We caught up with Adriana Gentile, BA (Hons) Textile Design graduate (2013), to learn more about her journey in setting up luxury homewares brand, Adriana Homewares.
BA (Hons) Textile Design graduate
Tell us about your role as Founder of Adriana Homewares. How would you describe your normal working day?
My role as founder is mainly focused on coming up with designs for the fabrics. I spend a lot of time liaising with the manufacturers while our fabrics are being produced.
I start by creating a design on my floor loom and then choose a colour palette, from my Pantone swatches. From there I take my ideas through each stage of the manufacturing process working closely with the manufacturers, to create the finished piece. Getting fabrics produced is quite a lengthy process so that takes up a lot of my time.
Co-founder Simon (my brother-in-law) focuses on the business side of things; like pricing and marketing, show logistics and stand designs. I’m really lucky to have him to bounce ideas off. There’s always so much work to do, I couldn’t do it all alone.
I wouldn’t say we have a normal working day, everything seems to come in waves; whether it’s preparing for a show or a photo-shoot, making orders in the studio or general business admin! Or sometimes it’s a bit of everything rolled into one, it just depends what we have coming up.
What do you love most about your job?
I love starting off with an idea, taking it through each manufacturing stage and then getting finished fabric back from the mills – it’s just the best feeling!
The manufacturing process takes months, so when you get products back it’s crazy to think you’ve designed this entirely from scratch or a wool fibre, and it started as a little idea on a rainy day.
How do you stay inspired and make sure you don’t get stuck in a creative rut?
I’m always researching and looking for inspiration, even if I don’t realise it. Instagram is such a fantastic visual research tool, it’s where I always find something inspiring. I love documenting my inspiration which I find when I’m out and about on my Instagram account. I always try to make time to visit an exhibition or gallery if I’m visiting another city or country.
I also get most interiors magazines, like ELLE Decoration and Homes & Garden. I think it’s really important to keep an eye on the market and see who and what trends are up-and-coming.
How have your studies at Birmingham City University aided your professional development?
My degree gave me the tools and the knowledge that I needed to start weaving! Without studying constructed textiles I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. It was mainly my Final Major Project in third year that fuelled my passion for weaving.
It was also great doing the interiors show at the NEC and exhibiting at to New Designers after third year, as that really gave me a taste of what it would be like when I did the shows on my own as well as how to talk to customers and clients in those situations. It gave me a great understanding of what is expected of you.
If you could go back and redo your degree is there anything that you would do differently?
I would learn even more skills and spend more time in different departments. I would also ask more questions! I’d invest more time refining my skills in programmes like Adobe Illustrator and InDesign, as that’s something I’ve had to work on after graduating. I’d also try and learn things that were outside of my specialism.
You’ve been very successful in starting your own business. Do you have any advice for current students who are hoping to start up their own business?
My main piece of advice would be to just follow your dream! I became self-employed straight after university and I just started weaving. It has taken me four and a half years to get to where I am now, but I definitely don’t regret it. Being 26 years old with my own Homewares brand is pretty cool.
You also need to remember that running your own business can be challenging at times, you have good days and bad days – feeling like everything is always going wrong, all the time! But when those good days come around and something really great happens, it makes all the bad days worth it! You really create your own luck by working hard.
The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Scheme was also a massive help in achieving my dream. They helped me put together a successful business plan to design my own dream. They gave me a loan which helped me start my business, by purchasing my first loom. I also connected with an incredible mentor, who I’m still friends with now – she’s always kept me on the straight and narrow and supported me. I can’t thank her and the Prince’s Trust enough, apart from recommending them to people that want to achieve their dream business, but may need a little helping hand.
Using British wool to create a British product is the foundation of your luxury textiles. What spurred you to champion British manufacturing, opposed to outsourcing internationally?
The initial idea we had, when we were thinking about what kind of a brand we wanted to be and what sort of a product we hoped to sell, was that we wanted to create the best product that we possibly could.
Factors that were important to us included: look, comfort and durability. Britain has so much fantastic wool, some of the best in the world! So, why go anywhere else? We use 100% British Bluefaced Leicester wool because it’s so soft and durable. It’s really the best for homewares.
Also, being based in West Yorkshire is fantastic as we have so many local textile mills at our fingertips. Whilst our fabric is being manufactured it never leaves West Yorkshire, until we have made it into products, keeping our carbon footprint as small as possible – another business decision that is so important to us.
You have exhibited at multiple shows, had numerous magazine features and consistently release new collections. What would you say is your proudest achievement to date?
It would probably be meeting HRH The Prince of Wales at a Campaign for Wool conference. That moment was absolutely surreal! We had just finished making our very first collection of products and we were ready to go to our first trade show, in London. A couple of weeks before, we were asked by the Campaign for Wool to take our products up to Dumfries House – for the conference to promote The Prince’s Trust- to show off our wonderfully woolly wares! It just so happened that I was allowed to meet HRH and show him what The Prince’s Trust had helped me achieve.
The textile industry is focused on forward thinking and originality. What aspirations do you have for the future?
We’re preparing to start exporting our products, so that’s exciting. We’re also focusing on working with some of the larger retailers. We also want to expand into different homeware products and maybe even into pet products!
We want Adriana to become a recognisable brand for textiles, not solely homewares.
If you had to give one tip to someone studying Textile Design what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Textiles can be anything, don’t restrict yourself. Become inventive! Don’t be afraid to develop your own handwriting style. No matter how wacky!
Head over to Adriana’s website to see more of her wonderful woolly wares.