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From Texprint to academia: Elaine Igoe

24 November 2014 by Roger Tredre in Alumni Stories

Texprint encourages its designers to stay in touch. We love to hear how careers have progressed and share their news. So meet Dr. Elaine Igoe – yes, a doctor of textiles! – who was a Texprint designer back in 2001 and has gone on to a stellar academic career.

She remembers with fondness her Texprint experience. Winning the Breaking New Ground prize. Meeting the likes of Donna Karan, Ornella Bignami, Luca Missoni. Visiting Hong Kong and China (“something I could only have dreamed of doing”). Even the bad stuff is fondly recalled from the distance of 13 years – such as falling ill with food poisoning on her last day in Hong Kong and having to be nursed onto the plane by Texprint's Christian Dewar-Durie.

Step forward Dr. Elaine Igoe, Senior Lecturer in Fashion and Textile Design at the University of Portsmouth. It's wonderful to discover that a bona fide doctor of textiles has emerged from the Texprint group of distingished alumnae.

Elaine completed an MA in Fashion: Textiles for Fashion at Central St Martins after showing at Indigo and Interstoff Asia and designing a collection of menswear for London Fashion Week in 2003. She then embarked on an academic career at the University of Portsmouth and, after completing a PGCE, began a part-time MPhil/PhD study at the Royal College of Art in 2005.  

After many exciting years of research (interrupted by maternity leave) she completed her PhD in February 2014. The title of her PhD is appropriately formidable: “In Textasis: Matrixial Narratives of Textile Design”.

How did you find yourself drawn to the academic route?

After completing my MA at Central St Martins, I realised that I really enjoyed talking about and thinking about my working methods as a textile designer.  I was always interested in a concept and process led approach to designing surfaces.  I had long known that I wasn't a commercial textile designer, but that my textile designs were examples of what textiles could be, and therefore innovative and had a certain value to industry.  I knew that by following an academic route, I would be able to pursue my interest in talking about the textile design process as well as undertaking more formal research to develop my processes and theories.

It's great that you are a Doctor? Do you find you need to do a lot of explaining to non-academics about what exactly you specialise in?

Oh yes indeed! In fact, the premise of my doctorate is based on the lack of knowledge about textile design, and that's not even generally, but even within the wider world of design.  My thesis aims to begin an articulation of the textile design process and how this sits with design research theory. It touches on feminism and psychoanalysis to help explore the nature of textile design and the specific type of knowledge it involves.  When explaining what I do, I stress that its textile design, and this seems to help people understand a little better…I think!

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

It's different everyday and never boring, each year you meet a new set of characters, my knowledge of both my subject and people builds and develops constantly.  Working within academia has given me the chance to be myself within the design discipline of textiles.

What did you think of the new generation of Texprint designers in London this summer?

Wonderfully varied and extremely talented as always.  I particularly admired the surface embellishment and constructed textiles from the likes of Federica Tedeschi, Tali Furman and Flett Bertram as well as Charlotte Beevor's exuberant use of colour and mark-making. When I visited the Texprint Londonexhibition I was really impressed by the confidence with which they spoke about their work. In fact, I have since invited Federica Tedeschi to the University of Portsmouth as a guest speaker, the student's were really inspired by her.

Elaine Igoe and colleague viewing the work of Federica Tedeschi at Texprint London, July 2014

Any more good stories from your Texprint days? 

My overarching memory of my Texprint days was the comradery from the other finalists and support we were given and I have been heartened by the fact that I am still remembered by the organisers, 13 years on from my own moment in the limelight.  I do also remember being abit dumbstruck when Donna Karan herself came to look through my work and shook my hand, never mind Luca Missoni giving me my award! 

For more on Elaine Igoe's research:

www.port.academia.edu/ElaineIgoe

Twitter: @e_igoe

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