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Texprint Council: new member Carlo Volpi

16 July 2017 by Roger Tredre

Texprint alumnus Carlo Volpi, the Italian knitwear designer, has joined the Texprint Council which meets twice yearly to monitor and review how the charity is performing against its aims and objectives. We talked to him about his career and memories of Texprint.

Every year Texprint invites one alumnus to present his work at the entrance to the Texprint London event. For 2017 – a year when Texprint designs have been full of creative, contemporary use of colour – there could have been no better choice than Carlo Volpi.

The Italian designer, who was a Texprint designer himself in 2012, loves vibrant clashes of colour, not to mention stitches and textures. There is a joyous, celebratory, yet subversive element to his work. Fashion needs more designers like Volpi: upbeat, exuberant, happy. Barbara Kennington, honorary chairman of Texprint, says: “Carlo is such an original talent. We’re delighted he brings his energy and passion to the Texprint Council.”

Vogue Italia raved about Volpi’s Autumn/Winter 17/18 collection, calling it “totally wild – a concentrate of youthful enthusiasm.” Volpi himself has breathed in the irreverent energy of London and turned it into something special. “My point of reference is irreverence. I am interested in the parameters we use to define what we consider attractive or ugly.”

                              Carlo Volpi - Autumn/Winter 2017-18 | Pitti Immagine Uomo

That is also expressed in his mix-it-up approach to construction, thinking nothing of combining traditional cable knit with heat-sealed polyurethane. For Volpi, rules are there to be broken.

                               Carlo Volpi Knitwear - Domestic Queen Collection, film by Josie Phillips

While Volpi has taken his own route, he advises young designers to think carefully before they start up alone. “It’s a million times harder. You have to be completely dedicated because you will be tested. There’s a view among some young designers in Britain that going it alone is like being a bohemian artist. The Italians are more workmanlike about it – they appreciate the importance of sales and marketing and business.”

Volpi has had brilliant press coverage, but he warns: “It’s great to get your name out there, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into sales. It’s important not to forget that and to focus on building a business.”

Texprint back in 2012 was a whirlwind of networking for Volpi. “It was such a great experience. I was just out of college and Texprint kept me motivated. It helped me make contacts and meet people. And all the Texprint team were so nice and helpful.”

In an interview after leaving the Royal College of Art, he explained the pleasure of knitting: "I've always thought knitting is a magic process, a bit like alchemy, where you can create these amazing garments with one strand of yarn and a pair of sticks. Anybody who loves knit will tell you this discipline is very addictive – it occupies my thoughts all the time.”

Volpi was perhaps destined for a career in knitwear. He grew up near Florence surrounded by cones of yarn and knitting machines – his grandmothers both worked for a small knit factory. He initially studied textiles for a BA at Goldsmiths, University of London, then returned to education a few years later at the RCA.

Besides building his own label, he continues to collaborate with a number of leading brands, and is a consultant for the Research Area at Pitti Filati. An important milestone in his career came last year when Volpi won first prize in the prestigious Who Is On Next? Uomo competition, promoted by Vogue Italia and Pitti Immagine. The judges highlighted his “marked technical and innovative skill combined with a brilliant interpretation of Italian manufacturing traditions in a unique knitwear project with an international look.”

A succinct summary of Volpi’s talent – and the reason why he’s a true inspiration for the new generation of Texprint designers.

http://carlovolpi.com

Texprint 2017: Notebook from London

09 July 2017 by Roger Tredre

The story of Texprint London 2017: we gathered reflections from designers, judges and industry guests at Chelsea College of Arts.

London was at its best. The sun was shining, Wimbledon was underway, and a new generation of designers were showing their work at Texprint’s London preview (July 5–6) at Chelsea College of Arts.

It took 20 minutes for one of that new generation, Maddie Whalley, a graduate from Leeds College of Art, to see her career begin. A leading fashion retail brand placed an order before 9am on the first day – quite possibly a record.

Busy start to Texprint London

These two days in the first week of July are when the cream of UK-educated design talent exhibit their work to the textile industry, including recruiters and talent spotters.

Many of the young designers were informed that they had been selected for Texprint while attending the New Designers show with their universities in London in June. When Texprint Creative Director Peter Ring-Lefevre phoned them with the good news, the event had erupted with excitement. “I was totally gobsmacked,” said Nicola Rowe, who studied Textiles & Surface Design at Cleveland College of Art & Design. “All my tutors and friends were there – what a moment!”

Loughborough University has had particular reason to celebrate this year with an unprecedented four graduate designers selected for Texprint: Angelica Chrysanthou, Rosie Moorman,  Sophie Harrison and Eve Gibson. And the first three of the quartet have been shortlisted for Texprint awards to be announced in September. Among this galaxy of Loughborough talent, Sophie Harrison’s textiles for automotive interiors have attracted plenty of attention, not least because they highlight the sheer diversity of work on display at Texprint.

Judge Elsa May, Product Manager Fashion of Première Vision, with designer Lucy Day

The substantial preparatory work behind Texprint is often overlooked. Nearly 200 young designers, all graduating from BA and MA textiles and textiles-related courses the length and breadth of the UK, were interviewed through June. Then Ring-Lefevre and his colleagues whittled down the list to just 24 names, who are sponsored to show at the Texprint Preview in Chelsea and at Première Vision Designs in Paris in September.

The day before the London previews, a panel of judges gathered to select the Texprint award winners from the 24 names on display. The awards cover four categories – Fashion, Interiors, Colour and Pattern – with the winners announced in Paris on September 19.

Texprint was delighted to welcome among this year’s judges the new design director of Amazon, Karen Peacock (previously head of design for womenswear at Marks & Spencer). Peacock said: “I’m thrilled to see the new generation of designers – so much imagination and creative energy.”

Judge Karen Peacock, Design Director Amazon Fashion, reviews work

Also judging were Elsa May, Product Manager Fashion of Première Vision; veteran industry consultant Eric Musgrave; and interior designer Guy Goodfellow and his creative director Jaine McCormack. And gatecrashing the judging process was Musgrave’s whippet Betsey, a true connoisseur of textile talent (or so her owner claimed).

Judges Jaine McCormack and Guy Goodfellow

Peter Ring-Lefevre, now in his 15th year as Creative Director of Texprint, noted a strong display of contemporary colour from this year’s designers, and a genderless aspect with fabrics working for both menswear and womenswear. He also identified an impressive contribution from woven designers as well as big-scale prints and textiles created for the luxe sports fashion, inspired by product and auto design.

Visitors were full of enthusiasm for the sparkling work on display. Catherine Scorey, Womenswear Director of Ted Baker, said the work was “really inspiring with very high standards and very diverse.” Sophie Chappell, Global Head of Product Development at Atelier Swarovski, agreed: “I think the talent is absolutely amazing – I’m blown away by these youngsters.”

Designer Abigail Barnes shows her work to Sophie Chappell, Global Head of Product Development at Atelier Swarovski

Dominic Lowe, a long-term sponsor of Texprint through the Sanderson Art in Industry Trust, added: “The breadth of creativity and innovation in textiles is so impressive. This year the work has been particularly strong on colour. And it’s good to see how articulate and confident the designers are.”

Dominic Lowe (Sanderson Art in Industry Trust) looks at the work of designer Louise Williams

Industry experts noted that some of the most promising work was not in the display, but tucked away in a secondary presentation room. Texprint judges advised designers to reconsider the full potential of their work in preparation for the trip to Paris this September.

The importance of social media for marketing was another prominent theme this year, highlighted by the presence of a Texprint social media team at the event. Gill Gledhill, founder of communication and marketing agency GGHQ, commented: “Social media is vitally important in the way it provides instant access to potential new markets.”

The Texprint designers were also briefed on the business aspects of setting up a business and selling their work. Now  they have just a couple of months to prepare for their next big moment in the spotlight. Paris, here they come!

* The short-listed designers for this year’s four Texprint awards are: Fashion – Kate Connell, Charlotte Des’Ascoyne, Olivia Qi; Interiors – Lucy Day, Julia Liddell, Hayley McCrirrick; Colour – Roberta Fox, Sarah Maybank, Rosie Moorman; Pattern – Angelica Chrysanthou, Sophie Harrison, Helen Loft.

Short listed designers with judges: from left - Sarah Maybank, Julia Lidell, Helen Loft, Olivia Qi, Charlotte Des'Ascoyne, Jaine McCormack (judge), Guy Goodfellow (judge), Elsa May (judge), Eric Musgrave (judge), Karen Peacock (judge), Angelica Chrysanthou, Sophie Harrison, Kate Connell, Lucy Day, Rosie Moorman, Hayley McCrirrick, Roberta Fox

Meet the 2017 judges: Guy Goodfellow, interior designer

29 June 2017 by April Kosky & Kristina Ezhova

Interior designer Guy Goodfellow is joining the judges of this year’s Texprint awards. We talked to him and creative director Jaine McCormack about the Guy Goodfellow Collection of fine fabrics and wallpapers.

Langton Street is a charming street located right off the King’s Road in London’s Chelsea. It’s a part of town often known as the Chelsea design quarter, housing a diverse range of luxury interior brands, including the Guy Goodfellow Collection. And Guy Goodfellow himself is judging the Texprint 2017 awards.

Goodfellow founded his own company in 2002. Working with a team of architects and interior designers, he specialises in breathing new life into old country homes, producing timeless, elegant and quintessentially English interiors.

Photo: Robert Barber

He recalls being fascinated with interior design and architecture since he was “knee-high”. He worked at Hackett and Colefax & Fowler, and designed a five-star hotel in Brussels at the age of just 24. “It is all luck of the draw,” he laughs casually, but it doesn’t take long to see the passion he has for what he does.

The company has a dual focus – architecture and interior design. While working on a residential project almost a decade ago, he had the opportunity to develop textiles as a bespoke service for the client’s home furnishings. In 2008, the Guy Goodfellow Collection was established as a separate business with Jaine McCormack as creative director. She introduced the concept of using and redesigning antique textiles. The company’s philosophy is founded on antique textile and artisan construction, carving out for itself a distinctive place in the market.

The textiles are frequently inspired by fabrics found at flea markets and fairs, but McCormack points out that the company develops new prints too. The collections are developed organically by slowly adding in new colours or designs. Manufactured in the UK, the fabrics are produced through both digital and hand-screen printing. Although the process of hand printing produces wondrous one-of-a-kind pieces, it’s an expensive option. That said, technological advances have enabled a relatively small business to produce textiles that might once have been prohibitively expensive and complex – such as the remarkable embroidered antique fabrics in the collection.

On sustainability, Jaine McCormack is honest: “Everybody wants to be ethical, but textiles is one of the least environmentally sound processes.” But the company’s very focus on conservation and craftsmanship has a sustainable philosophy to it – we should treasure what we have rather than endlessly obsess over the new.

Photo: Robert Barber

The artisanal craftsmanship on display in the company’s showroom is a pleasure to explore, decorated with Guy Goodfellow Collection fabrics and wallpaper. The showroom shares space with three other brands. Allyson McDermott’s heritage wallpapers are on one wall, with magnificent panels reaching from floor to ceiling. She is often employed by the National Trust to recreate a historic wallpaper from a scrap uncovered in an old English house. Also in residence is Volga Linen, a textile company that takes all its inspiration from Russian archives. Finally, there is Cloth and Clover, a small printed collection of fabrics produced in the UK.

Although quite different to the Guy Goodfellow Collection, the brands serve as a complement to it, all focused on high quality, artisanal products. The emphasis is on small-scale, UK manufacture, and long-term relationships with artisans and designers.

Currently, the Guy Goodfellow showroom is host to a ‘Maker’s Tale’ exhibition. Swathes of beautiful multicolour silks hang in the window. McCormack explains that the exhibition focuses on a “lady who forages seasonally on the South Downs where she lives. She’ll maybe pick ash, or walnuts, or rhubarb and create dye recipes using those materials. This absolutely speaks to the artisanal craftsmanship we want to celebrate more and more.”

The ‘Maker’s Tale’ exhibition is a project that McCormack wants to repeat every couple of months, a rolling exhibition that showcases the work of an up-and-coming craftsman looking to break into the industryThe next space available is February 2018.

Jaine McCormack’s personal involvement with Texprint dates back some 30 years – and she’s been working with Guy Goodfellow for nearly a decade. Over the years, the Guy Goodfellow Collection has bought artwork from Texprint designers, used for inspiration for developing new fabrics.

They see Texprint as a great chance for young people to showcase their work – and point out that it is important for all textile professionals to check out the young designers’ work. As Goodfellow explains, “We’re always looking for the next thing that is going to interest, so we have to keep our eyes open the whole time.”

Photo: Robert Barber

Texprint Council: new member Andrew Stevenson of Paul Smith

13 June 2017 by Harriet Wolstenholme & Marijn Brok

Texprint alumnus Andrew Stevenson, now a senior textile designer at Paul Smith, has joined the Texprint Council which meets twice-yearly to monitor and review how the charity is performing against its aims and objectives. We talked to him about his career and memories of Texprint.

The interior of the Paul Smith head office in central London has the exact quirky ambience you’d expect from the designer. Andrew Stevenson, who has been working as a woven and printed textile designer at the company for four years, fits in perfectly – relaxed and stylish, but with a quirky silver nose ring.  

Before all this, there was the student Andrew. In 2010 he graduated from the Royal College of Art and won both the Texprint Chairman’s Prize and Interior Fashion Prize. Winning the accolades boosted the young designer’s confidence. “I think it is great recognition for what you’ve done, because at university you’re in this closed world just looking out,” he says.

From Andrew's RCA weave collection 2010

Andrew Stevenson has worked twice at Paul Smith, leaving for a while to join Tom Ford as a womenswear fabric designer. He recalls “an incredible experience that really rooted my knowledge in fashion and textiles.” He worked in a small team and was involved in every single aspect of the design process: “Tom Ford is brilliant, really charismatic and friendly.”

But then Paul Smith came back to him with an excellent offer, so Andrew returned to the menswear department, developing both woven and printed textiles. Four years later, he appreciates the playful creative environment of the company. “It is a brand that really celebrates textiles and fabrics,” he says.

The London headquarters of Paul Smith has creativity built into its DNA!

It’s an involvement that perhaps was written in the stars from the start. It had always been a dream of Andrew’s to work for a brand such as Paul Smith. Born and raised in Northern Ireland, his interest in fashion was a natural progression from his youth. “When I was younger I was always inspired by, and wanted to wear Paul Smith,” Andrew recalls. “I first saw a Paul Smith shirt when I was on a school trip and thought it was amazing.”

Despite working for a brand with a strong and long-established design signature, Stevenson enjoys plenty of room for creativity and implementing his own ideas. “I think you are hired for your handwriting and your DNA, which is great – and it does develop and change a bit for every brand,” he explains. “I have developed a knowledge of the market, and Paul Smith’s colour sensitivity.”

Paul Smith spring/summer 2016 collection

Now Stevenson is returning to Texprint, this time as a new member of the Texprint Council. “I am really glad I have kept in touch because I think what Texprint does is really exciting. It’s really beneficial for students to have this kind of exposure when they leave university.”

The designer understands the pressures of the industry and what young designers have to endure after graduating. He treasures “the advice that I received on what it is like to work for a company and how to present and price your work.” That’s knowledge he now intends to share with a new generation of aspiring textile designers.

He thinks that London is an amazing platform for textile designers starting out. However the economics of the industry have changed a lot, he notes. “Especially since Brexit. As a company we have to negotiate for that, because we work so much with mills in Italy, Portugal, all over Europe.”

Stevenson believes it is important for fresh talent to be as open-minded as possible. “You need to open your eyes to what fabric can do, whether it is in a collaboration with an engineer or an astronaut.” But ultimately it comes down to aesthetics for Stevenson: “What the kids come up with is really exciting, really fresh. Innovation doesn’t have to be through LED lights or 3D sculpture. It can be aesthetic as well.”

Attitude and personality are important if you want to make it in this industry. “This is really important – as well as how your work fits in aesthetically.” Experienceis invaluable too. “It is great if you can get an internship – something which I didn’t do and always wish I had,” he admits.

Meet the 2017 judges: Eric Musgrave, fashion industry consultant and writer

05 June 2017 by Celia Fernández-Carnicero

Photo credit: Laura Lewis

Eric Musgrave has joined the judging panel for this year’s Texprint awards. We spoke to him about his love for textiles and observations on the changing industry.

Walk round any fashion, footwear or textiles trade show and it won’t be long before you meet Eric Musgrave. The British consultant, author and commentator is an inveterate networker with one of the best contact books in the business. Over the years, he’s also been a stalwart champion of brands old and new, ready-to-wear and bespoke – and has a reputation as an eclectic, individualistic dresser.

Musgrave has been observing and analysing the industry for 37 years. Best known as a menswear specialist, he has enjoyed award-winning stints as editor of UK trade title Drapers. He also edited Fashion Weekly and For Him (later known as FHM), and held senior positions on International Textiles (in Amsterdam) and Sportswear International (in Milan). He wrote a best-selling book on men’s tailoring, Sharp Suits.

Sharp Suits

Musgrave grew up in Leeds and studied history at the University of Hull before moving to London. These days, he lives in the lush countryside of Kent with his prolific author wife Jane Eastoe, a former fashion editor.

What makes a brilliant textile designer?

Technical skills are crucial and, of course, having a vision. Balenciaga once said, “Everything starts with the fabric,” and I totally agree. In menswear, it’s very difficult for men to wear wildly different styles of garments, so the creativity comes in the choice of fabric. You can have dozens, even hundreds, of the same shirt in different fabrics.

I’ve got a personal interest in textiles, and I think that the textile designer is often overlooked. The first thing I want to do when I see a dress, for example, is to touch and feel the fabric rather than look at the silhouette. With men’s suits, again, the first thing I look at is the fabric. It’s very difficult to imagine how a suit is going to look like on a moving body just by seeing it on a hanger. But the fabric can give you a very good indication.

How important is the role of initiatives such as Texprint for young designers?

Fashion is perpetually an industry with too few jobs and too many applicants. An initiative like Texprint is very important to raise the profile of promising new talent with potential employers from brands, manufacturers, and retailers. For the young designers, it’s an important platform to remind them that creativity must be merged with commerciality – at some level – for success to follow in today’s market. The number of significant names supporting Texprint in some way, or visiting the Texprint awards or shows, is a testament to the position this initiative holds, not just in the UK but in the main international markets.

How has menswear and bespoke tailoring changed since you started?

Now it’s smaller. There are fewer bespoke tailors… I believe that bespoke tailoring is the true luxury. I think now fewer people are willing to invest in a bespoke suit because it’s expensive, but also because there is a lack of appreciation of all the work that goes into it and the skills involved. That being said, I don’t think bespoke tailoring will ever disappear, especially now that the handmade and craft have become fashionable and more desirable.

Where do you see the future of textiles?

The important thing for me is that any textile producer should know who they are and what they do. Countries like China have the technology to produce in a mass-production level, but they can’t replicate the creativity, the taste of the traditional European manufacturers.

Online fast fashion retailers all survive by having a lot of new designs all the time – that’s very hard to do for small businesses that want to focus on craftsmanship and deliver products with high standards of quality.

Do you have a piece of advice for emerging designers?

Stay true to what you believe in, but be aware that you have to fit into the commercial reality. Be patient and work first for an established company – to learn and make all the mistakes that you have to make before starting your own business. And never forget that you are part of a fantastic creative global industry.

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