My background lies in fashion knitwear, having specialised in this area during the second year of my degree in Fashion Design. That decision 13 years ago has led me into a very niche area of the fashion industry. Being experienced in knitwear makes my skills very desirable, however increasingly I have found this limiting. Often I’m hired to do the same…but different…but basically the same! I feel I have become pigeonholed into a certain area of the market, restricted because of my niche knowledge and unable to branch out to explore other areas of interest. I would like to build on my past experiences and technical knowledge of knit, but move forwards in a new direction.
My passion for textiles is not just limited to fashion and knit. I love all forms of constructed textiles and surface pattern design. I also have an interest in interiors and home accessories. This is an area I explored a couple of years ago, by designing and developing a collection of knitted homeware, including cushions and throws. I would like to push this idea further during my Masters by investigating new materials and techniques, identifying my area of focus and developing my own handwriting.
During London Design Festival (LDF) I went to a couple of the big shows; Tent and Designers Block, as well as exploring the Brompton Design District, Islington Design District and the Shoreditch Design Triangle. I have pulled together a selection of textiles work that stood out to me, not just for the aesthetics, but sometimes for the ethics, an area that I intend to research in more detail. Regarding aesthetics a common thread I noticed I was drawn to was the combination of pattern with texture.
LUCY SIMPSON at Designers Block: I really liked the work of Lucy Simpson, a materials-led textile and surface pattern designer. Her digital print designs are combined with silicone creating a textural surface that is irresistible to touch. I like her unusual mix of materials and the three-dimensional element she has added to what would have been a flat printed surface. She believes that ‘tactile surfaces need to be included within both interior and product design as the use of computers and technology make us desire a more tangible surface.'Simpson, L. (2014) Lucy Simpson[Online] Available from: http://lucy-simpson.com/ [Accessed 19 Oct 2014].
ZUZUNAGA at SCP (Shoreditch Design Triangle): I was drawn to the bold graphic patterns of Zuzunaga’s knitted blankets. The designs take inspiration from the digital world we live in, using the pixel as an icon of modern life. When I researched the brand more I found this description of their business ethics which resonates with me: ‘We believe in quality over quantity and uphold sustainable and ethical ways of working, valuing handmade craft over mass-produced, trend-following products. Our designs are produced using the finest materials; and our suppliers and manufacturers promote long term sustainability and growth, both within their own companies and their local communities.'Zuzunaga (2014) About the company[Online] Available from: http://www.zuzunaga.com/about-zuzunaga/ [Accessed 19 Oct 2014].
DONNA WILSON at SCP (Shoreditch Design Triangle): Donna Wilson started her business by designing odd knitted creatures, but she has now expanded her collection, branching out into ceramics, glassware, tableware, stationery and clothing. She has also expanded her range of textiles into areas other than knit, including rugs and quilts that were on display at SCP during LDF. Her distinctive style easily translates across different products. I especially liked the textural rug made from oversized felted loops, as it feels very contemporary to play with the scale in this context. In my own work I would like to be able to blur the boundaries between disciplines and design with a variety of materials and techniques.
BELDI RUGS at Tent: I’ve often thought I’d like to design a rug; a piece of handcrafted artwork. I like that there is so much freedom with the patterns you can create. Beldi Rugs imports rare, vintage Berber rugs from Morocco, as well as running a made to order service with simpler patterns. My favourites were the old vintage designs with an organic feeling, almost like colourful abstract paintings, but with texture.
PAPPELINA at Twentytwentyone (Islington Design District): Pappelina designs and produces woven plastic rugs in Sweden. They have developed an environmental policy and appear to be making conscious decisions to reduce harm to the environment. They have also chosen to keep production in Sweden, despite higher wages and costs of production. Their products have a long life, require minimal care and their design vision follows the “believe that simplicity lasts in the long run”.
KENANA at Twentytwentyone (Islington Design District): The hand knitted toys are made by women in rural Kenya, using locally sourced and naturally dyed wools. Kenana Knitters provides work for women in an farming community, allowing them to support their families and giving them hope for the future. Each toy has a label signed by the woman who knitted it, giving each piece a personal feel. I really like the ethos behind this business, set up to support a community, rather than exploit which is all to often the case in the fashion and textiles industry.
YURTA at Adventures in Furniture (Islington Design District): On the wall in the store were photos illustrating the craftsmanship that goes into making Yurta’s bold patterned felt rugs in the Tien Shan mountains of Krygyzstan. Often we know very little about the products we buy and mass production can feel very impersonal. I like the idea of a narrative that informs the customer about how and where a product is made.