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Internships: new directions for Texprint

21 January 2015 by Roger Tredre in Fashion, Home, Interiors & Auto, Sponsors, Judges & Champions

Internships have become an integral part of developing a career in the textile sector, as in many industries. That's why Texprint is putting increased emphasis on supporting its designers to find internships both in the UK and internationally – and providing mentorship too.

Designer Emma J Shipley, a high-profile alumna of Texprint, points out that internships are a win-win for both intern and employer: “Internships are one of the best ways of starting out in the industry and it’s also a huge opportunity for businesses to benefit from the very best in new textile design talent.”

Texprint is working on a number of initiatives, ranging from a major UK-government funded scheme through to a long-running participation in the Italian textile industry's ComON scheme and an important and longstanding UK-based collaboration with the Worshipful Company of Weavers.

For designers, this is all good news. Texprint's involvement with its 24 designers, selected from universities and colleges across the UK every year, used to end with showing at Indigo in Paris in September (although awards winners had the opportunity to also show in Asia).

Now the participation in Indigo, while remaining a central part of the Texprint experience, is just one of the ways in which Texprint can support its designers to build their careers. Barbara Kennington, chairman, says: “Indigo is the highlight of the year, but we believe there are many other ways in which we can help designers taking their first steps in the professional world.”

A pilot intern scheme with Liberty Art Fabrics in 2013, funded by the Drapers’ Company, has shown the way. Liberty chose its intern carefully and, after a year’s internship, Ffion Griffith has taken up a full-time position in the new role of Designer and Fabric Innovator. Brilliant news for Ffion, Liberty Arts Fabrics – and Texprint.

Ffion Griffiths (right); photo taken during her internship year at Liberty Art Fabrics 2013/14

There's more good news. Texprint is delighted to be at the heart of a new UK government funding programme known as the Employer Ownership Partnership for Skills pilot, announced in 2014. This is providing Texprint with up to £183,000 over two years, of which up to £95,000 is allocated specifically to an internship scheme for 20 placements.

Government minister Matthew Hancock, speaking at the programme's launch in the summer of 2014, acknowledges that the first step in a career is always the toughest. The transition from university or college to work is exceptionally demanding. “It's hard to get a job without having been in a job.”

Alumnae Florence Angelica Colson and Emma Shipley, MP Mathew Hancock, Joanna Bowring and Helga Goldman of Texprint

In order to qualify for the financial support, each internship contribution of £4750 received from the government must be matched by the employer. That's why Texprint is currently actively seeking internship opportunities with potential employers across the fashion and interior textile design industries. Joanna Bowring, Sponsorship Director, says: “Any company looking to expand or improve its design capabilities should make contact with us now! There's a brilliant opportunity awaiting.”

Meanwhile, Texprint now has the resources to supplement the funds for the internships organised through its long collaboration with the Italian textile industry's ComOn. Eight designers intern every autumn at leading Italian textile companies for seven weeks – a brilliant means of experiencing work at some of the most innovative firms in the world. Also in Italy, Miroglio, an acknowledged market leader in digital printing, sponsors the Miroglio Texprint Award for Digital Innovation, which includes an internship opportunity.

Texprint designers 2014; photo taken while on internship at Italian mills in Como

Looking to North America, the Lululemon Texprint Award offering a paid internship working between Vancouver, New York and Paris has now entered its third year. This has been so successful that Lululemon has taken two designers each year, rather than just the award winner.

Back in the UK, we're always delighted to participate in the Entry to Work scheme backed by the Worshipful Company of Weavers. The Company is one of Texprint's long-term supporters and sponsors the 'Preparing for Professional Practice’ mentoring pack that is given to Texprint designers each year.  

The Company visits the Texprint London exhibition each year and chooses at least one weaver (and often more than one) for a paid placement for six months with a UK weaving mill. This year Beth Humes has been placed for six months with Linton Tweeds. The scheme receives contributions from the Clothworkers’ Foundation, a very generous benefactor to many design colleges and universities as well as to Texprint.  

From interning to mentoring: the hugely expanded Texprint intern programme is also being matched by a mentoring programme called Hero Mentors, launched in 2013.  The idea is simple: to link up designers who would appreciate some support beyond Texprint. Mentors include experienced Texprint alumni or friends of Texprint working in the textile industry.

Post-college mentoring by experienced people has always been useful. These days, in a very competitive market, it's invaluable, particularly for those starting out on a freelance career or setting up their own businesses.

Texprint allocates a designer to an appropriate mentor (e.g. knitter with knitter). They meet face-to-face to discuss next steps and portfolios, then make contact at least once a month for a period of six to 12 months. The scheme has proved very popular with Texprint's designers – and most of our mentors have offered their support again in 2014.

Product designed by Florence Angelica Colson, Texprint 2013, while on internship at Lululemon Athletica in Vancouver

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