Hi! I’ve worked as a freelance printed textile designer and project manager for a textile design studio, and I want to give you a bit of insight into the wonderful career paths that are accessible with a textile design degree.
BA (Hons) Textile Design graduate
I think the title ‘textile designer’ is so easily misinterpreted because it is such a blanket term – people usually assume I just design clothing! There are so many different types of textiles that need designing; technical textiles, upholstery textiles, embroidery for textile application, printed textiles and not forgetting automotive textiles. The list goes on….and we haven’t even considered trend forecasting, wallpaper design and retail application!
Applying to study at University can be extremely daunting, especially when you aren’t entirely sure what career path you wish to pursue. I was quite naïve and narrow minded when I began my studies at BCU and did not quite understand the breadth and diversity of direction regarding creativity and employability in the textile industry.
Hopefully by the end of this post you will have discovered at least one new career path that is achievable after studying Textile Design, and be more informed than I was!
Luxury Textile Design
Many BCU graduates are excelling in their chosen career paths and have created award-winning designs. Emma J Shipley’s fine drawing, luxury scarves and cushions and all round hard work have led to her collaborating with high profile brands such as Disney; Star Wars and Beauty & the Beast projects, Aspinal of London on a collection of leather bags, as well having worked with Anthropologie and Atelier Swarovski. Emma has also just developed Animalia, a collaboration with interior furnishing experts Clarke & Clarke on a range of fabrics and wallpapers.
Adriana Homewares is a luxury homewares brand, created by graduate Adriana Gentile. Adriana is championing British design and manufacturing through her beautifully designed woven homewares and is currently looking to start exporting her products as well as possibly producing pet products.
I had the pleasure of attending university with Kate Hollowood who has recently won gold at the Driven x Design, London Design Awards in the Makers Method. We both studied print but Kate has taken a completely different route to me, as a Designer Maker and now creates bespoke interior accessories.
Another peer of mine, Jenny Whorton launched her company JennyWrenCraft in 2013 and specialises in making baby accessories, ranging from dribble bibs to bear hats and patchwork blankets. Her business is going from strength to strength and she in continually introducing new products to her online shop.
Zoe Hillyard – Ceramic Patchwork
Print Designer (freelance and in-house)
There are a few career options as a print designer – you can work under your own brand such as Emma J Shipley, you can design on a freelance basis for multiple clients or you can work in-house for a design studio or fashion house.
I currently design for Ensell & Hall who facilitate the printing and selling of my work, to a whole plethora of clients. Graduates Laura Hyden, Kim Wooliscroft and Sophie Cottrell also currently design for Ensell & Hall. Other peers of mine, have gone to work for studios in London – Josie Holuj currently works for Owens & Kim, a highly respected design studio. Graduates have also worked for Circleline, Whiston and Wright and Acorn Conceptual Textiles.
Laura Hyden is a great example of a designer working for a studio as well as pursuing personal projects and she has recently launched her wallpaper design ‘ChiMiracle’ with company Muck & Brass.
Eleanor Scott set up her company Nor Clothing after graduating in 2013. Nor Clothing is a cruelty free, vegan clothing brand based in Hull who offer a range of contemporary knitted pieces. Nor Clothing is stocked by TopShop Oxford Circus, Asos Marketplace, SilkFred and SHWRM.
Carpet Design and Manufacturing
Textile graduate Kayleigh Jones works for Brintons carpets after being involved with them on a trend based project during her time at BCU.
My peers Danielle Taylor, who specialised in woven textiles and Kelly Dyke, who specialised in printed textiles have both progressed into respective interior design roles. Danielle currently works for Mokka Design and has collaborated with designer makers such as Michelle Wilkins.
Home Furnishings / Interior Fabrics Designer
There’s a whole range of possibilities when designing for homewares and it can often have many cross over into Interior Design. Since graduating in 2014 Lucy Jones has designed for The Romo Group, based in Nottingham, who have established six brands which each have their own unique character and style.
Bronagh Teague moved to Bangkok, Thailand, to work as the Home Furnishings Textile Designer / Developer at the head office of Jim Thompson (The Thai Silk Company), the largest hand-weaving company in the world.
Bronagh Teague at work for Jim Thompson
Liss Cooke is a textile designer and jewellery maker based in Nottingham. She has created embroidery/ embellishment designs for Acorn Conceptual Textiles and is currently working on building her textile jewellery brand.
Leather Goods and Accessory Designer
Jasmine Gilhooly graduated specialising in print and founded her company J’D’Cruz in 2012. After completing an internship with Jimmy Choo, Jasmine really pushed her business dreams and now creates individual and beautiful leather bags and accessories.
Trend Forecasting and Consultancy
Not all textile design careers are solely focused on designing. The industry relies heavily on trend forecasters and creative consultants to ensure they are producing relevant products and services. Hannah Malein, Colour & Trend Consultant Manager at Colour Hive (previously Global Color) has worked her way up from a role as junior trend assistant. Her role involves her presenting the latest trends at trade shows and private consultations around the world as well as working with leading companies to develop their brand.
Amy Sellers works for The Future Laboratory as a Visual Researcher and has participated in an international residency with company Fabrica. Poonam Dhuffer has worked for WGSN as an editor and recently began freelance consultancy work.
Chloe Frost worked with Burberry as an Assistant Textile Designer and has since moved on to work for Stylus Innovation & Advisor as a Researcher in Colour & Materials.
There is also great scope within retail for Textile Design graduates. Grace Osbourne is Womenswear Buyer’s Assistant at House of Fraser and Emma Scott is Buyer & Product Developer at Simba Sleep. Navneet Kharod is a Buying Assistant for Accessories & Jewellery at Liberty.
Many textile graduates move into visual merchandising for all manner of retail stores, Holly Briant moved to Dubai after graduating to pursue this career. There have also been BCU graduates working for House of Fraser and Debenhams.
Many textile design graduates progress into a styling career for fashion or interiors as their design training equips them with a whole host of transferable skills.
Combining Academic and Personal Practice
BCU lecturer Zoe Hillyard specialises in embroidery but she has developed a practice that incorporates 3D design and ceramics, Ceramic Patchwork. Course Director Kate Farley, creates her own-brand surface design collections as well as pursuing freelance design work. Kate has not let the specialism of print confine her work to just printed textiles, but has worked on projects for Transport for London, the Barbican and David Mellor Design and most recently her collaboration with the Window Film Company saw them win gold at the House Beautiful 2017.
Zoe Hillyard – Ceramic Patchwork
Stationery and Greeting Card Design
Textile Design isn’t limited to just fabrics, and many designer will work with stationery companies to develop surface patterns for a whole range of products. Similarly, many designers have a passion for greeting cards and paper goods and so choose to pursue this avenue of design, such as Nicole Ruddock who works for Hallmark.
I’ve only touched on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the scope of career options in the textiles industry and beyond, but hopefully that it has helped you to have a greater understanding of the types of roles available after graduating.