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Texprint alumna story: Bonnie Kirkwood, woven textiles designer

15 November 2015 by Kathrin Huesgen

Bonnie Kirkwood on her stand at Première Vision Designs, September 2015

Texprint 2004 alumna Bonnie Kirkwood has set up her own business in London designing sophisticated woven fabrics for the high-end global market.

We’re meeting in her London studio in Woolwich, a ten-minute walk from Woolwich Dockyard Station, out in south-east London right next to the Thames. Bonnie Kirkwood, a designer of bespoke woven textile designs both for fashion and interiors, was selected to participate in Texprint back in 2004 and has been building her business ever since, while also working as a consultant with fabric mills.

Her designs are intricate with a traditional focus but modern edge. They are beautifully woven, based on carefully selected silk, wool and fancy yarns. She has a true passion for colour, recognised when she won the Worshipful Company of Dyers Colour Award back in 2007 during her MA in Constructed Textiles at the Royal College of Art, London.

Our discussion explores the hard-working realities of running your own studio. One of the biggest challenges, Kirkwood notes, is “that you can’t physically do everything yourself”. The reality of her business sees as much time allocated to admin as to the actual design work – evaluating production and manufacturing opportunities while also seeking to remain focused on her customers.

In addition to this, the set up of the loom and actual weaving time is a long process in itself, not to mention the time required for research and the thinking that goes into the artworks, mood boards and technical sketches her designs are based on.

How do you remember Texprint and how did it help you?

Texprint for me was after I finished my BA degree at Winchester School of Art. That was in 2004 – that’s 11 years ago. It was a huge help. Texprint provides a lot of support and opens your eyes to the realistic commercial world outside the student life and the student courses.

You are helped with all the information you need for invoicing, pricing, copyright, dealing with customers, and Texprint was there every single day to support me during Premiere Vision and the view in London.

And then you’re obviously meeting everyone else who is selected for Texprint… and everyone is so different. You gain a good network of potential future designers and contacts too.

How did Texprint help you understand the reality of the commercial world?

By being part of the private view in London and having the stand at I think it probably shaped it more as I knew that I wanted to eventually work in this way and sell samples. It was a very good experience to try that out at Première Vision Designs. you are exposed directly to the industry and the commercial world. Without that experience I think it would have been quite hard to understand and comprehend. Then Texprint supplies you with all the information on pricing and copyright etc.

Did that change your ideas about what you were going to do? Or did it shape it more?

I think it probably shaped it more as I knew that I wanted to eventually work in this way and sell samples. It was a very good experience to try that out at  Première Vision Designs.

How many samples do you produce per season?

Approximately one hundred.

That’s a lot!

Yes! I have to work to at least two main seasons per year – spring/summer and autumn/winter with mid seasons too. The collection needs to be new and refreshed for each collection, but also I am designing for all levels of the market and a variety of customers. Also, interiors is now just as fast-paced as the fashion industry. So there is no let up in between seasons either.

And you are consulting as well? On fabric concepts?

Yes, mostly with Italian furnishing fabric mills. I put together the new trends and colours to follow, then work directly with the mills to develop the designs. This is mainly for the UK high interior design market. They then sell the production to the relevant companies.

Ten years is a long time. Was there any time where you felt this was going to be really difficult?

All the time! Building, maintaining and growing your own business is a continuous hard process. During the initial years after Texprint I was working full time in design positions in fashion and interiors – at Designers Guild and Paul Smith, gaining great experience in the industry, but this meant that with starting my business, working evenings and weekends was necessary.

What do you think about new challenges for the industry, such as sustainability?

It has to be sustainable, and it will. I think a lot of people talk about it but no one’s really taking a hold of it. But hopefully in the next five years it will all become a huge part of the design and development in textiles, fashion and interiors as well – for people to understand and accept it as well.

Will the challenges of sustainability change the way Texprint works?

Maybe it has to start with the young designers and the students. The students themselves become interested and can push sustainability. And then Texprint [picks up] on that and accepts those students within the selection as well. That would help promote it.

Your advice to the new generation?

Make the most of being part of Texprint. Be sure to stay in touch with other students and the team – and be aware what an amazing experience Texprint offers.

Contact Bonnie:   www.bonniekirkwood.com+44 (0)7813 666907 / bonnie@bonniekirkwood.com

Alumna stories: Materials Alchemist Lauren Bowker

07 November 2015 by Editor

The Unseen's colour-changing headpiece for Selfridges’ Sagittarius Christmas window. Image: Selfridges

As ever Texprint 2011 alumna and materials alchemist Lauren Bowker is creating a stir.  In recent weeks Lauren’s latest work has featured in Vogue, Wired, Dezeen, Creative Review, the Evening Standard and Daily Mail among others.

We asked Lauren what the term 'materials innovation' means to her, and why it is important in so many of our life encounters?  Her response: “Materials in my view are a platform to communicate visually between both human and their environment. Materials are everywhere; I believe innovation is coming up with a clever and applicable way of harnessing the dormant materials, giving them further purpose.”

Lauren Bowker (right) and team. Image: creativeconomy.britishcouncil.org

Sarah Mower in Vogue.com calls Lauren ‘London’s First Fashion-Channeling Witch’ and goes on to write: This week I met a witch—a fashion-channeling witch—who proceeded to blow my mind. Lauren Bowker lives and works in London, formerly in the cavernous Georgian cellars of Somerset House and now in new labs, where she devotes her life to creating formulae capable of transmitting what she describes as, “Everything in the atmosphere we just can’t see, as humans.” Bowker tells me she grew up “Interested in the invisible—in ghosts and X-rays, and trying to work out how to manipulate nature.” She may look like a latter-day Batcave goth, but, as I found out, the truly spooky thing about this former textile-design graduate, who permanently dresses in mourning (more of that in a minute), is the supernatural size of her intelligence. To read full article CLICK HERE

Lauren’s umbrella brand The Unseen uses chemistry to create reactive fashion and accessories that alter in response to environmental change.  This autumn sees the launch of its debut limited edition accessories line AIR in Selfridges, "The accessory collection derived naturally from our wearable Air sculptures that we made last year," Lauren told Dezeen in a recent interview. To read full article CLICK HERE

The Unseen's AIR accessories line in Selfridges

Rosamund Urwin writes in the Evening Standard: If you were a child of the Nineties you probably remember colour-changing T-shirts and rings. I had both: a hand-me-down T-shirt from my sister that repeated washing meant no longer turned from Fanta orange to white in the sun but stayed a sad shade of sludge whatever the weather, and a tortoise ring that I broke by running under far too hot a tap. Lauren Bowker, the 30-year-old creator of the company The Unseen, describes her new designs as like those rings “but on acid”. For, two decades later, chameleon clothing has gone haute: The Unseen’s debut accessories collection launches at Selfridges. Infused with a special ink, it features a winged leather jacket that changes shade to reflect aerodynamic patterns created by the wearer’s movement (a technicolour dreamcoat for 2015), a rucksack whose colours reflect air pressure, temperature and light (indoors it almost always appears black but it turns green and red outdoors), and a phone case that changes colour as you touch it and with temperature changes. Prices start at £35 and go all the way up to £1,750.  To read full article CLICK HERE

The Unseen's AIR accessories line in Selfridges

Rachael Steven in Creative Review writes: The new collection for Selfridges includes a heat reactive scarf that responds differently to different sections of the body, a wallet and phone case covered in touch-sensitive formulas that respond to wearer’s circulation, and a leather backpack that changes colour in response to heat, light, shade and changes in air pressure. “The scarf has five formulas hand-painted within each devoréd section – we observed how different sections of the body react to specific material and coded each formula to respond to areas like the neck and head, causing deeper colours to flourish around the face then around the body,” explains Bowker. “This gives the user a sense of movement as they wrap the scarf around them in different positions.”  To read full article CLICK HERE

The Astrolounge at Selfridges, featuring items from The Unseen’s AIR collection. Image ©Matt Writtle, courtesy of Selfridges

Texprint Connects with Italian Textile Giants

25 October 2015 by Editor

Cones of brightly coloured silk at the Ratti silk-weaving facility

More than ever supporting graduate designers through properly structured internships is invaluable to fast track commercial awareness and industry experience, and Texprint’s ongoing relationship with Italian trade organization Unindustria Como is a great example of the benefits such a relationship can bring.

Unindustria Como is responsible for organizing an invaluable and unforgettable experience for promising European textile design talent, including for 2015, seven talented Texprint designers - the ComON creativity week, followed by seven-week internships with many of the globally renowned textile companies based around Lake Como in Italy. These are companies that have long understood the importance of investing in their future.

Designers with Lake Como in the background

Three Texprint representatives were invited by Unindustria Como to join the designers for the ComOn creativity week.  Creative director Peter Ring-Lefevre, who has taken part in the proceedings since the launch of the event nine years ago, also sponsorship director Joanna Bowring and chairman Barbara Kennington were delighted to accept and joined the Texprint designers for a packed few days of introductions and activities. Also invited were three professors from European institutions whose students were taking part. 

Fabric swatches from the Antonio Ratti Foundation archives

For the designers, their 7-week internships started with an Italian language class - not only are they going to be working in a new country, but also tackling a new language! Then, joined by the professors and Texprint team there were visits to the fascinating Antonio Ratti Foundation Archives and silk exhibition 'the silk gardens'; and to the Ratti and Canepa manufacturing plants to view their state-of-the-art production facilities and their inspiring textile archives. 

Designers looking at the Ratti factory archives

Designers being shown around the Ratti design studios

The next day a trip over the border to Switzerland to visit Consitex SA, the super-efficient bespoke menswear manufacturing unit where brands such as Ermenegildo Zegna and Tom Ford are made.  There was also a day visit to the Milan Expo 2015, a global showcase where more than 140 participating countries aimed to demonstrate a concrete answer to a vital need: Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life (this exhibition closes 31 October). Plus visits to Centro Tessile Serico, the textile testing laboratory, and the Como Silk Museum.  All-in-all, a packed programme!

 

British Pavilion at Milan expo 2015

Each evening the designers, visiting professors and Texprint team were joined by Unindustria Como members to enjoy dinner together.  On the last evening dinner was preceded by a reception in Como at an exhibition specially created for the young designers by Miniartextil, a unique organization that showcases the work of international textile artists.

Dinner with new friends and colleagues

The seven Texprint designers were matched with the following companies: Amy Bennett (print) with E.Boselli & C. SpA; Emma McCluskey (print) with Seterie Argenti SpA; Ciaran Moore (print) with Teseo SpA; Jessica Pickard (print) with Lisa SpA; Joanna Robins (mixed media) with Luigi Verga SpA; Stephanie Rolph (mixed media) with A.M. Taborelli SpA; and Gilles Werbrouck (knit) with Colombo SpA.

Our thanks to all these companies for providing the designers with this unique opportunity to experience working with textiles in Italy.

Peter Ring-Lefevre concludes: “Unindustria Como and ComON’s mission to create a hub of textile creativity fits perfectly with Texprint’s own desire to ensure that designers selected for Texprint are as prepared as possible for their future careers in the textile industry.  We truly applaud the Italian companies’ imagination and commitment to the textile design talent of the future.”

Unindustria Como, and Ratti/Marzotto Group are valued sponsors of Texprint.

Miniartextil exhibition of inspirational international textile art

Designers looking at the Ratti factory archives

Fabric from the Ratti Fondation archives

Dinner with some of the other visiting participants

Desk at Ratti where the emphasis is on creating original artwork

Illustrating the sheer scale of the Ratti factory archives

Fabric designs from the Ratti Fondation archives

Print screens at the Ratti factory

Texprint alumni story: Fairbairn Wolf & Skinner

05 October 2015 by Roger Tredre

FW & S - Jane Zhang, James Skinner and Tali Furman

Three designers from Texprint 2014 have joined forces to create their own London-based printed textiles studio. They launched at Première Vision Designs this September.

There’s Jane Zhang, from China. And Tali Furman from Israel. And James Skinner from Britain. Three designers, all stars of Texprint 2014, who have now formed their own limited company authoritatively named Fairbairn Wolf & Skinner.

Sometimes, even at a very early stage, you get a feeling that people were just meant to work together. You get that feeling with these three, all very different characters with different creative talents, but sparking off each other in a dynamic partnership with long-term potential. Judging by the amount of interest shown in their work at Première Vision Designs in September (including some major commissions), the industry agrees.

The work on display in Paris reflected their enjoyment in hand painting and screen printing. Even their digital work has painterly techniques in it. They are passionate about showing work that has a human element.

All three of them had been encouragingly busy since Texprint 2014, but they all craved the excitement of creating their own company. James Skinner tells the story: “We started talking about it last year. I was working with Circleline, Tali was with Burberry, Jane was with a number of Chinese clients. We started speaking again in May and drew up a business plan.”

They have a studio in Hackney, but are already looking for a bigger space in south London. James believes they complement each other well: “We’re all very different, but we want to cover a broad market. We are heavily promoting hand drawing, painting, screen printing ­– the craft side of things. For us, it’s a more interesting way of designing. It keeps us interested if we are experimenting and learning new things. We can also bring something new to the market – and clients like to see that designers are passionate about what they are doing.”

Little more than a year since they moved on from Texprint, the three of them have already acquired the ability to talk about their work like well-established professionals. Tali says she enjoys the marketing and business aspect of having her own business. “My job at Burberry was very creative and gave me professional expertise, so I owe a lot to them. But I like to be hands-on with business and sales too. For me personally, I really like to work like this in a small team. We also really like the travelling part – the exploring.”

Jane adds: “We can benefit from each other’s styles. For example, I got some freelance from China that was just perfect to pass on to James. We are all from different backgrounds. Personality-wise, we balance very well.”

Jane speaks Mandarin, of course, while Tali has Russian – linguistic skills that are helping them to market the company.

They look back on their Texprint experience in 2014 with warmth and fondness. James says: “Texprint changed me a lot. It gave me the confidence to go out there and know that the dreams I have will actually manifest. It gave me contacts, clients, opportunities I would never have had – and all straight out of university. It threw me straight into the industry.”

Next step for Fairbairn Wolf & Skinner is a trip to Intertextile Shanghai in October, with the support of UKTI, the UK government department that works with businesses. The three designers are demonstrably excited by the prospect – and by the possibilities that lie ahead. James concludes: “All three of us like to be in control, to understand every aspect of the business. We like to control our destiny.” They’re certainly doing that.

 

Jessica Leclere wins Woolmark Company Texprint Award 2015

24 September 2015 by Roger Tredre

Winner Jessica Leclere shows her work to Franco Fabrello and Kit Neale

Texprint's long links with The Woolmark Company are celebrated each year with the award of a prize in Paris at Première Vision Designs.

The judging for the Woolmark Company Texprint Award takes place right at the heart of things – at Première Vision Designs itself (September 15–17). And the judges were immediately impressed by Jessica Leclere's intricate handmade work.

Working with a focused, understated colour palette, the Anglo-French designer, who studied at Chelsea College of Arts and the Royal College of Art, explores structure and shape with exceptional imagination, also developing her knitted textiles into garments to show off their qualities. Both Emily Grieves and Gilles Werbrouck were highly commended.

The judges reviewing the work of designer Stephanie Rolph

This year's two judges were Franco Fabrello, head of design at Italian textile giant Marzotto, together with UK fashion designer Kit Neale. “Jessica has developed her craftsmanship and technique into something contemporary and distinct,” noted Fabrello.

Texprint designers eligible for the award must incorporate a minimum of 60% of Merino wool into their textiles, and demonstrate a good understanding of its qualities and potential application in fabric.

Leclere said: “I like to use Merino wool because of the way that it falls and because of its luxurious feel. Winning The Woolmark Company Texprint prize means that I will be able to investigate manufacturing and it will be invaluable in sourcing wonderful yarn.”

Jessica Leclere with Franco Fabrello, Rosita Missoni (prize presenter) and Kit Neale

Designer and judge Kit Neale, who launched his own label in 2011, enjoyed exploring all the work: “The overall standard is very high. Each designer has their own unique style and individual approach, which is really impressive and a great expression of Britain’s design graduates' creativity and artistry.”

Franco Fabrello commented on the high level of technical and creative ability demonstrated by all the Texprint designers. “I really liked the combination of the modern and the artisanal. These young designers are showing strong colour sense, technique and experimentation while recognising the reality of the commercial world.”

Round table discussion to select the winner

Rob Langtry, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at The Woolmark Company, was delighted with the choice of winner and emphasised the importance of Texprint's work. “Texprint has been and remains one of the key programmes we support. It is critical to the future of fashion – and textile designers are the key to matching emerging consumer demands to products that can meet those aesthetics.”

Judges review the work of designer Emily Grieves

Judges review the work of designer Áine Byrne

Judges review the work of designer Alex Pengelly

Texprint 2015 Paris: Première Vision Designs

18 September 2015 by Roger Tredre

Prize presenter Rosita Missoni with Texprint creative director, Peter Ring-Lefevre

The participation of all the Texprint designers in Première Vision Designs in Paris is the climax of the Texprint year. Here’s what happened.

It’s the ultimate challenge – the first response of international buyers to Texprint’s young design talent. Every September, all 24 textile designers selected for Texprint put their work in front of the global market at Première Vision Designs (previously known as Indigo).

Texprint 2015 designers with prize presenter Rosita Missoni

The three days in Paris (September 15–17) represent one giant learning experience – and this year the verdict from the industry was one giant thumbs-up. As many as 16 of the 24 designers had taken orders by the close of day one, a record-breaking number, reflecting the quality on offer.

Designers such as Jessica Leclere, who plays with structure and shape inspired by Art Deco and Russian Constructivism to suggest new directions for knitwear. She scooped two awards in Paris: the Texprint Woolmark Company Award and the Texprint Fashion Award.

Gilles Lasborde, managing director of Première Vision Design, talks of the important link between PV and Texprint

Leclere, who studied at Chelsea College of Arts and the Royal College of Art, said she had found the experience of exhibiting at PV Designs occasionally stressful but appreciated sharing it with 23 other designers. “It’s been nice to be with people in the same boat, to have the same worries – it’s reassuring to know that others feel the same way.”

Designer Shivani Chavda shows her collection to buyers

Or take Jayne Goulding, who worked for five years at retailer Marks & Spencer in lingerie design, but is now setting up on her own following completion of an MA at Bath School of Art & Design. By early on the second morning, her stand was looking somewhat bare: “I sold so much on day one – there’s not much left! I can’t believe it. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep.”

The days in Paris start for the designers at 6am running through until 7pm. Supported by Texprint’s specialist team, they have to be ready to talk brilliantly about their work to visitors and conclude business deals on the spot. Print designer Jessica Pickard said: “It is a long day, but really exciting. I did a few sales over the summer so I wasn’t too worried about the invoicing process. The buyers like my big motifs – the large-scale statement pieces with a hand-drawn aspect.”

Texprint Creative Director Peter Ring-Lefevre said: “Many of the designers have outstanding fine art and drawing skills but also know how to translate them onto computer. Their work stands out from the purely digital printed designs – and the industry at large is looking for this.”

Truly inventive digital work can also make an impact, such as Ciaran Moore’s brilliant fluid print collection and Amy Bennett’s quirky hyper-real prints.

Designer Ciaran Moore shows his collection to buyers

Also among the award winners this year was print designer Emma McCluskey, who won the Texprint Colour Award (sponsored by Mode Information) for her delightful prints inspired by Scottish botanical gardens. She studied Textile Design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.

Mixed media designer Joanna Robins, who graduated from University of West of England (UWE) Bristol this year, won the Texprint Pattern Award, while The Texprint Interiors Award went to Icelandic weave designer Anja Alexandersdottir, a graduate from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

This year’s judges, who made their choices back in July at Texprint London, were British couturier Nicholas Oakwell; Ariane Bigot, associate fashion director for Première Vision; Sarah Lowry, colour & materials designer at Aston Martin Lagonda; and Julie Hall, head of design, Bedeck. The winner of a special new award from Bedeck is expected to be announced shortly.

Prize winners Emma McCluskey, Anja Alexandersdottir, Jessica Leclere and Joanna Robins, with Rosita Missoni

As Première Vision Designs drew to a close, Joanna Bowring, Sponsorship Director of Texprint, noted the strength across the disciplines. “This year there were six designers each in print, knit, weave and mixed media, compared with the last three years that have been dominated by print. Knit was strong this year, with weave also coming up, reflecting a focus on texture.”

The Texprint prizes were presented by the legendary Rosita Missoni, who founded Missoni in the 1950s with her husband Ottavio. Missoni, now in her eighties, had powerful, moving words of encouragement for the young designers, recalling how she progressed from Gallarate, an unassuming industrial town near Milan, to being feted by American Vogue in New York. “I’m so impressed by your work,” she told the designers. “Believe in yourselves,” she said. “And meet the right people!”

Rosita Missoni encourages the designers on their next career steps

Now that PV is over, two of the designers repeat the experience at the major Asian show, Intertextile Shanghai (October 13–15). Seven of the designers are preparing for extended internships in Como, continuing Texprint’s long-running connections with the finest Italian mills. And some are starting new jobs, including knitwear designer Alex Pengelly, who has landed a job with Nike in the US giant’s London studio following a meeting at Texprint London back in July. “I’m very interested in pushing knitwear forward and challenging preconceived notions about it,” she said.

That philosophy of challenging preconceived notions runs through much of the best work on offer from Texprint 2015. A vintage generation, on the cusp of making their mark on the textile industry.

Designer Jessica Pickard shows her collection to buyers

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