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In conversation with Professor Jane Rapley OBE

21 March 2015 by Roger Tredre

We talk to Jane Rapley OBE, Honorary Trustee of the Texprint Council, about her love of textiles and long-time association with Texprint.

Senior figures in the world of academia sometimes come across as self-important and lacking in a sense of humour. Not so Jane Rapley, who retired in 2012 as head of Central Saint Martins. In an hour of conversation over a coffee, she is a whirlwind of humour, gossip and general chit-chat.

Retired? Well, not exactly. She’s just returned from another trip to Asia, lending her wisdom and years of experience to Hong Kong-based educationalists. And now she’s delighted to cap a decades-long association with Texprint by becoming an Honorary Trustee.

Her memories stretch back to the early 1970s, when a friend exhibited at Texprint and she recalls one graduate – possibly John Miles (later head of fashion & textiles at the Royal College of Art) – showing a collection inspired by Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney. One suspects the legal team at Disney would not be amused if the collection was recreated today.

Her association with textiles dates back to the very beginning of her career as merchandising manager at menswear company Sabre International Textiles, managing the knitwear range. Her links with education were very early too, prompted by Sabre owner Louis Van Praagh, a fervent supporter of education, who encouraged her to teach on the side. “Through him, I got involved with the Council for National Academic Awards at the tender age of 26. And I was a governor of Plymouth College of Art at the age of 28 – mainly because we had a factory there.” 

Although she’s best known for her career at Central Saint Martins, Jane has taught and lectured more widely, including Middlesex, Preston, Brighton, Kingston, Trent and Lancashire Polys in the 1970s, followed by the Royal College of Art and Central School of Art & Design in the 1980s, all this while running a business or two (including her own, Burrows & Hare).

Circa 1978, Jane teaching in the textile studio at the Central

By 1987, she was head of textiles at Central. Within six weeks, the department was restructured and the merger between Central and Saint Martins was announced. She taught textiles for only two years before becoming dean of CSM’s fashion & textiles school, but her affection for it has remained constant. “When I was a student I loved doing print and by chance I took to knit. I think I partly liked the fact that the people [in textiles] are so nice! They tended to have more diverse backgrounds than fashion.”

She enjoys the annual Texprint show in London. “It’s always a pleasure to look at young designers’ work. I have always loved colour. I used to love choosing the colour range when I worked in industry; it was great fun choosing all the names.”

Jane Shepherdson, Terence Conran, Barbara Kennington and Jane Rapley OBE at the Coutts Texprint dinner 2012

Choosing the colours for the fashion school of the new Central Saint Martins back in 1990 was a delicate business, she recalls. “Bobby Hillson [CSM head of MA fashion] was desperately looking for navy blue paint for the cupboards. We found something that was not quite navy blue but just about ok. So we went away for the summer holiday and while we were away the London Institute chose its corporate colour – grey. Of course when we came back the cupboards were all painted grey. I still remember the look of horror on Bobby’s face. ‘My dears!’ she said. ‘That grey is so last year!’ ”

The central role of textiles in design should be better acknowledged, she argues. “It’s such a pivotal area of education. When I was teaching textiles – a setup I inherited – it was very open, the students could try everything. They often went into printmaking but it could be ceramics or packaging. Their careers needed to be diverse, starting perhaps in fashion but moving into interiors for example. The deployment of technology was very exciting for designers – it’s fascinating how you can take traditional textiles into new worlds such as architecture or medicine.”

Sir John Tusa and Professor Jane Rapley OBE, when Head of College at CSM. (photo credit: Paul Cochrane)

Where does she stand on the digital-versus-handcrafted debate? “I don’t think it’s a versus. Really good interesting creative people will use them all as tools, whether they use handcrafted with technological materials or traditional materials in a different technology process.”

Textile designers need to be better appreciated, she says. “The problem with textiles is that textile designers largely do not hit the public consciousness. They are designers for other designers… The only time they surface is when they go into fashion, such as Alice Temperley or Zandra Rhodes.”

The result is that many young people don’t recognise that textiles offers a really interesting career. “So many teenagers say they want to be fashion designers. People ring me up saying, my daughter wants to be a fashion designer. They don’t realise the potential of a career in textiles.”

Jane with Texprint colleagues at a Texprint Council meeting 2014

Texprint alumna’s story: Ffion Griffith, Liberty

15 March 2015 by Roger Tredre

Ffion Griffith (right) with Tessa Birch, Liberty Head of Design for Fabrics (left)

Ffion Griffith was a Texprint designer in 2013 and went from us to a year-long internship at Liberty Art Fabrics that has worked out in the best possible way – with a full-time job as a print and innovative fabric designer.

Texprint has benefited from a long-term connection with sponsor Liberty Art Fabrics. Emma Mawston, Head of Design for Interiors, is a Texprint Council member. Ffion reports to Tessa Birch, formerly print director at Diane von Furstenberg, now Liberty Head of Design for Fabrics.

Tessa Birch says the benefits are two-way: “It’s an honour and privilege to work with Texprint. The calibre of the students is outstanding – Ffion is now an exceptional asset to our team. And Texprint is also a very important part of the design community at large.”

The work Ffion showed at Texprint back in 2013 was outstanding – aiming to revive traditional Welsh weave in an original way, fusing a contemporary colour palette with urban patterning and championing the rich and luxurious qualities of natural fibres. She won the Space Prize for the best fabric design for Interiors.

Two years on, she says Texprint played a pivotal role in her career. “It enabled me to make the crucial step into a highly competitive and relatively small industry,” she recalls. Time for a catchup!

Has your style changed since your graduation collection?

My graduate collection focused on woven interior products such as blankets, upholstery and carpets. These derived from my wish to preserve and promote a threatened Welsh weaving technique.

Heritage and tradition have always played an important part in my work. This passion is equally fulfilled working at Liberty Art Fabrics with its rich textile heritage and priceless archive of over 40,000 articles.

Despite now focusing on textile prints for the fashion market, in my work the same principles apply – thorough research of creative techniques from a variety of sources influencing and inspiring my design work.

Tell us about your job now and how it came about.

My job as a print and innovative fabric designer has evolved from the role I was awarded as a Texprint internship in January 2014. The ‘Fabric Innovation’ internship was an opportunity generously sponsored by the Drapers Company. Quite a few changes happened at Liberty Art Fabrics during the year, including a new Head of Design and I have gradually become more involved in different aspects of the design process.

Ffion with colleagues on the Liberty Art Fabrics stand at Premiere Vision, wearing prints from the range

Tell us about your Texprint memories.

Exhibiting in both London and Paris provided a priceless platform for my work to be seen by industry professionals. And opportunities such as working in a textile mill in Como, Italy allowed me to learn a great deal about the commercial aspects of the industry and to establish a network of professional contacts. As well as the numerous doors it opens, being one of the chosen 24 designers was paramount in giving me confidence, encouragement and belief that I could succeed as a designer within the industry.

Where did you grow up? How did you become interested in textiles and design?

I grew up in rural Wales where – although not as prevalent as they used to be – woven textile mills have an importance in national pride. As I child, I visited these woollen mills but soon realised that the industry was in decline. It was not until my second year of university reading French and Russian that I realised I could no longer turn my back on my textile heritage and made the decision to change courses.

Where did you study before Texprint?

Before Texprint, I studied Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art. The course was extremely open to one’s own direction and interpretation, which allowed for a journey of creative self discovery. I was drawn to specialise in woven textiles and thoroughly enjoyed myself spending hours weaving at the top of the college building, with Big Ben in sight and the clatter of the old manual looms on a repeating soundtrack.

Describe a typical working day at Liberty Art Fabrics.

Describing a typical day is impossible as no two are the same. From organising photoshoots to drawing at Kew, meeting new fabric suppliers, making garments and meeting with interesting customers such as Brora and Nike.

A particular highlight for me is the creatively nurturing and inspiring atmosphere in the studio. I am continuously learning new things and am challenged on a daily basis. I have also been fortuitous enough to have travelled with the Design Team on some inspirational trips to both Berlin and Istanbul.

Ffion (left) with colleagues and Tessa Birch (right) - a behind the scenes shot from the spring summer 2016 look book

Besides print, what else are you interested in? 

I am fascinated by travel and am lucky enough to have not only seen many European countries but to have travelled to Russia, Japan, China and Hong Kong. As I am working fulltime, my travel ambitions are now limited. But as London is the most multicultural city in the world the opportunities to explore different cultures are endless.

Texprint alumna’s story: Manri Kishimoto, Mannine

26 February 2015 by Jainnie Cho

Mannine at Isetan Japan, autumn winter 2014

An optimistic energy is at the heart of Manri Kishimoto’s designs. The 32-year-old Japanese designer’s prints, bursting with colour and whimsical, nature-inspired themes, would put a smile on anyone’s face. “I’ve always wanted to work with colour rather than focus on shape and cutting skills. I wanted to make something fun but in simple silhouettes that are inspired by everyday things,” she says. Tellingly, her favourite designers and artists include Eley Kishimoto, Henri Matisse and David Hockney – all renowned for their use of colour.

This approach to textile design sings in her last two collections for her own label, Mannine (launched late 2013). Birds inspired the Spring/Summer collection for last year – “I like designing with nature and animals” – while the idea for her Autumn/Winter collection came from the music of French composer Pierre Henry.  “He collects sounds from around the city – the streets, parks and so on – and uses these sounds for his music. Similarly, I put normal, everyday stuff onto my textiles,” she says.

Manri Kishimoto

While Kishimoto’s student days weren’t without their challenges, they seem to have paid off swimmingly for the designer. Upon graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2012, she was chosen to participate in Texprint and went on to win the Pantone Colour Prize and the Lululemon Athletica Prize that year. Texprint also took her to Premiere Vision, an experience Kishimoto recalls as being “invaluable.” “When I was a student, I went to Premiere Vision to do research so I couldn’t believe that I was actually at Premier Vision showcasing my stuff,” the designer recalls.

With this experience under her belt, she went on to showcase at various other fairs around the world. At one in particular, she met buyers from Japanese department store Isetan, which led to the now Yokohama-based designer launching two collections for the store – one last year and one this March.

Mannine look book autumn/winter 2014

Texprint caught up with Kishimoto and talked about her fashion designing family, her travels around Japanese textile mills and her vision for Mannine.

I read that Grayson Perry wore your clothes. How did that happen?

At Central Saint Martins, we did a project with Grayson once. He voted for my collection and even wore one of my designs for a BBC programme. Actually, when I did my Texprint interview, one of the panel said he knew my clothes because he saw it on the TV show.

You grew up in quite a fashion-centric household, right?

Yes. Both my parents are fashion designers and so is my sister. I started doing a lot of embroidery and hand stitching at a young age – at around six years old. My mom taught me. I remember when I was in school, I made a lot of small dolls for my friends on their birthdays. When I was starting out, my sister and my parents gave me a lot of advice and direction. My dad has a special technique for pattern-cutting so that was helpful to learn.

Why did you decide to go to London and study textiles?

I visited London when I was very young. I loved the atmosphere – how people loved art and that it was so international. I’m very much influenced by European and Japanese culture. For example, I like how Europeans love old things. In Japan, we like new houses but we also love our shrines and old architecture as well. I like the idea of new and old living together. My job is creating new design but at the same time, I get my inspiration from stories, history and old stuff. 

So I wanted to study in London and applied for a foundation course at Central Saint Martins and got in.

You toured around Japanese textile mills at one point. Why?

After seven or so years in London, I wanted to know more about Japan and its great traditional textile culture. I visited many mills and printers, like a printing mill in Niigata; some in Kyoto, traditionally popular for textile design; Shizuoka for its famous cotton mills; and Fukui, famous for silk and synthetic fabric. When I was at school, I didn’t know where the fabric came from. I learned a lot about material from these trips.

Does your label name, Mannine, mean anything?

I took the first three letters from my name, Manri, and added the number nine. I like the number nine because it’s the biggest single digit number. I didn’t like the idea of using my full name and wanted to create something with no meaning.

What is the concept or philosophy behind Mannine?

I want to dedicate my clothes to people who like print, who enjoy print and colour and have fun with it. They are comfortable clothes. I don’t want to make tight dresses. People can take my clothes to travel around in and just have fun.

Exhibition booth at Machi exhibition Meguro Tokyo

After launching your label in 2013, you soon partnered with Isetan. How did this come about?

My first collection with Isetan was last September. I met some Isetan buyers at an exhibition and they picked up my AW collection and asked me to create something more from my graduate collection. I think they also liked that my clothes are accessible to everyone, regardless of age and size. I don’t have a particular target for age or size. My designs are quite flexible.

Fukumori store at Mansebashi Tokyo

And you have a second Isetan collection coming up this March?

Yes. My next collection for Isetan is launched on March 4 2015. It’s sizes 13 to 19 – so plus size. I like the idea of my clothes being open to all sizes. Along with this plus size collection, Isetan will also feature my fabric on a separate floor. Also, my own collection, the AW one, will be coming up at the end of March.

We say: well done Isetan for their creative vision – we just wish Mannine was available here in the UK!

Mannine at Isetan Japan, autumn winter 2014

Winning the first Miroglio Texprint Award: Charlotte Hetheridge

20 February 2015 by Editor

Back in September 2014 at Indigo/PV, the first Miroglio Texprint Award for Digital Innovation was awarded to print designer and Royal College of Art graduate Charlotte Hetheridge.  Besides winning a cash prize, Hetheridge was given the opportunity to go to the Italian print specialist’s company headquarters in Piedmont, Italy, and gain experience and exposure to the marketplace.

The result of this award and collaboration was an exciting hand-painted then digitally printed collection entitled  “Colour as a Language’ inspired by the vibrant colour and pattern seen among tribesmen in Papua New Guinea.

A smart promotional booklet about Charlotte’s collection was on display at Miroglio Textile’s stand at Première Vision Pluriel (February 2015).  Charlotte is now working as a freelance textile designer for Texprint sponsor Marks & Spencer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A recent article in Drapers (February 7) highlights the developments to be found in photo-realistic digital printing and mentions the Miroglio Texprint Award, quoting Texprint 2014 judges Jill Chatwood, design director at Lululemon Athletica, and Henry Graham, creative director Wolf & Badger, also Joanna Bowring, Texprint sponsorship director.

Internships: new directions for Texprint

21 January 2015 by Roger Tredre

© Charlotte Beevor 2014

Internships have become an integral part of developing a career in the textile sector, as in many industries. That's why Texprint is putting increased emphasis on supporting its designers to find internships both in the UK and internationally – and providing mentorship too.

Designer Emma J Shipley, a high-profile alumna of Texprint, points out that internships are a win-win for both intern and employer: "Internships are one of the best ways of starting out in the industry and it’s also a huge opportunity for businesses to benefit from the very best in new textile design talent.”

Texprint is working on a number of initiatives, ranging from a major UK-government funded scheme through to a long-running participation in the Italian textile industry's ComON scheme and an important and longstanding UK-based collaboration with the Worshipful Company of Weavers.

For designers, this is all good news. Texprint's involvement with its 24 designers, selected from universities and colleges across the UK every year, used to end with showing at Indigo in Paris in September (although awards winners had the opportunity to also show in Asia).

Now the participation in Indigo, while remaining a central part of the Texprint experience, is just one of the ways in which Texprint can support its designers to build their careers. Barbara Kennington, chairman, says: "Indigo is the highlight of the year, but we believe there are many other ways in which we can help designers taking their first steps in the professional world."

A pilot intern scheme with Liberty Art Fabrics in 2013, funded by the Drapers’ Company, has shown the way. Liberty chose its intern carefully and, after a year’s internship, Ffion Griffith has taken up a full-time position in the new role of Designer and Fabric Innovator. Brilliant news for Ffion, Liberty Arts Fabrics – and Texprint.

Ffion Griffiths (right); photo taken during her internship year at Liberty Art Fabrics 2013/14

There's more good news. Texprint is delighted to be at the heart of a new UK government funding programme known as the Employer Ownership Partnership for Skills pilot, announced in 2014. This is providing Texprint with up to £183,000 over two years, of which up to £95,000 is allocated specifically to an internship scheme for 20 placements.

Government minister Matthew Hancock, speaking at the programme's launch in the summer of 2014, acknowledges that the first step in a career is always the toughest. The transition from university or college to work is exceptionally demanding. "It's hard to get a job without having been in a job."

Alumnae Florence Angelica Colson and Emma Shipley, MP Mathew Hancock, Joanna Bowring and Helga Goldman of Texprint

In order to qualify for the financial support, each internship contribution of £4750 received from the government must be matched by the employer. That's why Texprint is currently actively seeking internship opportunities with potential employers across the fashion and interior textile design industries. Joanna Bowring, Sponsorship Director, says: "Any company looking to expand or improve its design capabilities should make contact with us now! There's a brilliant opportunity awaiting."

Meanwhile, Texprint now has the resources to supplement the funds for the internships organised through its long collaboration with the Italian textile industry's ComOn. Eight designers intern every autumn at leading Italian textile companies for seven weeks – a brilliant means of experiencing work at some of the most innovative firms in the world. Also in Italy, Miroglio, an acknowledged market leader in digital printing, sponsors the Miroglio Texprint Award for Digital Innovation, which includes an internship opportunity.

Texprint designers 2014; photo taken while on internship at Italian mills in Como

Looking to North America, the Lululemon Texprint Award offering a paid internship working between Vancouver, New York and Paris has now entered its third year. This has been so successful that Lululemon has taken two designers each year, rather than just the award winner.

Back in the UK, we're always delighted to participate in the Entry to Work scheme backed by the Worshipful Company of Weavers. The Company is one of Texprint's long-term supporters and sponsors the 'Preparing for Professional Practice’ mentoring pack that is given to Texprint designers each year.  

The Company visits the Texprint London exhibition each year and chooses at least one weaver (and often more than one) for a paid placement for six months with a UK weaving mill. This year Beth Humes has been placed for six months with Linton Tweeds. The scheme receives contributions from the Clothworkers’ Foundation, a very generous benefactor to many design colleges and universities as well as to Texprint.  

From interning to mentoring: the hugely expanded Texprint intern programme is also being matched by a mentoring programme called Hero Mentors, launched in 2013.  The idea is simple: to link up designers who would appreciate some support beyond Texprint. Mentors include experienced Texprint alumni or friends of Texprint working in the textile industry.

Post-college mentoring by experienced people has always been useful. These days, in a very competitive market, it's invaluable, particularly for those starting out on a freelance career or setting up their own businesses.

Texprint allocates a designer to an appropriate mentor (e.g. knitter with knitter). They meet face-to-face to discuss next steps and portfolios, then make contact at least once a month for a period of six to 12 months. The scheme has proved very popular with Texprint's designers – and most of our mentors have offered their support again in 2014.

Product designed by Florence Angelica Colson, Texprint 2013, while on internship at Lululemon Athletica in Vancouver

Surface View: the Texprint 2014 EDITS collection

15 January 2015 by Roger Tredre

© Jessica Stewart sketchbook

Five of this year's Texprint designers have created an outstanding home textiles collection titled Texprint 2014 EDITS in collaboration with Surface View, the bespoke interior decoration company.

Everyone connected with Texprint is thrilled with the results of the new collection, which are now available to view – and buy – on the Surface View website, with the designers receiving a royalty on all sales.

The collection includes printed cushions, lampshades, window films and large-scale canvases. It's part of a series of curated collaborations (EDITS) developed by Surface View.

 

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

Based in Reading, Berkshire, the company has a long association with Texprint, producing the signage for events in London, Paris and Shanghai.

The idea for a closer collaboration evolved in conversations with managing director Michael Ayerst when he visited the Texprint exhibition in London last July.

Tom Pickford, Surface View's business development manager, says: "It was great working with the designers and encouraging them to broaden their horizons and see what they can do with their designs. At Surface View, we are always looking to do something a little different."

Sarah Campbell making her selection, with Alissa Sequeira and Tom Pickford of Surface View

Celebrated textile designer Sarah Campbell has played an important part in bringing the collection to fruition. She was on the judging panel for the Texprint awards back in July, when she saw and evaluated work from the chosen 24 BA and MA graduates.

Five of the Texprint designers were invited to submit work for the Surface View project, including Kaila Cox, Charlotte Beevor, James Skinner, Jessica Stewart and Flett Bertram.

The imagery was varied both in content and construction, ranging from bold paintings to fine graphic manipulations. Sarah Campbell says: "I enjoyed the challenge of curating a cohesive group that allowed the best of these individual qualities to flourish and be seen. As I sifted, it seemed that the imagery fell happily into three groups – sea, earth and sky, the strata of the natural world."

She adds: "From the gestural landscapes, through sharp graphic collages, precise woven structures, florals both painted and drawn, to the meticulous astrological drawings hiding in a sketchbook – all were united by 'the elements’."

 

Working to the broad theme of the Elements and based on the designers' work for Texprint 2014, a cohesive collection emerged. The colour palette of the prints is broad, ranging from a black and white octopus to an orange and white hexagonal geometric to a multi-coloured floral.

Some of the designs were originally developed for fashion garments, but they work beautifully in the home textiles context too. When Sarah Campbell was judging at Texprint she commented that many of the designers were overly focused on the fashion sector. Now the designer, who first made her name with Liberty's as part of Collier Campbell back in the 1960s, has helped a new generation to understand precisely how great prints can be adapted to a broad range of products.

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