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Meet the judges: Ariane Bigot, associate fashion director of Première Vision Paris

22 June 2015 by Roger Tredre

For the past 15 years, Ariane Bigot, associate fashion director of Pascaline Wilhelm, has worked directly with Première Vision.  Now she brings her wealth of experience to the task of judging the award winners at Texprint 2015.

Première Vision Paris – the world leader event for fashion industry professionals– is held twice yearly in the French capital and needs no introduction. Known to most people in the business simply as PV, it’s the must-see event of the year for anyone in the fashion and textile business.

Première Vision Designs, the specialist design show formerly titled Indigo, sits within the main PV and is a long-running major sponsor of Texprint.

Première Visions Designs, February 2015

A highlight of the year for Texprint designers is the chance to exhibit at Première Vision Designs in September (specifically September 15–17 this year). This opportunity has launched the careers of many generations of designers, some of whom return to PV later with their own studios.

PV is also where the Texprint Awards presentation is held, so it’s a key part of the calendar for Texprint – the place where Texprint interlinks with the rest of the international industry.

Ariane Bigot is very familiar with Texprint’s strong record for discovering design talent. She has worked closely with fashion director Pascaline Wilhelm since 2000 on the creative direction of PV.

She studied textiles at ENSCI-ANAT, and later studied in England at the University of Derby. Before joining the PV creative team, she worked at Galeries Lafayette for two years and Paris-based trend forecasters Peclers for six years.

Ariane with Pascaline Wilhelm and the panel judging the PV Awards (including Professor Clare Johnston RCA, centre)

Tell us about your personal connections with the UK.

I spent six months studying in Derby. I really liked the way of teaching art and fine art in the UK. I had the feeling that the pedagogy pushes students to explore their own creativity, to look for their own style with good technical support from the teachers. I also go to London for art exhibitions and shopping.

Professionally, I have some contacts with British textile mills exhibiting at Première Vision Fabrics. Personally, I have a friend teaching weaving in England – and a brother living in Cardiff for 17 years; he’s a researcher, a project engineer at Cardiff University.

Please explain how the Fashion Team at PV works, and what your work involves.

The fashion team is led by Pascaline Wilhelm, who manages all Première Vision Fashion information and organises new projects. She has an overview of each branch of Première Vision – Yarns, Design, Fabrics, Accessories, Leather, Manufacturing, Denim, in order to guarantee the coherence and specific relevance of fashion and trend information. In our team, we always share projects and ideas. Each member has specific missions, depending on their specific specialities. To be an effective team, we have to be able to use our creative process in order to serve the creativity of others – firstly, using the fashion information dedicated to the exhibitors, and secondly, using tools and information prepared for the buyers and visitors. The quality of this information comes from our capacity to share ideas, different points of view and most of all, working as a united group. My specific projects are focused on Première Vision Fabrics, on trends information, and on the materials and patterns selections for the forums. The fabrics and patterns we receive each season are really great starting points for our exchange.

Ariane with members of the PV team

After working at PV for 15 years, you must have seen a great deal of Texprint designers’ work?

Yes, it's always a fresh and inspiring moment. Full of ideas, enriched with many different aesthetic points of view and graphic experimentations.

How important are organisations such as Texprint in your view?

In our sector, young fashion and textile designers and students are the players of tomorrow. Promoting the meeting between them and the industry is a key for our future. Organisations such as Texprint are like a breeding ground for them to grow – a springboard for young creative people. 

What do you look for when you are judging a design award?

Creativity, originality, boldness, aesthetic commitment, a good colouristic approach, search for meaning, graphic dexterity.

How – and where – do you find creative inspiration for your own work?

Everywhere: in art, design, fashion, cinema, web, in street art and daily life, and also in exchanges with textile and fashion experts during the creative workshops organized by Première Vision. Also in all the fabrics and patterns samples that we receive each season from the exhibitors of Première Vision. Fabrics and designs collections continue to surprise me over the past 15 years – each season I'm so impressed by the creativity of the textile industry participating in our salons.

Meet the judges: Sarah Lowry, colour & materials designer at Aston Martin Lagonda

16 June 2015 by Roger Tredre

Sarah Lowry sitting in a bespoke Aston Martin DB9 Volante Q

We talk to Texprint judge Sarah Lowry, colour & materials designer at luxury British sports car manufacturer Aston Martin Lagonda.

The distinguished judging line-up for Texprint 2015 includes designers from many different categories. It’s great to welcome Sarah Lowry from the automotive sector this year.

As colour & materials designer at Aston Martin Lagonda, she has a demanding, varied job that requires a complex set of creative skills.

How did you start out professionally?

Having studied for a masters in woven textiles at the Royal College of Art, a group of us were awarded funding by the John Dunsmore Travel Scholarship to work with women in rural Nepal weaving with nettle fibre. I have always loved making products, and so back in the UK I was keen to get experience in manufacturing and was lucky enough to get a job as the carpet designer at Botany Weaving Mill, Dublin, which produces textiles for the airline industry. From there I went to work as a C+M designer for the airline industry at JPA Design, London.

Were you always interested in the auto industry?

I was always interested in materials, design and process. These passions are what naturally brought me to automotive after working as a C+M designer in the airline industry.

What are the specific challenges of designing for Aston Martin?

Our customers expect the very highest quality materials and we have to ensure the car looks fantastic, whilst still meeting our program timing, the specific industry testing standards and not forgetting production feasibility. It’s a challenge!

How important is it for you (and Texprint of course) to support the next generation of designers?

It is hugely important. At Aston Martin we offer internships, but for me it is more than that. The industry always needs fresh ideas and outlooks. Our next generation consistently bring these ­– and we will always need them.

What do you look for in great design?

In great design I look for something that does one or more of the following: introduces new techniques and processes, brings people together, creates more sustainable manufacturing methods or encourages us to question what we thought we already knew.

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

We are an island and as a nation I think we are very proud of our individuality, striving to be different. We attract people from all over the world to our art colleges. This results in our students taking inspiration from many different cultures. The UK colleges are a melting point of ideas and determination to stand out from the crowd.

Can you explain the parameters of your job? 

In the C+M Design department we develop the colour and material strategy for specific programs and for the cross car line material offerings. Among many, this includes designing materials such as leather, quilting, veneers, exterior paints and metal finishes. In order to deliver our designs we liaise with external suppliers. We also work with different internal departments to make sure we are aligned with the exterior and interior design, product marketing and program timing. All this  is while making sure we are up to date with the latest trends.

Bespoke Aston Martin DB9 produced by the Aston Martin Q team

What's a typical day like for you?

One of the elements I love about my work is that there is not a typical day. Just to give an idea, one day last week involved tasks such as approving sample colours, creating a spec for marketing cars, reviewing the gloss level requirements of a finish with the quality department, reviewing the colour strategy for an engine bay and meeting with a supplier to discuss their latest developments.

Where do you find your inspiration?

When I was studying I often got the best ideas for a new sample when I was weaving other samples, when I wasn’t looking for inspiration. I find inspiration in the gaps, those moments that we almost do not notice.

Meet the judges: Nicholas Oakwell of Nicholas Oakwell Couture

11 June 2015 by Sarah Waldron

Couturier Nicholas Oakwell talks textiles, embellishment and designing with Sarah Waldron.  Nicholas joins the Texprint 2015 judging panel end June to select this year's prize winners.

If Charles Frederick Worth was around now, I'm sure he'd be using the latest technology to build beautiful gowns. It's a balance of using technology but with some traditional disciplines at the same time. For me, that's what couture is about now. 

Texprint is so important because it’s developing textile designers and printers and every type of embellishment onto fabrics. I am so inspired by the fabrics. In the couture world, clients are always looking for exquisite fabrics, for embellishment, beading, hand painting – everything. They don't want run-of-the-mill.

I have a team of embellishment designers and they don't just do embellishment. They do printing, weaving, every type of possible fabrication. I give them an inspiration and they come back and show me visuals and then start developing all the different weaving and print ideas and beading and embroidery ideas. I see something and I go yes, yes, yes, and then I say how it all works together.

And then there’s the catwalk. There are so many layers to a catwalk presentation, just like making a gown. I'm like a conductor of an orchestra. I'm using all these different elements. It's about combining them and bringing them to their best, hopefully.

Nicholas Oakwell couture

If you look at every dress in my Panthère collection, they all have panther spots in different sizes, in different fabrications. We appliqued fur spots to make the leopard spots, printed it onto fur, beaded it in beads, did it in sequins but stacked sideways instead of lying flat. We did so many different types of embellishments. We printed it, for linings too. Sometimes you don't see the fabrics on the inside. For me, couture dresses are not how you look – it's how you feel. So when you put the dress on and you're feeling absolutely beautiful in it, you just radiate it.

I think there's something very luxurious about embellishment. Sometimes it doesn't photograph well, but it's not really about the picture – it's actually for the wearer, who can see the beauty in the workmanship. When people come into our store and see the collection, the exquisite workmanship stops them in their tracks.

Nicholas Oakwell - Flower collection spring/summer 2014

My Flower collection last summer was about using traditional style but modern fabrics. I found a moiré fabric that used a nylon thread. It was so beautiful to see how it gave a moiré effect just by the light shining on it. What gave it modernity was the fabric and the construction. We don't use fabric just on the outside of the garment, but also on the inside. We were using modern crinolines, removing all the horsehair, canvas, petticoats, tulle and netting. We had this sort of nylon mesh – it's the only way that I can describe it – that gave the construction a form. Making it modern, modern, modern.

I could spend hours in Première Vision or the big shows just looking at the fabrics and the technology. I like seeing how a designer uses materials and comes up with ideas.

Abigail Gardiner [2011 Texprint alumma and formerly at Nicholas Oakwell Couture] was my first embellishment textile designer. She came as an intern and then on the sponsorship programme, working with me for two or three years. Abigail took me to the Première Vision Texprint village for the first time. I was really inspired. It opened my eyes. I don't use a lot of print, but since then we’ve used it more.

Nicholas Oakwell couture

Most of our interns are textile designers and embellishment designers. They see how their idea of some type of embellishment can translate into a garment. I know some of the colleges are getting the fashion designers working with the textile designers. That is really important because you've got to work together as a team. There's no point in being a very creative textile designer and coming up with these wacky designs. Where's the customer? Where's the user? How is the designer going to relate that to a garment or furniture or whatever it may be? How can it be used? You've got to consider that as a designer. Otherwise your designs won't get purchased and you won't be a designer anymore. Collaboration is vital.

I remember being an intern myself. I did the whole hat collection for a runway show back in the 1980s. When someone gives you responsibility, you really grow up. I did another internship and I was shoved into a basement receiving boxes of knitwear, having to sit down and pack and steam them, put them onto hangers and sort out the kimballing, the little swing tickets and stuff. Now, when I bring people on board for internships, I always want to meet them and talk to them beforehand. I want to make sure they get something from it. I always like to find people who are really interested, and go out and do it.

I will enjoy the judging at this year’s Texprint. What am I looking for? The creativity, absolutely. That goes without saying. It doesn't have to use every type of medium – you can grab anything. If you're a weaver, you're a weaver. If you're an embellisher, you're an embellisher. If you print, you print. There's no point trying to go across all media, is there? But also understanding how that can translate into something that is going to be used.

And loving it really. I remember when I was a student, I thought, ‘Oh, I don't want to live and breathe fashion’, but actually you do. It overtakes you. That’s not a bad thing. Live and breathe it.

Note: A unique international festival celebrating British business creativity and innovation took place in Shanghai earlier this year. Items on display included a stunning gown (image below) created by Nicholas Oakwell Couture, hand embellished with some 200,000 ostrich feathers by a team of specialist embroiderers from the Royal School of Needlework.

Meet the interviewer: Emma Sewell of Wallace Sewell

30 May 2015 by Roger Tredre

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

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

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

Wallace Sewell scarf designs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us about Wallace Sewell.

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

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

Harriet Wallace-Jones and Emma Sewell

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

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

Wallace Sewell for Designtex

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

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

Wallace Sewell fabric designs for Transport for London

Anything to add?

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


Meet the judges: Julie Hall, head of design, Bedeck

26 May 2015 by Roger Tredre

We talk to Texprint judge Julie Hall, head of design at Bedeck, which is also sponsoring a new award with Texprint.

Textiles for bedding and bathroom are at the core of Bedeck, a company based in Northern Ireland that has grown to establish a global reputation since Alexander Irwin started manufacturing linen handkerchiefs back in 1951.

Bedeck head of design Julie Hall’s huge experience in the textiles industry is being brought to Texprint this year when she joins the judging panel for our annual awards. She’s also judging a new award from Bedeck itself – the Bedeck Texprint Design Award for Bed & Bath.

The winner of the new award will enjoy up to six months’ work experience in the Bedeck Studio in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, as well as a cash prize of £1,000. A great opportunity to work with one of the most outstanding textile design teams around.

After collaborating with retail brands for over 20 years, Hall knows everything there is to know about designing, developing and sourcing bedlinens, towels, cushions and accessories.

Originally from Cookstown in Northern Ireland, Hall enjoyed spells at some impressive design schools: a BA in Printed and Woven Textiles from Belfast University; a Post Grad from Winchester School of Art, and an MA in Textiles and Fashion Design from Central Saint Martins, London.

She began her career as a freelance artist, drawing and painting artworks for the fashion industry, then worked at the Anthea Davies studio in Kensington while studying at Central Saint Martins. She returned to her roots in Northern Ireland in 1987 and joined Irish linen company Ewart Liddell, part of the Coats Viyella group, as design and development manager.

The move to Bedeck came in 1997. As design and product development manager, she established new product sourcing opportunities, including China and India. She became head of design in 2006 and has established a dynamic in-house creative studio, developing the in-house brands, Fable and Murmur.

The new Bedeck award is great news. How important is it for you to support the next generation of designers?

It has always been very important – and rewarding – for me to encourage new designers, as it is vital their talent is fostered and directed into the creative industry. Colleges do a wonderful job at preparing graduates for the world of work – and internships and graduate placements further the development process. It is also imperative that the best of our design talent is acknowledged by bodies such as Texprint.

What do you look for in great textile design?

I love to see wonderful drawing skills, beautiful mark making and a fabulous sense of colour and balance.

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

I think students are encouraged to believe in their creativity, which in turn builds confidence in their ability. They are not afraid to push the boundaries and experiment. 

Can you explain the parameters of your job? 

Bedeck has the licence to design and produce bed and bath products for 17 brands. Among these are Sanderson, Designers Guild, Harlequin, the V&A, to name a few. I oversee the licensed brands and creatively direct the in-house brands.

What's a typical day like for you?

Every day is different, depending on where we are in the season. However, design meetings are scheduled for Monday mornings as this gets the week off to a flying start. The rest of the week I spend a considerable time with the design team going through ideas, concepts, sampling etc. We work closely with the marketing team ensuring we are on schedule to meet photography dates and product launch. I will also have supplier meetings and customer presentations. 

Where do you find your inspiration?

I am very privileged to be able to travel with my job and visit countries like India and the US. I also regularly visit galleries and exhibitions, a favourite being the V&A Cloth Workers as my passion is vintage and antique textiles. I love gardens, shops, markets, books, magazines, the internet. I suppose inspiration is everywhere!

Texprint alumna’s story: Laura Miles, WOVEN Studio

15 May 2015 by Cezary Koralewski

Laura Miles on her stand at Maison d'Exceptions, Première Vision February 2015

Texprint 1997 alumna Laura Miles founded WOVEN Studio at a time when the modern weaving industry appeared to offer few opportunities and few places to intern. After more than 15 years developing her own business, she’s built a formidable reputation.

Christopher Kane, Roksanda, Erdem and Michael van der Ham all have something in something – they have worked with a textile designer based in a small studio in Bethnal Green, east London.

It’s surprising how down-to-earth it is, despite tens of thousands of pounds worth of couture fabric swatches everywhere. “We work really hard,” says WOVEN Studio’s founder Laura Miles. “We can’t swan around in designer dresses. Actually, we just sold a fabric to Topshop – and we’re excited we can now buy something to simply wear.”

Shortly after Laura Miles graduated from Brighton University, she sold her final collection to Donna Karan and was selected by Texprint, showing at Première Vision in Paris. “Texprint puts you where people can see you, and that gives you a head start. It continues the momentum,” recalls Miles. She went on to sell designs to Italian mills, buy her own loom and open a studio.

Photos: WOVEN Studio

Miles found it tough at the beginning. “Big fashion companies were not really hiring many weavers. It was very easy for a printer or a knitter to find a job. Weavers were kind of forgotten about.”

She produced swatches of her designs and made contact with whoever had shown interest in her early work. “It’s a bit weird because in the beginning you’re weaving on your own,” recalls Laura. She now employs and mentors a team of young textile designers working at her studio (including an intern from Texprint 2014). “Now I’m never on my own.”

Her work has chimed with the mood of the times in the high-end fashion market. “Developing the fabrics is such a big part of fashion now. Every big brand has their fabric development team. They don’t want the same materials as someone else,” says Miles, whose thorough technical grounding has given her confidence to make the most of the evolution of the market.

Important to her work has been a long-term collaboration with Vanners, a silk mill in Sudbury, Suffolk, with a 275-year-old tradition. Spending one day a week in Suffolk, Laura oversees production of her own designs – and thus Vanners, at core a heritage brand best known for traditional neckwear silk, now finds itself manufacturing textiles for fashion houses such as Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga.

Her ability to handle both design and sales is a great strength, Miles acknowledges. “Designers appreciate working with a salesperson who is technical as well.” The difficulties of her job are part of the appeal. “Designers always try something different. That’s the challenge of it. And that’s why people work in fashion.”

The development of Laura’s designs never really stops, undergoing many turning points. “The thing in designing a fabric is that you never know what it’s going to become,” says Miles, whose textiles have been used for dresses worn by the likes of Michelle Obama and actress Helena Bonham Carter.

She tells good stories, including how Michelle Obama’s Thakoon dress used the reverse of her fabric. “It’s often not what you think they’re going to do with it,” she notes, laughing.

Laura and her team have become used to dressing the stars. “It’s nice when you can show it to your mum – and your granddad actually knows who the person is.” Although her name is rarely mentioned the press, Laura knows that is part of the deal: “If you want to be famous, you don’t get into textile design.”

Constant development keeps her enthusiastic. “I like finding new techniques and yarns and making something that didn’t exist before. I think that if I retired, I’d like to be a textile artist.”

She is rightly proud to be producing high quality fabrics in England. “When we recently went to PV and showed our fabric collection to Chanel and Lanvin, they said we look like an Italian mill now. That was the biggest compliment. You wouldn’t have come to England before for [these kind of] fashion fabrics – it’s always been about Italy.”

She loves starting from basics. “The thing I like about weaving is making something from nothing. You design a fabric from scratch, then put every single thread in it,” she says. A true pioneer of modern British textiles.

Laura talking to students studying fashion journalism at London's Central Saint Martins

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