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Succeeding in the textile industry with Laura Olivia

We’ve all heard about fashion designing but what exactly goes into being a textile designer?

Safeera Sarjoo
16th February 2016
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In addition to discussing, understanding and interpreting the needs of their clients, they must also consider how fabrics are used to achieve their end goal. While it’s easy to assume textile designers only design, they must also take into consideration various properties like weight, strength, performance and flammability.

A certain level of creativity is needed in order to succeed as well as the ability to draw and an eye for trends where colours, textures and patterns are concerned.  The industry has transformed so much that designers now use CAD packages to help with the design process.

Whilst some textile designers branch out and establish their own brand and venture into the world of business, others continue to build a client base, which helps to raise their profile and standing within the industry.

Laura Olivia established her design studio in 2010 and has worked with an array of clients across several sectors. She has worked with fashion, stationery, interiors and beauty products worldwide and has made a name for herself when it comes to using punchy, tropical colours.

The digital age has meant that Laura has been able to work on projects in Mauritius, USA, Asia and Europe. Her clients include Wilkinson, IndyaVogue, Dunlem, Tesco and Atmosphere Ltd.

Working closely with clients to deliver specific briefs is exactly what textile designers within the industry do and we were thrilled when Laura took a moment to answer some very important questions budding textile designers may have ahead breaking into the industry.

What is the best experience you’ve had within textile design?

I think the ultimate reward for me is seeing my prints on the shelves in my local shops, that was always my dream goal and the first time it happened, it was amazing! My first major project was with Wilkinsons who I designed a whole range of over 50 stationery products for, which went in to hundreds of stores across the UK with my name and photograph beside each one. It was a long time coming so it was a fantastic experience.

What are some of the challenges within textile design?

I think one of the hardest challenges in general is creating designs that are different and will stand out among the rest. There are so many talented textile designers out there; it is all about finding your own niche. Another challenge I would say in running a textile design studio is the business planning and financial side, and also finding the time for marketing when you are working on design projects. I think if you are going start out on your own then you definitely need to do some extra training in business, there is a lot they don't teach you at university!

You also design for stationery too. How does this differ to designing for clothing and interiors?

Textile design obviously includes weave, embroidery, print and knit. Print design includes many different areas such as interiors, stationery, fashion and even beauty product packaging which I have also been involved in. Stationery differs in that the products are flat so you don't have to worry about how the fabric will drape. It also allows more scope for placement prints as not all artwork has to be in repeat. There is also the greetings market which includes cards, wrap and gift packaging, which is another huge area for surface pattern designers to consider.

What advice would you give to people who want to pursue a career in this industry?

I would say it is very important to have a commercial portfolio so really spend a lot of time researching the area you would like to go in to and make sure your work is relevant. If you are looking for a job after university but don't have much experience I really would recommend working as a freelancer for a textile design agent, even if it is part time, because they will be brutally honest and teach you how to get your work to a commercial standard very quickly and you will learn what sells in a particular industry. It also provides you with experience for your CV and if you are like me you may just decide you like it and develop a business from there, eventually dealing with clients directly. 

It is great to have a signature style but make sure your work is varied in style and colour, as different looks appeal to different clients or potential employers. I'd also say make sure you have a website, and one that shows your work off to its full potential.

Lastly I would say being assertive and confident will get you a long way. I was quite shy when I first started out and found approaching buyers and directors quite painful. The more you make yourself do it the more you learn that they are only human. Picking up the phone and having a conversation at their level will often lead to success and if it doesn't there is always something you can take from each experience to improve yourself as a designer.


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