Thinking about entering the competitive textiles design industry? Our Careers Consultant, Ingrid Bale, offers her advice on how to be successful!
What is it?
Textile design is a part of the creative industries sector which encapsulates every aspect of design involving knit, weave and printed fabrics, from raw material to finished item. Textile designers often work with fashion or interior designers to ensure that the fabric/textile that they are creating is perfect for it’s expected usage, this includes having the correct pattern and fabric properties (such as thickness or tendency to crease).
The industry tends to be split into two major areas:
- Interiors; soft furnishings, upholstery and carpets
- Clothing; either for fashion or specialist use (e.g. fire-proof)
Both areas create very different types of fabric/textile, with very different prints. It is important that you are focused on which area you would like to pursue, although the techniques used can be similar, the end product is not.
Where are the jobs?
Though some jobs are advertised in this industry, many organisations recruit from speculative applications. Companies looking for new designers tend to visit New Designers, Graduate Fashion Week or final year shows to scout potential employees.
There are several different types of institution that employ textile designers, these include:
- Large clothing retailers that design their fabric in-house e.g. Marks and Spencer or Next
- Clothing/furniture manufacturers that supply for smaller retailers
- Smaller design studios
- Many textile designers work freelance, for several different employers. This can often be a good way in to the industry as it allows you to network and build contacts in many different organisations.
- Freelance work may lead to self-employment – though this is usually after lots of experience in the sector.
Things to consider
- The textiles industry is a very competitive sector so you need to be able to deal with rejection, be resilient and most importantly be proactive.
- Which area of design are you interested in; interiors or clothing? What is your specialism? Knit, weave, print, embroidery, the list goes on!
- Does your work ‘fit’ with a particular organisation e.g. Monsoon, or sector e.g. children’s fabrics or industrial fabric for transport?
- Have you considered entering local, national or even international competitions? This is one way to raise your profile and to get your work noticed. As a starting point there are:
Most textile designers have a degree in textiles, knitwear, fashion, surface design or art and design.
You will also find that relevant work experience paid or unpaid is an essential part of getting into this sector. Therefore you will need to build good networks and relationships with design companies; this includes course tutors and Leeds alumni.
You can take a look at Leeds Network to find relevant alumni, and may even be able to secure some work experience or an informational interview! Attending relevant trade fairs such as New Designers, is also an effective way of making contacts.
Having an online presence is also very important. This can include having a website or blog and also being present on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Try to portray your interest in textiles throughout these channels, so that potential employers can see that you are passionate about your sector.
Skills and Qualities
It is of the utmost importance that you have a keen interest in design, textiles and crafting – and enjoy working with a rage of style and techniques.
It is also essential to have:
- A strong portfolio that you have developed through your studies and work experience
- Artistic flair, creativity and the ability to draw
- Good computer aided design (CAD) and IT skills
- An eye for colour, texture and pattern
- Attention to detail
- The ability to understand new trends and good knowledge of the market
- Good communication skills particularly when liaising with customers or explaining design concepts
- Good organisational skills with the ability to meet deadlines and work within budget
- Business skills including marketing and public relations, particularly if self-employed
Careers Information Room – the occupational section has useful resources including books about this sector
Becoming a member of either these associations will give you access to opportunities for development and networking:
For general information about the sector:
- Job Profile Textile Designer; will also give details of typical salaries
- Design Council
- UK Fashion and Textile Association
- Creative Pool
- Creative textile and surface design show
- Exhibition for emerging design talent
- Artsthread: Online educational tool designed to connect students, graduates, universities and industry, exclusively within the field of design.
- Artsthread Blog: Graduates and final year students can upload their portfolios which can be viewed by organizations looking to recruit.