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Meet the judges : Helen Palmer, director of textiles, materials & knitwear at WGSN

22 August 2018 by Meghna Sarkar in Fashion, Features, Sponsors, Judges & Champions

Helen Palmer has worked in the textile industry for more than two decades and almost half of that with WGSN, the celebrated trend forecasting and analytics company. Earlier this year Helen agreed to be one of TexSelect’s 2018 judges, working with a panel of fellow experts to decide which of the 24 talented designers should be shortlisted for the 2018 TexSelect Fashion, Interiors, Colour and Pattern Prizes. Currently the director of textiles, materials & knitwear at WGSN, Helen initially studied fashion knitwear and knitted textiles at Brighton University and has remained a textile loyalist. On joining the trend team at WGSN, her interest in the broader world of materials finally come together. “It was all the things I loved doing wrapped into one job,” says Helen. “I really love the world of textiles, knitwear, fabric, solid materials, colour – they are my universe.”

Along with recognising the most promising new crop of young designers, Helen and her team at WGSN were given the responsibility of choosing a winner for a new award this year, the WGSN TexSelect Textiles of the Future Award. “As Foundation Sponsors of TexSelect, we decided to do more for TexSelect and the young designers it supports, as well as raise awareness of the world-critical issue of sustainability. WGSN has had a long-standing involvement with TexSelect. “WGSN is all about the future and future creativity and helping to showcase upcoming talent, so this new award and everything it stands for is a perfect fit for us.”

WGSN has long been a pioneer of innovation and originality, so when it comes to sustainability, it is strategically creating various exciting and innovative initiatives to lead the way. “We have a huge client base around the world and I am sure all of those clients are having conversations and strategies around sustainability,” says Helen. “It’s important for us to be part of that conversation. We constantly look for better ways to inform ourselves so that we can better inform our consumers.”

In the world of textile and fashion, sustainability can be a tricky topic to discuss with never ending debate around the subject.  Brands and designers all too often giving greater importance to sales figures and fast-moving collections, than to sustainability and long term effects of clothing consumption on the world. However Helen Palmer and her team of forecasters suggest the industry cannot simply turn its back on the issue any longer. “Next to the oil industry, the fashion textiles industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, and there’s really nowhere to hide,” she says. “All retailers, brands and suppliers are very aware that the situation simply has to change. We have a really important opportunity to highlight the impact the industry has on the environment and to find ways to balance this, and young designers today can be central to this conversation. They need to be problem solvers, and to challenge their education institutions and the companies they work for to make fundamental changes.”

For Helen, the work showcased by the recently graduated designers at the TexSelect London Preview showed immense potential. “There are so many different ideas and approaches.  The variety is what makes TexSelect very interesting,” smiles Helen. “I love the unexpected and bold use of colour, especially in prints and weaves, and there’s a skilled approach to colour mixing, clashing and layering. It’s really nice to see such an experimental approach on a big scale. We also noted a gentler aspect with narratives drawn from personal experiences which were both provocative and emotional.” Little wonder that judging the awards was challenging. “Along with an genuine understanding and interest in sustainability, I was looking for originality in the storytelling and the background research,” says Helen. “There are a lot of designers out there so we have to look for someone who stands out and who has a distinctive approach – someone whose work feels new, fresh and exciting, and who has the potential to make a really unique contribution to the textiles industry.”

The judging panel, deep in discussion at the TexSelect London Preview, July 2018

*The WGSN TexSelect Textiles of the Future Award celebrates design and creativity that demonstrate future thinking around social responsibility and innovation for the textile industry. There will be three winners, each receiving an additional six months’ access to WGSN, coverage on the WGSN service, and time spent with the WGSN Materials team. The winner of the award to be announced at Première Vision Designs, Paris on the 20th of September.

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