-and-coming band!

Following images - Design Union and Textile View autumn/winter 2018/19 print trends...

 


Alumna stories: Elmina Fors, knitwear designer

25 March 2017

Swedish knitwear designer Elmina Fors has built her own small business following her experience at Texprint in 2014. And small can be very beautiful.

She comes from a town where daylight never happens for three weeks in December and temperatures plummet to -30 degrees centigrade. No surprise perhaps that knitwear designer Elmina Fors likes to make what she describes as “warming clothes”.

© Elmina Fors 2017

The Swede, who was a Texprint designer in 2014, grew up in Kiruna, the northernmost town in Sweden. “You wear wool garments most of the year. I do like to use natural fibres and good quality yarns that feel good on the body.”

Elmina Fors Knitwear designs, makes and sells knitted accessories including scarves, hats, socks and wrist warmers, as well as soft throws and cushions. Her teal and orange Artisk scarf, available in teal and orange, or black and white, is a typical example of her work, the pattern inspired by age-old Northern Scandinavian patterns used on jumpers, made in a soft slightly felted Merino lambswool, wide and long to wrap over the shoulders. For the Spring/Summer season, she’s working with some new natural yarns including cotton/lambswool for her oversized Trekant jumpers and a lovely Swedish linen yarn from Vaxbo Lin for linen jumpers and scarves. 

© Elmina Fors 2017

A sense of tradition and connection with the past runs through all her work. “I like the history of patterns. Everyone has a connection to repeated patterns and geometric shapes because people have been doing them for a very long time. There is such a wealth of patterns that have travelled across the world.”

At home in Kiruna, handknitting was a family matter. “My mum taught me how to knit, and her mum taught her. It’s always something that people do there – people make things for themselves or family members. You fix things in your own home. I like that idea of DIY. You don’t have to buy new all the time.”

Saying Scarf: only wear clothes you can dance in  © Elmina Fors 2017

And there was a joyous communal aspect to it too. “Only wear clothes you can dance in” are the words stitched into her Saying Scarf, taking the words from a favourite saying of a friend. (See Fors’ video with the same title, created with R&A Collaborations).

Only Wear Clothes You Can Dance In - Elmina Fors from R&A Collaborations on Vimeo.

She first came to the south coast of England to study knitwear design at Brighton University, expanding her skill sets to machine knitting and developing her own design aesthetic. Then came the breakthrough with Texprint, which gave her the platform to present her work on an international stage in Paris.

© Elmina Fors 2017

Fors made her home in nearby Hove, coincidentally not far from Texprint honorary chairman Barbara Kennington. The designer now plans to relocate back to her home country, where she has identified a studio in Stockholm, ready for occupation in July, but she intends to maintain her strong links with the UK.

She has good memories of Texprint. “It was really useful, all the support and advice, and meeting other designers. I looked at all the big labels and design houses at Première Vision Designs and asked myself whether it was possible to have your own business and keep it very small and local. So it started as a kind of experiment.”

The experiment has worked out well, although it’s hard work, as Fors acknowledges. “I have always wanted to work hard and I’ve learned to make decisions on my own. I think many makers are quite introvert personalities, and we have to be focused and organised. Yes, it’s hard but it can be so rewarding.”

Texprint’s Barbara Kennington says: “I love Elmina’s work and admire her desire to ‘do her own thing’. Setting up on your own is not for every designer. It can be tough as you learn to multi-task all the essentials - from marketing to organising production, finance management to deciding on retail options (pop ups, fairs or selling to buyers).”

She adds: “To run your own business, you need to be willing to work hard, call in friends and family to help, and put up with limited studio space and often working on your own. Participating in the Texprint programme certainly helps young designers to prepare for this.”

www.elminafors.uk

© Elmina Fors 2017


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