Meet the interviewer: Emma Sewell of Wallace Sewell

30 May 2015 by Roger Tredre

Emma Sewell works with Harriet Wallace-Jones in the London-based studio Wallace Sewell, designing fabrics for both fashion and interior accessories.

She also plays an important role interviewing and selecting designers for inclusion in Texprint. The interviews are held over three weeks in June with each day's interview panel comprising different industry experts who generously give their time to take part in this first, crucial stage of the Texprint selection process. Over 200 applicants are interviewed and judged on the standard of their creative work, their skills, their ability to communicate their concepts and interact with others, and their potential for making full use of the opportunities offered for an international audience.

Time to turn the tables, we thought – and interview her.

Wallace Sewell scarf designs

You were a Texprint designer yourself, weren’t you? Do share your memories.

On the day of my Texprint interview in 1990, I remember there was a security scare at the Albert Hall opposite the Royal College of Art and I had to persuade those in charge to let me slip into college to pick up my portfolio and then dash over to Wool House, in Carlton Gardens, for the interview.

Those of us selected then had the opportunity to exhibit our work at Interstoff [textiles trade show] in Germany. It was great meeting the other graduates in the group and exciting to be at a trade show, get a reaction to my work and sell some designs too.

Tell us about your involvement since then, especially with interviewing – what does it involve?

Several years after this, I was invited to help on the interview panels. At first it felt odd being on the other side of the table, but I remember how valuable the feedback given at my interview was – and am pleased at having the chance to hopefully return the favour. It's also great having the opportunity to hear graduates from a whole range of courses present and talk through their work. 

What are you looking for? What excites you during the selection process?

It is always a thrill seeing the table spread with a graduate's portfolio of work, interesting to hear the ideas behind their collection and what their ambitions are. Generally, I'm looking for an exciting and fresh selection that displays a breadth of investigation with an awareness of the work's context. 

What is your advice to anyone preparing for application to Texprint?

Applicants should bring a range of work, as it is good to get an understanding of their versatility as a designer. This could include a little bit of work from years 1 and/or 2 plus a few sketchbooks, as it is important to see the thought process behind the ideas. Practice presenting and talking through the portfolio of work. 

Tell us about Wallace Sewell.

Wallace Sewell was started in the early 1990s by myself and Harriet Wallace-Jones, after we both graduated from the RCA. The studio's motivation is to design fabrics that are created by hand but woven by machine. Exploring the discipline of weaving, from yarn combinations and woven structure to stripe variations and composition, bound together with a passion for colour.

We offer collections of scarves and throws which we wholesale worldwide, plus we create bespoke products for customers, such as the Tate Gallery, and undertake specialist projects, including designing seating fabrics for Transport for London. 

Harriet Wallace-Jones and Emma Sewell

What are you and Harriet Wallace-Jones focusing on right now?

As well as designing our A/W scarf collection for 2016, we are currently working on new collections of upholstery fabrics for Designtex, a leading contract furnishing company in the USA, for whom we are guest designers. We are really enjoying this and other projects, which broaden the scope of our designing beyond our standard Wallace Sewell lines.

Wallace Sewell for Designtex

You are also doing a display at Texprint London – what's going to be in it?

A piece from our collaboration with AssemblyRoom furniture, upholstered in fabric from our first project for Designtex, plus a collection of throws, cushions and a few scarves from our current collections. And, maybe, a block covered in one of the moquettes we have designed for Transport for London.

Wallace Sewell fabric designs for Transport for London

Anything to add?

It is so pleasing that Texprint continues to grow from strength to strength, as it is a fantastic scheme that helps graduates with the first steps of their career and can provide them with a stepping stone into the world of work.


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