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Texprint 2016: Notebook from London

07 July 2016 by Roger Tredre

How events unfolded at Texprint London 2016 as designers, judges and industry guests gathered at Chelsea College of Arts.

The sun came out for Texprint’s London preview (July 6-7) at Chelsea College of Arts, reflecting the upbeat, optimistic collections on display. The mood was further uplifted by improvements at the venue – Chelsea’s Triangle Building, which has been recently remodelled to let in more natural light.

How are the designers for Texprint selected? Nearly 200 young names, all recently graduated from BA and MA textiles and textiles-related courses throughout the UK, were interviewed through June. From a 13-day marathon of interviews led by Texprint creative director Peter Ring-Lefevre, 24 names were chosen. Helen Howe, an American designer among those selected by Texprint, studied Knitted Textiles at London’s Royal College of Art. “It’s incredibly flattering to be part of this, to have so many people rooting for you,” she said. “It’s a really special experience – we don’t have this in America!”

Designers selected for Texprint 2016

It’s a big jump for many of the young designers. One week, they’re wrapping up their college work. The next, they’re preparing to meet the industry elite in London, and then sell their designs to the world in Paris. Suddenly, they need to brush up on invoicing and copyright law. They also need to refine and focus their designs, which are no longer referred to as student projects – they are, of course, “collections”.

Individual resilience and marketing acumen are talking points this year. In a fiercely competitive market, designers have to be able to explain and market their work effectively. Texprint judge Nadia Albertini noted: “We should be aware of where the industry is going now. The new world of ‘See Now Buy Now’. I’ve been looking at which of the designers are on social media and using Instagram. These days, new designers need to be more flexible and open to collaborations.”

Judges Nadia Albertini, couture embroidery designer, and Fi Douglas, founder/designer Bluebellgray

Print designer Lydia Knight, 22, from Bath School of Art & Design, includes her Instagram address on her business card, which impressed visitors to Texprint. “I use Instagram as a platform to show my journey, from the photo research at the beginning through to the designs.”

Designer Lydia Knight talks with sponsors Debbie Buchan and Duncan Ross of AVA Cad Cam

Another talking point is the growing importance of digital skills. While hand drawn or painted expertise is rightly prized and valued, the modern textile designer needs to be digitally confident. Crimson Rose O’Shea, short-listed for the Texprint Pattern Award, evolved a two-step strategy in her own personal development, focusing on her hand-drawn skills during a BA at Central Saint Martins, then intensively improving her digital know-how with an MA at the Royal College of Art.

Philippa Prinsloo of John Lewis, talks with designer Lydia Knight

From the final 24 designers, a panel of distinguished judges selects the Texprint award winners in four categories: Fashion, Interiors, Colour, Pattern.  The shortlist was announced on the same day, but the winners are not revealed until Première Visionin Paris on September 13 (the Texprint designers exhibit at Première Vision Designs, which is located within the main PV).

Judge Andrew Croll, senior design recruiter for Nike Inc.

On July 5, the judges met in Chelsea’s Triangle Building to review the designers’ work. For each award category, the judges took it in turns to give their thoughts and highlight their favourites. Nadia Albertini, a couture embroiderer with an exceptional list of clients, had flown in from New York for the event, and led the way with her well-considered remarks. Then came Fi Douglas, founder of Glasgow’s bluebellgray, who was looking for passion and creative vision, speaking carefully to the designers to understand their creative thought processes. Also contributing their insights based on many years’ experience were Pip Jenkins, the brilliant head of design at John Smedley, and Andrew Croll, senior design recruiter for Nike, an enthusiastic believer in the importance of “proactive recruitment”.

Judge Pip Jenkins, head of design John Smedley 

Texprint’s Peter Ring-Lefevre said: “Print design is strong in general this year, with more designs for interiors coming through. Embellishment and mixed media are also impressive, with lots of different interpretations.”

On the following day, July 6, an early morning VIP breakfast included many of the sponsors and supporters who make Texprint happen. Esther Allen, marketing director of Liberty, said Texprint’s support for young designers exactly chimes with Liberty’s current direction. “We’re going back to our core DNA, championing design and uncovering exciting young talent.”

Liberty is in a special position to add value as both a manufacturer of its own products and a retail brand. “From design to buying, marketing and logistics, we can offer a well-rounded picture of how to take product to market,” Allen said.

Esther Allen and Polly Mason of Liberty Fabrics talk with designer Megan Clarke

Global forecasting giant WGSN is a foundation sponsor of Texprint. Helen Palmer, director of materials, textiles & knit, thought this year’s designers presented a good balance of skills. “I like the optimistic colour and exuberance in the prints. Beyond print, there is a focus on craft and storytelling. And mixed media is full of fantasy.”

For many of the designers at Texprint, the thought of selling their work at Première Vision was, until recently, indeed the stuff of fantasy.  But that fantasy is coming true ­– bring on September!

Designer Jacob Monk talks with sponsor Dominic Lowe of Sanderson Art in Industry Trust

Meet the alumna: Eleanor Pritchard, textile designer

05 July 2016 by Aya Noël

Designer Eleanor Pritchard is known for her clean, geometrical designs and has collaborated with companies ranging from Margaret Howell to Monocle. For Texprint 2016 in London, she has created the alumna display. Aya Noël reports.

Eleanor Pritchard didn’t decide to become a textiles designer until she was 27, but as soon as she did her career hit fast forward. After an accelerated BA at Chelsea College of Art, she was selected by Texprint in 2001, and soon afterwards was approached by Christian Lacroix to design textiles for the couture show. Although she had always wanted to set up her own studio, this assignment dramatically sped up her plans. “It definitely accelerated the process,” Eleanor explains. “I knew this is it - I have to do it now.”

Quails Egg blanket.  Photo: Kangan Arora

With the help of the Craft Council she bought her first loom and started working at her parents’ house in Worcestershire. She laughs as she remembers how it began. Today she has a studio at the Cockpit Studios in Deptford, south-east London, and a small team to help her with production and distribution. “It’s a bit more routine now,” she admits modestly. “Part of what I really enjoy is thinking about how we present everything: the labels, the website… things I didn’t always think about before.”

The company started out with blankets, which are still the core of the business. “I love working on a bigger scale, and the tactility of it.” She expanded the collection to include cushions and more recently added an upholstery rangeand she will soon introduce rugs as well. Additionally, Pritchard does collaborations with other companies to produce furniture and other textiles. “I love the bespoke projects; they’re important to me creatively. They’re not a big part financially, but I like the dialogue.”

Eleanor Pritchard with Assemblyroom, Otley seat + Sourgough blanket.  Photo: Elliott Denny

Eleanor Pritchard finds the inspiration for her designs in industrial and urban architecture. She is attracted to geometric patterns and repetition. “It can be really random,” she says as she points at a passing overground train through the window that brightens her studio. The grey wagons and their vivid orange doors could be the beginning of a whole new collection. “A couple of months ago, we went on the cable car over the river. I looked down and saw a parking lot full of fluorescent concrete-mixing lorries. I have amazing pictures.” Another pattern was inspired by the work of Vladimir Shukhov, a Soviet architect in the 1920s. This mix of architecture and repetition leads to abstract and minimal patterns, with a refined sense of colour.

To achieve the sophisticated outcome for which she is renowned can be a matter of trial and error. Sometimes she gets it right immediately, but often she’ll be experimenting on the loom for hours. “The difference between what’s right and what’s not can be tiny. One more thread can make something that doesn’t feel right perfect,” she says.

She loves the technical aspects of her work, enjoying the challenge of the restrictions associated with industrial production. “There is a problem solving side to it that I love, it’s quite mathematical.”

All the designs are woven and produced in the UK, an achievement of which Pritchard is justly proud. The UK has a fine manufacturing tradition, and she wants to play a part in preserving it. “The whole Industrial Revolution started with the textile industry. It’s sad how much of that tradition has been lost here.” There’s a practical benefit to producing locally as well: “Details are really important to me and I would be very nervous about having to communicate with the other end of the world.”

 

Quality control and supporting craftsmanship are key to her business philosophy. Fortunately, her clients are thinking that way too. She notes that the consumer has become more conscious about the provenance of products. They often ask where her textiles are made or where the yarn comes from. “I think the food industry has played a big part in this, they’ve made people more aware of issues of provenance.”

She adds: “I’m not a 100% sustainable, but I feel strongly about making something that lasts. I don’t want people to get tired of my designs after a year, I want it to be part of their houses for years.”

For the Texprint 2016 display, Pritchard is showing the Long Eaton bench – a collaboration with Assemblyroom that will be launched at Decorex, alongside a selection of blankets, cushions and fabrics.

2016 Texprint London display, featuring the Long Eaton bench, a collaboration with Assemblyroom

Pritchard has been a long-term contributor to Texprint over the years, regularly sitting on the panel that selects new designers for Texprint. When going through the portfolios, she looks for strong ideas: “The ideas are more precious than the finished product. The ideas are what sustain a whole career.”

Drawings are really important to her as well, since they show how a designer processes what he or she sees. Above all, a portfolio has to prove the versatility of the designer. Texprint attracts a broad audience and a good designer needs to adapt to different styles. “It’s a fine balance between having a signature and showing diversity.”

Pritchard loves discovering new talent. It’s a great way to see what’s out there, and to stay focused. “It keeps me on my toes, knowing that there’s really good work coming up behind me.” The whole industry benefits from young talent, which is why she regrets the introduction of higher fees in art colleges: “Risk taking will really suffer, and risk taking is what makes good work.”

After all, where would the industry be without support for younger designers? “I owe parts of my career to organisations like Texprint and the Craft Council. It feels natural to support emerging designers in return.”

www.eleanorpritchard.com

Aerial upholstery collection

Meet the Judges: Pip Jenkins, Head of Design, John Smedley

29 June 2016 by Roger Tredre

Pip Jenkins, Head of Design at John Smedley, has joined the judging panel for Texprint 2016. We spoke to her about her work.

It’s one of the world’s best-known knitwear companies, with a reputation for quality and creative design. John Smedley was established in 1784 and has the oldest manufacturing factory in the world based at Lea Mills, Derbyshire. The firm’s creative energy is emphasised through its participation in London Fashion Week and London Collections: Men.

Here, Pip Jenkins explains why we need to develop new talent. Jenkins herself joined John Smedley straight from university – and never looked back.

 

How important is it for you to support the next generation of designers?

The next generations represent the future of the fashion industry. Without them, we won’t be moving forward, so it is incredibly important for people in the industry to invest time and pass on knowledge when working together. This will ensure we get the best from young designers coming into the industry.

We have many work placements coming through the design studio at John Smedley. In fact this is how I got my permanent job here. In my final year at Kingston University, we took part in an industry project with John Smedley, which I won, and I had the opportunity to work with them for two weeks to develop the final designs of my project into their latest collection.

I was then offered the year placement and later offered the men’s designer role – and now I’m the Head Designer. So I truly see the importance of working with the next generation.

Every year we also sponsor a Qest scholar to future their education. We make sure we have a close relationship with the scholar and support them throughout the development of not just the collections but also their brand, and how they represent themselves.

 

What do you look for in great textile design?

It’s got to be fresh new and existing, something that’s testing the boundaries of age-old processes and brings textile design into a new light.

Why is the UK educational system so good at producing design talent?

I personally feel it’s because the courses are well rounded and the tutors in many universities are from the industry. I know when I was studying at Kingston all of my tutors were still working in the industry on their own lines or for high-end brands. The industry in the UK is also very open to students studying – so many brands and designers offer work placements, so you can learn as well as being hands-on in the industry.

Can you explain the parameters of your job?

As Head Designer at John Smedley, I oversee the men’s, unisex and women’s collections working with the Marketing and Design Director on the creative concept, then filtering this out the rest of the team. I also work very hands-on with product as the design studio is based in the factory. That is a great development plus, as I can see and tweak my designs at every stage of development. This flexibility and close relationship with production really allows us to push the boundaries of traditional knit techniques.

I oversee a team of three alongside many design placements and we produce six collections a year so we’re always busy! Another bonus of working within a smaller team is that I am able to attend and contribute to our campaign shoots and shows at London Collections: Men and London Fashion Week.

 

What’s a typical day like for you?

Every day is quite different and my role can depend on where we are in the season but at the moment we are currently in the development stage of the AW17 collection. Building spec packs, swatching new textures and patterns, colouring up the collection, working with production on price point and making sure the designs are as high quality as we expect, ordering the new colours and yarns ready to go in the sampling.

But every week is different – two weeks ago I was in London launching the men’s SS17 collection at LC:M.

Where's the growth coming in the business at the moment?

At the moment we are seeing growth coming from our newly introduced unisex collection ‘Singular’, with limited colours, unisex fits and a simple honeycomb texture in our extrafine merino. This product is almost seasonless and translates well for every market we work with around the world. The collection has sold over 3,000 units since its launch in June 2015 and is stocked by the likes of Harrods, Beams, Harvey Nichols, Liberty, Selfridges and many more the world over.

What are the specific challenges of designing for John Smedley?

It’s about pushing the techniques and fibres to the limits and making sure we bring the most luxurious and timeless products to our customer. Fashion can be seen as becoming too throwaway. We are here to make knitwear that goes beyond trends where true craftsmanship is everlasting.

Where do you find your inspiration?

We find our inspiration from a range of things. The latest collection, just about to launch in stores for AW16, draws inspiration from the passion and craftsmanship seen throughout the British abstract movement and in particular the work of pivotal artists Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron and Victor Pasmore. 

Following that we have our second creative series, ‘The Architecture of Knit’, which recently launched at London Collections: Men and took inspiration from the hard lines and attention to construction of the British Brutalism style of architecture.

We are always looking to champion our brand pillars in new and exciting ways, with attention to British craftsmanship in its many forms at the core of what we do.

 

 

Meet the Judges: Fi Douglas, bluebellgray

17 June 2016 by Roger Tredre

Photo credit: David Pike

The creative director of Glasgow-based bluebellgray is one of the judges of Texprint 2016. Here, Fi Douglas tells us about her working life.

In little more than seven years, Glasgow’s bluebellgray has emerged as one of Scotland’s most dynamic textile exporters, leading the floral trend, and working with design boutiques and stores worldwide.

Company founder Fi Douglas is a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art. She set up bluebellgray to explore her love of colour and all things floral. But while her oversized water-colour blooms have become a brand signature, there’s much more to the business, as Fi told us.

Photo credit: David Pike

Can you explain the scope of your job?

As creative director of a brand my job involves every part of the journey from initial design ideas to getting the item onto the shop floor. Every day I have to balance the creative side with the business side of the brand. I work with my team to come up with the initial concept for the new season’s collection. Usually we travel somewhere as a starting point. I then paint or draw designs based on our research, working very basically with paper, pastels and paint.

My team then work to develop the designs onto products. We have brilliant suppliers all around the world making our products – and working with great suppliers and factories is one of the best things about my job.

Taking a product from initial conception to being on the shop floor takes around 18 months to two years and will involve various rounds of sampling and sign offs. I’m constantly looking at product and coordinating collections and products.

The brand and marketing side is also a big part of what I do, steering the brand in the right direction and keeping it on track. Being the creative director involves thinking about so many of the visual aspects of the business from the packaging to the merchandising and beyond – with the support of an amazing team! 

I also work with our finance and operations teams on all the other aspects of the business. It’s really important to keep a good understanding of that side of the business too. And I work with our overseas partners to make sure they have designs that are relevant for their markets and to ensure the brand ‘voice’ is consistent worldwide.

Fumiko lampshade

What’s a typical day like for you?

It’s a cliche but every day is different in my studio. I have an amazing team around me to help realise my designs and make them a reality. I have two little toddler boys so I have to get them organised before heading to work; it’s a short 30-minute commute in my car.

My studio is based in an old townhouse in the West End of Glasgow with super-high ceilings and lots of really big windows so the light is amazing. I’m such a believer in the importance of a great space to work in that makes you feel good, I think it makes you more creative.

I start with a quick catchup with my team before answering emails for a few hours. I try and update my Instagram daily but our other social media channels are dealt with by the marketing team. On a typical day I will meet with the creative team to look over samples that have come in, making colour comments etc.

We work on a lot of products – currently 13 different product lines, everything from sheeting to tableware and beach towels – so we have a lot going on all the time. I might meet with the graphic designer to look over a new brochure design and the marketing team to make some decisions on our website and sales etc. We might have a customer coming into the studio to meet with us or an overseas partner coming to work through the new collections for their country. 

I constantly strive to get more creative and design time. I block out days just for creativity and painting, and turn off my inbox! I’m a big believer in creative time, switching off from technology and just going for a walk, or travelling to interesting places and just letting your mind free. It’s hard to have new creative ideas when constantly at a computer. We have a weekly yoga class in the studio: the main reason is to give the team some downtime to just think or zone out. We strive to eat lunch away from our desks and do creative things like little work-shops, or trips just to free our minds, with no pressure attached. 

Where's the growth coming in your business at the moment?

Our biggest growth is coming from our own website and selling directly to customers. I think customers like it because it means they can see the full collection and have the biggest choice. We have also started sourcing other product other than our own that complements our collection on our website.

Fabric and bedding are growing really strongly for us – they are consistently our two strongest areas. Bedding in particular is now a worldwide product so we are seeing brilliant growth in new territories such as the US and Canada. 

Wisteria fabric

What are the specific challenges of designing for Bluebellgray?

We have very high standards! I want to give our customers the best products possible and a brilliant experience so if something isn’t amazing we won’t add it to our collection, even if we have done a lot of work on it.

It does become more challenging the bigger you become – there is a tipping point where the line between commerciality and the exciting creativity can go too far in the safe commercial direction. It’s so important that the exciting new things keep coming through to keep everything fresh and modern. Sometimes it’s a challenge to encourage stores to buy the less safe new design choices. 

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find my team inspiring every day. I work with 13 incredible, amazing creative people who bring something really special to my life. Their outlook and aesthetics are constantly inspiring and they make my life better and more full creatively. We constantly spark off each other.

I also love travel for inspiration, looking at things that you have never seen before can be incredibly inspiring and exciting. I’ve just come back from a trip to Marrakech which was amazing – it was bursting with incredible colours and imagery. 

How important is it for you to support the next generation of designers?

I feel really passionate about supporting the next generation of designers. Design is an ever-evolving thing and to keep the world a wonderful, inspiring and exciting place we need to make sure the new designers coming through have the support and encouragement to reach their potential and allow their creativity to flourish. 

What do you look for in great textile design?

For me it’s about originality, people ploughing their own path, looking for inspiration in the real world rather than looking at other designers’ work as a starting point. That pureness of inspiration shows in the end result and creates really exciting designs. A great sense of colour is important to me too – interesting colour palettes are a thing of magic! 

 

Texprint mentor’s story: Simon Gallant, lawyer

08 June 2016 by Roger Tredre

Simon Gallant Mentoring Session at Texprint London 2014

Lawyer Simon Gallant is a long-time mentor at Texprint London, advising young designers on how to protect their work from knock-offs – and much more besides. We spoke to him about his involvement with Texprint.

Legal advice and guidance are among the support services offered every year to the 24 designers chosen for Texprint. For many years, Texprint’s go-to lawyer has been Simon Gallant, Senior Consultant with Gallant Maxwell, the firm he founded in 2006.

Gallant has had a long affinity with the industry – his first-ever job was selling clothes in London’s Berwick Street. Textiles is a global business, making it challenging for creative designers to ensure their work is not exploited elsewhere. Gallant’s focus at Texprint is on teaching designers the basics – starting with keeping a good record of designs and when they were created.

How did you first become involved with Texprint?

About 20 years ago I was introduced to Christian Dewar Durie (a long-term supporter of Texprint and council member) by a friend. Christian sweet-talked me into doing something worthwhile for young British designers at a time when the Far East seemed to be taking over the world of textiles.

You are a very busy lawyer – why do you enjoy mentoring young graduate designers?

I love seeing their work every year and am just amazed by the graduates’ incredible creativity. What has upset me over the years is seeing them get ripped off. I want to pass on the basics of the law and business. There are some nasty people out there!

I have always had an affinity with the industry. My first job when I was 16 was selling clothing in Berwick Street. My second was delivering clothes from a manufacturer to wholesalers all over the east end of London. I’m not sure how reputable my employers were. I’m probably some sort of poacher turned gamekeeper.

Do you think young designers are paying sufficient attention to IP (intellectual property) matters?

Obviously the focus should be on creativity but my experience is that many of the most successful designers are those who have a nose for business too. That means not being silly about giving away your IP and standing up for yourself.

What basic first steps should all young designers take to protect their original work?

Keep a good record of when you created your designs. It’s not rocket science and a simple card system or folder on your PC is fine. And be clear about what IP you are selling or simply just licensing.

© Jayne Goulding 2015

When a designer with relatively small resources finds someone is knocking off their work, what step should they take first? Is it wisest to turn to a lawyer straight away?

Good question, and always a difficult one to answer. Apart from the economic disadvantages faced by a young designer, there is also the fear (perhaps more imagined than real) of ‘getting a bad name’.

In practice, the answer varies. Sometimes a party can be shamed into settling a claim, fearing bad publicity, so a softly, softly approach could work. But in my experience the prospects of achieving a settlement will be higher if a lawyer is on board, even if the lawyer does not go in all guns blazing. If nothing else, the lawyer can take out some of the emotion and say things that a designer might not want to say for themselves.

If paying a lawyer is out of the question, you can always go it alone through the IPEC (Intellectual Property Enterprise Court), a small claims court, that means you won’t end up paying the other side’s costs even if you lose. The court staff can often be very helpful. In my experience, many designers have been able to get a decent outcome, even without legal help.

What kind of feedback do you get from the Texprint designers?

I often bring along a box filled with knock-offs, particularly of Liberty Fabrics, one of my clients. I never fail to be amazed by the jaw-dropping shock etched on their faces and it makes me realise – yes, this is shocking, we need to fight it!

Finally, I believe you also work in media and entertainment. Is the design sector behind the curve in relation to IP matters, or improving?

We have been behind the curve, especially because protection only lasts for 25 years. That’s a big deal with old established businesses with antique archives. But change is on the way – from next year, author’s life plus 70 years.

One of the big issues is that copyright involves supply chains around the world – usually starting in the Far East – but copyright is local in nature so there is an element of having to shop around. My jurisdictions of choice are the UK, France and the USA. 

© Jessica Stewart 2014

Meet the Judges: Nadia Albertini, couture embroidery designer

30 May 2016 by Roger Tredre

Photo credit: Anne Laure Camilleri

Mexican-born embroidery designer Nadia Albertini, who worked for many years with leading fashion names in Paris, is now based in New York. And she’s coming to London to judge Texprint 2016.

She’s a busy, super-creative designer – and her focus is embroidery. Nadia Albertini has built an international name for the exceptional quality of her work, and is full of passion for her craft.

She grew up in Mexico City where she spent her school years learning silk painting, screen printing, dyeing and hand embroidery. After graduating from ESAA Duperré school in Paris, she started to work as an embroidery designer at Chloé. And she never looked back.

 

Where are you based these days?

I spent 11 years in Paris, working for various companies like Chloé and Chanel. I am now based in New York. We’ve been living here for a little bit more than a year now (I moved here with my husband Ben) and it has started feeling like home. I currently consult for three companies here.

At what point did embroidery design become your main focus, and how did that come about?

My grandmother taught me embroidery when I was six years old. I used to spend a lot of time with her, watching her embroider colorful floral cushions. During my studies at Duperré in Paris, I got my very first internship at Chloé, in the embroideries department. All the things my grandma taught me were very useful there and I loved it so much that I just kept doing it… And it has been almost 10 years now.

Do you think there's anything specifically 'Mexican' about your design work?

I don't think my designs are specifically Mexican. I draw inspiration from pretty much everywhere. I adapt my design esthetic and style to the theme of the season, no matter whom I work for. But surely, what Mexico has given me is a great freedom in the way I approach the design process: enjoy what you do and be passionate about it.

And it’s also about teamwork: it’s all about collaboration and creating links with people. What I mean by that is that we need each other: the brands need me to create the designs, and I need the artisans to actually make those designs.

Photo credit: Anne Laure Camilleri

How important is it for you to support the next generation of designers?

Embroidery is gaining more and more importance in fashion but surprisingly, there are not many schools teaching it. Young designers are the future of our industry, so I want to make sure they have access to these techniques. They  must learn how to use them in order to incorporate them in their professional work later on.

So, for me, it’s important to pass on what I know through teaching or mentorships. I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now and it’s a part of my job that I truly enjoy. It started when I taught the Couture Embellishment short courses at the London College of Fashion from 2010 to 2014. Then I gave workshops at Central Saint Martins. This year, I taught in Tokyo and next year, I’m planning embroidery workshops in Bogota and Buenos Aires.  

What do you look for in great embroidery and textile design?

I want to be surprised and intrigued. Surprised by the techniques, traditional or modern, or a balanced combination of both. I want to ask myself: “How did they do that? What is it made of?” And intrigued to the point that I want to meet the designer, know more about them, their background, their world.

Can you explain the parameters of your job?

I work for fashion brands designing and developing their embroideries.

At the beginning of each season, I meet with the creative director and the design team. We exchange ideas for the collection and I bring my research: pictures, swatches, vintage trims and materials that I think could fit the theme. Once the direction is decided, I design embroidery swatches that I develop with our embroidery manufacturers. They can be made in India, France, Italy or China. I make small embroidery examples myself, on the frame. I need to show things as clearly as possible. And then I make sketches, collage, I give material examples to explain what we want.

I have very close and very good relationships with all the ateliers I work with. I have been working with some of them for years now, so we understand each other quickly. I travel often to develop the swatches directly with them. But if I cannot travel, we talk every day, either on the phone, through Whatsapp or email. They send me pictures, I make comments, they correct and then show me again. We have very little time to develop each collection so these periods are quite intense for everyone.

Once these swatches are back in the studios and are approved for the collection, it’s time to place them on the garments. It’s layout time, as I call it. We engineer the motifs onto the paper patterns, for garments, shoes and bags. Sometimes it’s done with the computer, sometimes by hand, either drawing or collaging. You need to know garment construction well for this process: how to avoid darts and reduce the density for gathers, how to play with the weight of beading if the fabric is bias cut. Is a fabric going to tear with X or Y technique? Should the fabric be fused before or after beading? Is the embroidery too dense for the garment to be comfortable to wear? Is the leather supple enough to be embroidered?

My work also involves planning the work calendar, managing the budget and negotiating prices of all the embroidered styles.

 

What’s a typical day like for you?

I work for three very different companies, so each day is different and we have different styles of work in each of them.

I always start my days by checking emails. I have two phones, so I get about 80 emails every morning that I try to answer as quickly as possible. I’m in the studios at 9.30am. I work with the teams on the current projects: it can be research, fabric manipulations, weekly touch bases on the developments. It can be a creative session or a more strategic and planning-related meeting too. I like taking time to have lunch outside the office - it’s a very French thing apparently. I read the news or a novel or plan my weekly schedule.

My workday normally ends at 19.30. I go back home, have dinner with my husband or friends. I usually work on my personal projects in the evening: the book, or more research for one of my clients, courses planning, etc…

Where's the growth coming in your business at the moment? Any particular projects you would like to mention?

I’ve been very lucky in New York, I have good clients and lots of interesting work at the moment. I’m developing embroideries for the Spring/Summer 2017 shows that will happen in September and should start on Pre-Fall 2017 collections soon.

On a more personal level, I am working on a book project. It will be published in Japan in 2017 and it will contain embroidery tutorials, embroidery DIY projects. And I would like to start teaching on a more regular basis in New York, so I’m looking for new opportunities there too.

Finally, where do you find your inspiration?

I really enjoy the research part of my job. I have always kept examples of the embroideries I have done in the past, so I have a very good swatches library. I also keep tons of binders with inspiration images: from pictures, posters, interiors images, collage, illustrations. I love going to the library. To the Bibliothèque Forney in Paris or to the NY image bank and to the Condé Nast Library in the One World Trade Center. I also use Internet a lot and magazines. A lot of the inspiration comes from the materials themselves: how to use that sequin in a new and interesting way? What can we do with this gold cord? Or with ric rac? How to combine wood and pearls? 

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