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Meet the Sponsor: Queralt Ferrer, M&S

02 May 2016 by Roger Tredre

Alexa Chung at M&S

The director of design at British retail giant Marks & Spencer explains what she looks for in new talent.

High above west London’s Paddington Basin, Marks & Spencer design director Queralt Ferrer has just moved floor to a new office. The entire floor is in chaos with packing cases everywhere. At least there is calm to be found in the view from the window, overlooking the canal where the lunchtime crowd are chilling by the waterside.

Ferrer, who started her career in Spain – her home country – studying textiles at ESDI, is dressed for business in trousers and a mannish shirt with the sleeves rolled up. She speaks English with a strong accent, full of passion, energy and enthusiasm.

She was appointed last September to the newly created executive role at M&S of director of design for womenswear, lingerie and beauty, following two years running the Autograph and Limited ranges.

It’s a long way from Barcelona and La Coruña where the designer first made her name at Massimo Dutti, building the Inditex-owned brand into a retail nameto rank alongside its other global success story ­– Zara.

Queralt Ferrer knows full well the struggles of being a young designer. Back in the early 1990s, after studying at ESDI in Barcelona, she had intended to go into the family fabric business, focusing on men’s wovens. But recession struck and the company was a casualty of a downturn from which Spain’s textiles sector never really recovered.

So she ended up joining menswear retailer Massimo Dutti, then part-owned (and eventually fully owned) by Zara parent company Inditex. “One day, they asked me to go to Barcelona, do some shopping, and come back and say how I think womenswear could look.”

She came back, presented a grid of ideas, and found herself launching Massimo Dutti womenswear within two months – a pressure she appears to have relished. She stayed at Inditex for 17 years during the company’s period of stratospheric global growth before moving to London for M&S with her husband and three young children. “An amazing challenge – based in an amazing city!” she exclaims. “How could I refuse?”

What does she look for in a new designer? “The talent has to be there of course. They have to have fashion in their DNA, to love it. I look at the portfolio and how the designer interprets ideas. It has to have the wow factor. But there’s something else that is important – it’s how the designer sells the portfolio. If you work for a big company, you have to be able to sell your ideas. You can’t just be the quiet one in the corner.”

Texprint London 2015

It’s an aspect of the business that Texprint also emphasises to the 24 designers selected each year for the Texprint show in London in July and for Premiere Vision in Paris in September. Texprint’s team provides mentoring and practical advice on sales and marketing as well as creative development.

Ferrer acknowledges this shows in the maturity of the designers: “I usually go to Texprint in the summer in London. The work is really good, they show amazing projects. And yes, the designers are also very good and skilled at presenting and explaining their work.”

As a major long-term ‘foundation’ sponsor of Texprint, Marks & Spencer plays an important role in nurturing young design talent in textiles – building on its long and historic tradition of innovation in fabrics. “M&S is a company with such a strong heritage,” notes Ferrer. “The museum and archive in Leeds are amazing and inspiring. We are looking at this even more as we develop. The new Alexa Chung collection is based on the archives.”

M&S colleague Karen Peacock, head of womenswear design, talking with a designer at Texprint London 2014

The Archive by Alexa Chung collection, supported by the cool, hip British model and girl-about-town, was launched in April. It enthusiastically taps into vintage M&S designs. The launch is part of an initiative to draw a younger, more fashion-forward customer to the British high street veteran. It’s selling both online and in more than 50 stores.

Ferrer’s design eye loves the mix of old and new, so often seen at Texprint. She appreciates the authentic thrill of a classic hand-created print, clearly showing the creative handwriting of the designer. At the same time, she acknowledges the importance of digital technology to refine and complete a modern commercial design.

So how does she find working in the UK and with so many Brits? “Ah, I was already used to that. We had 25 to 30 designers at Massimo Dutti with people from Kingston, Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion. The Brits were easy, very good at integrating!” Ferrer seems to be doing that pretty well too.

Hero mentoring: helping a new generation of designers

21 March 2016 by Roger Tredre

Hilary Scarlett, Hero Mentor and Texprint alumna

Texprint has stepped up its support for new designers through a Hero Mentoring scheme that is proving very popular.

It could be said that Texprint is one giant mentoring scheme – identifying new design talent emerging from higher education across the UK and helping 24 names every year to take the first steps in their careers.

But sometimes a designer needs someone else – an external mentor, who is not too familiar with the work. Georgia Fisher, who was a Texprint designer in 2014 and was subsequently mentored by textile consultant Hilary Scarlett, remembers: “After two years of focusing on my work, I was too close to it, too convinced it simply spoke for itself. To have someone looking at it who was completely outside was really helpful.”

Hilary Scarlett is an experienced and well-known London-based fabric and colour consultant who worked for many years with East Central Studios and is a long-term contributor to Textile View magazine. She has a great network of contacts as well as a finely tuned understanding of the importance of presentation – perfect for commenting on a young designer’s portfolio.

She recalls her first meeting with Georgia at her house and studio in late 2014. Despite their gulf in experience, the two designers found they had plenty in common: Scarlett was herself a Texprint designer back in the late 1970s and she also studied at the Royal College of Art.

Hilary was thrilled by Georgia’s “beautiful, beautiful samples” – Georgia won the Texprint Interiors award in 2014. But she observed that her portfolio needed revision to demonstrate a much broader display of her talent. “Georgia has an innate ability for the handle and feel of fabric, and a great sensitivity for colour and proportion. The portfolio needed to show her diversity, particularly in colour and drawing skills.”

Georgia Fisher, winner of 2014 Texprint Interiors award sponsored by the Clothworkers' Company; shown here with Christopher McLean May, then Master of the Clothworkers' Company

Georgia appreciated the comments and quickly reworked her portfolio. She also remembers how much she enjoyed hearing about Hilary’s own career. “There are so many different jobs in textiles that you don’t know about. It was really helpful to learn from her experiences.”

Georgia Fisher on her stand at Première Vision, September 2014

The two designers remained in contact by email and phone, and met again at Première Vision in September 2015. After her Texprint experience, Georgia had worked freelance for a while, selling some of her samples. But she really appreciated continued contact with Hilary as well as Texprint sponsorship director Joanna Bowring, who helped arrange a paid work experience opportunity with Laura Miles’ WOVEN Studio (May 2015 interview). That morphed into working with Miles as part of the fashion team of Vanners, a silk mill based in Sudbury, Suffolk, with a 275-year history. And that led in turn to the offer of a job at Vanners in the autumn of 2015. Mission accomplished.

Did Hilary enjoy the experience? “Oh yes! It’s such a delight to see a talented student’s work. And I was delighted to help out because Texprint helped me at the beginning of my career: I met lots of people through Texprint and got a job soon after it finished.”

From Hilary Scarlett in 1979 to Georgia Fisher in 2016 – that’s 37 years! And these two creative talents, separated by many generations of Texprint, have both built successful careers in the textile industry – the perfect end result for the charity.

Meet the sponsor: Katie Greenyer, creative director, Pentland Group

13 March 2016 by Roger Tredre

Pentland, the fashion, outdoor and sports brand group, is stepping up its sponsorship of Texprint. We spoke to creative director Katie Greenyer, who has been a passionate supporter of Texprint for 27 years.

She’s the fast-talking, super-colourful creative director of Pentland, the London-based group that nurtures a flourishing stable of sports, outdoor and fashion brands ranging from Speedo to Red or Dead, Ellesse to Berghaus. In no particular order, she likes Airedale terriers, the colour pink, Liverpool, playing table tennis, red lipstick, Aesop night oil, gin and tonic, a nice cup of tea and Essex.

But back in 1989 Katie Greenyer was just another young designer fresh from college (Fine Art Printed Textiles at Liverpool School of Art), selected by Texprint to exhibit her work at Interstoff in Frankfurt.

She says: “Texprint gave me my first break in the design industry and put me on the straight and narrow. It changed me from being someone who just drew and loved doing print and colour into actually thinking this is a commercial, viable thing for me – something that I could do.”

Greenyer, who is now a member of the Texprint Council, is a passionate supporter of the charity’s work in supporting the new generation of designers. “The first opportunities that Texprint gives are so important – they are the ones that give you the confidence to have a career in the creative industries.”

Back in 1989, Greenyer also had no hesitation stalking the designers she admired – with impressive results. She pitched up at Christian Lacroix’s atelier in Paris (sans invitation) and was soon creating designs for the great French couturier. Back in London, she hounded Wayne Hemingway, founder of Red or Dead, who told her to p*** off and find someone “mad in England” – she promptly came back with Stanley Green, an eccentric who spent most of his life patrolling Oxford Street with a billboard reading “Less Passion from Less Protein”. Hemingway gave her a job. Pentland bought Red or Dead in 1996, which marked the beginning of her long association with the group.

These days, textiles is a relatively small part of her focus, but she realised early on that her experience as a textile designer gave her an ability to work across all forms of creativity in the fashion sector. Her work is about “colour and composition, about having a real aesthetic and a commercial approach. I’m constantly asking: Is it commercial? Is it right for our brand? How can we do it better? That’s what I ask our team.”

The scale of the Pentland creative operation is impressive. Careful attention to recruitment is essential for nurturing an innovative culture within the business. Pentland has its own ‘design pool’ of up to eight designers who work on 11-month paid placements, rotated across the brands to develop their experience and explore where they are most suited to work. As designers are employed in full-time positions, more places open up in the design pool for a new wave of young names.

It’s a clever approach. Texprint designers have come to Pentland through this process, including most recently Charlie O’Byrne (Texprint 2012), who was talent spotted by Pentland design pool manager Tamara Sivan.

Do these placements always work out? Aren’t some of the young designers occasionally a little difficult? Greenyer laughs: “I like difficult! It’s part of being creative. I am difficult too! I sometimes compare my job to herding cats.”

Both Sivan and Greenyer have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the design colleges and universities of the UK with a wealth of personal contacts. Pentland are constantly setting projects for students, enabling the company to keep in touch with the best creative talent in the country.

Pentland was founded way back in 1932 as the Liverpool Shoe Company, but it was the acquisition of Reebok by Stephen Rubin in 1981 that catapulted the business into the major league (it was sold in 1991). Since then, the company has established a global reputation for successfully nurturing brands and combining commercial acumen with creative flair.

The company is based in Finchley, north London, where Greenyer worked with Rocktownsend architects to design a work environment that has won plenty of awards and is abuzz with energy and colour (it includes a swimming pool and gym). “We’re a family business,” explains Greenyer, paying tribute to the Rubin family. “What makes us truly different is our appreciation of people.”

 

Liberty’s Chesham Cabinet House

06 March 2016 by Roger Tredre

Liberty Art Fabrics has launched a brilliantly inventive new interiors collection that pays homage to a great Texprint supporter, together with a project that will also raise funds for Texprint. We spoke to Emma Mawston, Head of Design, Liberty Fabrics.

Emma surrounded by fabrics from the Chesham Cabinet Collection 

We’re high on the fourth floor of the Liberty offices, tucked away in a Soho street behind the store itself. We’re thrilled to be venturing into the design space where Emma Mawston and her small hard-working team create a very 21st century take on the Liberty tradition. Emma’s corner of the office is festooned with prints – a real Liberty feast for the eyes – but it’s a large century-old cabinet that takes up the most room.

From Grayson Perry to Sir Roger Moore, the new Chesham Cabinet collection of fabrics and wallpapers from Liberty has found inspiration in a spectacularly diverse selection of names and periods. And, to celebrate the launch, the design team at Liberty have created their own take on a traditional doll’s house, which displays all the designs in a playful miniature arrangement that has attracted plenty of media attention in recent weeks.

Chesham House was the name of one of the original buildings that was home to Liberty back in the 1880s. Emma Mawston had been inspired by her younger daughter’s love of dolls’ houses to start researching the world of miniature, leading her on a journey of research and discovery that spiralled into quite an adventure.

Chesham Cabinet Collection

Dolls’ house collectors treat their houses with great seriousness, but Emma, approaching the project as a designer, had a somewhat more irreverent concept in mind, with a cinema room, a bike shed and garden planned. She swiftly banished sacrilegious thoughts of customising an existing dolls’ house and decided to create her own, reworking a century-old colonial Indian cabinet. The result – now on display on the fourth floor of Liberty – is a splendiferous work of art.

The process of bringing it to reality was a hands-on business involving all the design team as well as Emma’s mum (who made most of the cushions, she confides). Our favourite? Perhaps the miniature bookcase painstakingly crafted by colleague Keighley (who studied fashion print at Central Saint Martins before joining the team). Or perhaps the Grayson Perry bike shed, tucked away in the bottom left-hand drawer of the cabinet, with tangled bicycle print to match. Or then again there’s the cinema room on the top floor, where legendary James Bond star Sir Roger Moore was persuaded to delve into the Liberty archive and pluck out a classic floral design.

Liberty's unique Chesham Cabinet decorated with fabrics from the new collection

The sheer diversity of the 13 designs in the Chesham House collection is entirely deliberate. Emma says: “Interesting and quirky collaborations sit alongside in-house works of art and historical archive reconstructions. We don’t follow trends but are led by the beauty of our inspiration, our intuition and customer desires.”

Emma and her team became happily obsessive in their research, heading for Holland where some of the most beautiful dolls’ houses in the world are to be found. And they were allowed special access to Windsor Castle for a close-up view of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, designed by Sir Edward Lutyens and four years in the making – completed in 1924, the same year that Liberty’s famous Tudor-style building opened.

Later this year, the house will be auctioned off, with some of the proceeds destined for Texprint to support the next generation of designers. Emma Mawston is passionate about the work of Texprint. Indeed, for many years she has participated in the interviewing panel of Texprint. “I feel honoured to be part of it,” she says. “Everyone is so passionate, so enthusiastic. The textile world is not celebrated in the same way as the fashion world, but textile designers are just as much artists and deserve more recognition.”

What does she look for in the designers she employs at Liberty? “You need to love what you do, and be humble about it, not obsessed with fame. You need to fit into a team – and you need to be able to show versatility with a diverse portfolio of work.”

The Chesham Cabinet collection has been dedicated to the memory of Anne Tyrrell MBE, the designer and fashion industry executive, who died last year after a long and illustrious career. She was a long-time member of the Texprint Management Council and an enthusiastic supporter of young talent. Touchingly, the collection includes an ‘Anne’ throw named after her, based on an ornamental paisley hand-painted in the late 1970s by the David Haward studio. “She was a very special woman,” recalls Emma. “A great supporter of Liberty and Texprint. We created this throw very much with her tastes in mind.”

Chesham Cabinet Collection

Emma explains further her thinking about the throws: “We are creating evening wear for interiors, encouraging people to dress up their homes for gatherings, parties, picnics in the garden and throws on chairs at weddings in the same way that we would dress up for these occasions ourselves. Throws are so diverse, they are the oysters of the decorating world. I even have the Anne throw as a curtain in my elder daughter's bedroom, the self fringed tassels adding to its beauty as it drapes across the window.”

Quirky, unpredictable, triumphantly creative – these are the kind of words that sum up the work of the Liberty Fabrics team. And, in all its rich diversity, this latest project would surely have stirred the heart of Arthur Liberty himself. 

Liberty's unique Chesham Cabinet decorated with fabrics from the new collection

New Delhi Diary: A Textile Designer’s Visual Playground

24 February 2016 by Editor

Texprint 2015 designers ÁineByrne and Bryony Bushe have just spent several months interning with interiors and home accessories company, Cosmique Global, based in Delhi.  Both designers agree, their experiences were sometimes tough, but hugely enriching personally and creatively – India proving to be an extraordinary visual playground.

·      What were your first impressions of New Delhi and India?

Áine: The disturbance to all my senses, nothing was familiar - the smells of spices, the loud honking of the erratic drivers, and the mounds of rubbish on the road-sides - salvaged plastics, metals and textiles, used to build ragged shanty communities. I arrived in the middle of Diwali festival when the noise was even more exaggerated, with crackers constantly being set off on every street corner, heightening the excitement I felt in this magical and very new environment. Everything was so colourful, from the food stalls and bedecked wedding horses, to the elaborately decorated lorries with their tassels and finely painted signage. It seemed overwhelming at first – but by the time my internship came to an end, strangely it all seemed quite normal!

 

Áine& Bryony: We loved the genuine warmth that greeted our arrival at the Cosmique Global offices in the industrial area of Naraina, New Delhi, and soon felt part of the ‘Cosmique family’.  Everyone was so friendly, Sandeep Manaktala and Sonali, the design manager, helping us feel more and more at home in this strange other world.

Outside of the workplace, in the home where we were to live during our internship, we were warmly welcomed by our host family – and blessed with a stroke of orange pigment on the  foreheads, a Hindu welcoming ritual.

Bryony: On our days off we did a bit of sightseeing and shopping, but found the bargaining in the markets very hard to get used to -  ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’, our hosts, would always ask how much we spent, and then would ‘tut’ in disapproval if we didn’t get a good price!

·      At Cosmique Global, were you given particular projects or product lines to work on?

Áine: It took me a little while to get used to the workings of the company and to navigate my way around the factory, but I was soon given the task of researching autumn/winter 2016/17 trends, then attending material and product development meetings, and gradually getting to know everyone’s role in the company.

I worked closely with the print and hand-painting team experimenting with a combination of hand-painting and screen work, which was to be developed into cushions and throws for the upcoming collections due to be exhibited at Heimtextil in Frankfurt and Ambiente in Paris. Although I felt so at home, it was quite isolating at times being there on my own, so I was delighted when Bryony arrived in early December to join me - someone to share and comment on the strange situations we found ourselves in every day.

 

Bryony: Sonali was excellent at setting design projects to suit our individual handwriting and interests – giving us the creative freedom to try what we wanted and to experiment.We worked on wall hangings, cushions, and prints for throws and bedding, also tote bags, wash bags and purses. Interesting too to hear about all the factors at work in the industry such as costing and competing with China for price. 

Another of our projects was to design the window displays for the fairs – a fantastic opportunity to work on presentation and visual merchandising concepts.  The feedback on our designs was very positive – and I was particularly encouraged to hear that English buyers were taking an interest in my work!

·      Please tell us about the skills of your co-workers - were the methods of working different to what you expected?

Áine: I was blown away by the talents and the skills of our co-workers. It was strange at first, but amazing to have such skilled craftspeople translate our design ideas into reality, and everyone was so enthusiastic and willing to help. Although I am a weaver, I was introduced to the worlds of print and embroidery, and learnt about techniques such as screen printing, chicken (or chikan) embroidery, dori (cornelli), bouclé, tufting and chain stitch. Everyone had such a fine eye for detail and colour, and were quick to point out if you hadn’t picked the right colour of fabric or embroidery thread.

 

Bryony: I also did a lot of hand drawing, and worked with the artisans in the sampling room to translate my designs using different techniques and effects.  Frustratingly, it was quite difficult to communicate due to the language barrier and I wished I had learnt a bit of Hindi before I went out.

 

The workers could sometimes be quite literal in their approach to things - I would create an intentionally messy design and they would try so hard to neaten it up! It was difficult to say make it a ‘bit more like this or that’ – quite a learning curve to work with such skilled craftsmen but who, not surprisingly, have little concept of western design.

The men in the sampling room soon got used to me but when anyone new visited they would stare in fascination at a woman operating the embroidery machine!

 

·      Did you work with any traditional techniques like hand-weaving?

Áine: I found it really interesting seeing the different ways in which people use the loom. Although I had learnt bits of Hindi, it was much easier sharing the language of weave, and communicating ‘warp’, ‘weft’, ‘shuttle’, ‘beam’ and ‘heddle’ seemed to get me far enough through the process. Having help setting up my warps saved me so much valuable time, although I slightly missed the ritual of it.

·      What would you say were the real learning ‘takeaways’ of your internship?

Áine: It was a truly humbling experience - the cultural heritage, living in a completely different world, witnessing the misery of the poverty along with the energy and colour of the city. I so appreciated experiencing something that no one taking the regular tourist routes through the city would ever see. Working at Cosmique has given me an invaluable insight into the workings of the real textiles world, the part that a lot of people can only imagine, or see very briefly. I will take this experience of working in India for this length of time and properly being part of the company, with me wherever I work in the future. Sonali and Sandeep were incredible mentors teaching us so much about how the industry works.

 

Bryony: It was extraordinary, we were given so much creative independence that it almost felt like an extension of our masters at RCA – and working with fantastically attentive technicians who, for the most part, were excited and keen to work with us - one man who did the tufting embroidery was particularly excited to be creating “London designs”!

·      Have you had a chance to think about your next career steps?

Áine: I realise I still have much to learn about the industry, and also about running a business. I’ve enjoyed discovering the world of interiors and hope to continue my relationship with Cosmique Global and maybe work with them in the future. Aside from my own career, being here in India has made me think of ways I might help the poorer communities - I would love to come back again and set up skill-sharing workshops with children, or get involved in local charities and educational initiatives.

Bryony: I have loved working for interiors – before I only though about fashion, but now I am seriously investigating possibilities in this field.  It was also great to see my work developed for the Surface View EDITS project - another opportunity I gained through Texprint and which has shown me how my work might be used in different contexts.

I have some more teaching lined up in Loughboroughand De Montfort universities, and through the charity Blindaid, am continuing to teach textile and art skills to blind and visually impaired people.  I feel I have so many more valuable skills and experiences to share since my time in India.

 

 

 

Surface View: the Texprint 2016 EDITS collection

15 February 2016 by Editor

A brilliant new home textiles collection from Surface View is a maximalist’s dream – and every designer involved is from Texprint.

The artwork is inspired by nature, while the colour palette is full of richly coloured splendour. The Texprint 2016 EDITS collection is a real treat.

Six of the 2015 Texprint designers participated in the collection, which was developed in collaboration with Surface View, the bespoke interior decoration company. Curated by trend forecasting service USP, it’s a rich maximalist-inspired mix of print and pattern, blending traditional and modern themes with a sophisticated touch.

Designers participating include Texprint Colour Award winner Emma McCluskey, Bryony Bushe, Emma Brooks, Jessica Pickard, Nicola Costello and Stephanie Rolph.

The new collection is now available to view and buy on the Surface View website. The designers receive important kudos and recognition – as well as royalties on all sales.

Included in the product mix are printed cushions, lampshades, window films and large-scale canvases. It's part of an ongoing and acclaimed series of curated collaborations (EDITS) developed by Surface View.

This year’s curator – Unique Style Platform (USP) – is a London-based trend forecasting service for the fashion & lifestyle industries founded by Jane Kellock in 2013.

Jane, an industry veteran who has held senior forecasting roles at WGSN and Stylus and also in industry as a designer, explains how USP operates: “We work with clients on bespoke trends using both physical and digital approaches. For example, we do digital reports but also supply moodboards and colour swatches.’’

She adds: “There’s a real demand in the market at present for a bespoke service that makes sense of the massive amount of information out there. We create trends that are timely and relevant according to our clients’ needs.’’

Jane, who runs USP from studios in ultra-hip Haggerston, east London, has worked with Texprint for many years, lending her expertise and experience to the panel that filters the final selections of young designers each year.

The quality of designer is steadily improving, she notes. “It’s a particularly strong group this year, with a great mix of commerical and future-focused designs. Texprint is really going from strength to strength – and it’s so well respected in the industry.’’

Working to the broad theme of maximalist – and based on the designers' work for Texprint 2015 – a cohesive collection has emerged. Jane Kellock says: “The theme focuses on surface texture and an eclectic mix of print with slightly eccentric colour combinations. Pile it all on! We’re thinking of inspiration from the recent Gucci collection. There’s a bohemian flavour to it but with a modern edge.’’

Some of the designs were originally developed for fashion garments, but they work beautifully in the home textiles context too.

Founded eight years ago, Surface View is part of digital print company VGL. It uses state-of-the-art print technology for application to a wide variety of interior products, building a reputation for being able to print images on virtually anything –  even birch plywood.

The idea for a collaboration evolved in conversations with managing director Michael Ayerst following a visit to the Texprint exhibition in London in 2014. Based in Reading, Berkshire, the company already has a long association with Texprint, producing the signage for events in London, Paris and Shanghai.

Alissa Sequeira of the Surface View marketing team says: “It was great to see the fresh ideas that designers had, and great for us to support emerging British talent. We’ve been very impressed with the standard of work and are confident that this year’s edit will be every bit as successful as previous years.”

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