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Andrew Stevenson’s sprint start to a career in textiles

28 February 2012 by TexSelect in Alumni Stories, Fashion

Andrew Stevenson has enjoyed continued success since he graduated from the RCA in 2010. Andrew scooped both the Texprint Interior Fashion Prize and the Chairman’s Prize that year. Andrew landed his first design job at Paul Smith, and last February he moved on to take up an exciting opportunity as a fabric designer for the prestigious Tom Ford brand.

How did you secure your current position with Tom Ford? 

A designer at the Yorkshire mill, Hield Bros Ltd, put me in touch with the fabric director at Tom Ford as they were looking for someone new to join the design team. I was interviewed there in February last year – and they offered me the job! 

Andrew Stevenson textile detail

What does your job involve?

I am the fabric research designer for womenswear. The role allows me to work creatively within the design team to develop new and exciting fabrics. The team is very small and I am involved in all aspects of fabric research for both the ready-to-wear range and special projects.  

Can you describe a typical day at work?

It depends on the time of year – every week is different and I am never bored! Usually there is a lot of work to do at the start of each season preparing mood boards and researching new ideas, as well as working on special projects for celebrities. I usually come to the studio most days and I’m involved with meeting suppliers and selecting fabrics with the design director, preparing for meetings with Mr Ford and working on the colour palette for each season.  A lot of the job involves helping to design new prints and jacquard weaves for the collection. During show time it is very full-on – helping with the final fashion show. My favourite aspects include travelling, visiting fabric archives, working on colour and of course designing. It’s a very demanding industry which includes a lot of late nights and weekends… but at the moment I’m not complaining – it’s very exciting and a lot of fun!

Andrew Stevenson sketchbook and research

What inspires you in your work?

I am often drawn to favourite artists such as Matisse and Hockney as well being inspired by film, photography, antique and vintage fabrics and unusual colour combinations. 

Choosing textiles as a career.

I started off doing fashion design in my Foundation year, but soon realised that I was really drawn to fabric and constructed textiles. I then specialised in weave for my degree at Duncan of Jordanstone in Scotland; fascinated with constructing cloth and the possibilities of texture and colour. As well as learning the technical aspects of design for weave, there was also a lot of emphasis on drawing and experimental mark making, which I found really opens you up, developing your technique. Then, the MA at the RCA was a whole new world… completely different to going to going to art school in Scotland. At MA level it is a lot more intense and focused – so I really pushed both weave and print design. Great tutorial support and ‘live’ projects helped me to design in a considered and intellectual way.

What qualities are needed for a successful career in textiles?

I think you need to have a good sense of colour, scale and composition to really visualise a small drawing, photo or design and see it as a garment or interior or art piece.  I chose to specialise in textiles for fashion as I find it fascinating to see how a print or woven textile will emerge as a garment – and how it looks on the body. 

Andrew Stevenson receiving the Chairman's Prize from Sir Stuart Rose of M&S in 2010

What have been the significant moments or events in your career so far?

Being accepted into the RCA, and winning a scholarship from the Worshipful Company of Weavers really helped me to make contacts – which led to jobs. A further significant moment was being selected for Texprint – as this really gave me a lot of experience in exhibiting and selling my own work in both Paris and Hong Kong. It really enhanced my understanding of the marketplace and the different levels in the industry.

Advice to new graduates?

Work HARD, focus on what you love  – and prepare a diverse portfolio, with different projects, clearly presented. Target your market as soon as you can in order to gain work placements and jobs or to set up your own business. 

Plans for the future?

I would really like to stay at Tom Ford – it is an amazing team and I would love to be part of the company as it grows. I love what I’m doing right now – and maybe in the future… to be the creative director of a brand.

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