Meet the sponsor: Katie Greenyer, creative director, Pentland Group
13 March 2016 by Roger Tredre in Alumni Stories, Fashion, Sponsors, Judges & Champions
Pentland, the fashion, outdoor and sports brand group, is stepping up its sponsorship of Texprint. We spoke to creative director Katie Greenyer, who has been a passionate supporter of Texprint for 27 years.
She’s the fast-talking, super-colourful creative director of Pentland, the London-based group that nurtures a flourishing stable of sports, outdoor and fashion brands ranging from Speedo to Red or Dead, Ellesse to Berghaus. In no particular order, she likes Airedale terriers, the colour pink, Liverpool, playing table tennis, red lipstick, Aesop night oil, gin and tonic, a nice cup of tea and Essex.
But back in 1989 Katie Greenyer was just another young designer fresh from college (Fine Art Printed Textiles at Liverpool School of Art), selected by Texprint to exhibit her work at Interstoff in Frankfurt.
She says: “Texprint gave me my first break in the design industry and put me on the straight and narrow. It changed me from being someone who just drew and loved doing print and colour into actually thinking this is a commercial, viable thing for me – something that I could do.”
Greenyer, who is now a member of the Texprint Council, is a passionate supporter of the charity’s work in supporting the new generation of designers. “The first opportunities that Texprint gives are so important – they are the ones that give you the confidence to have a career in the creative industries.”
Back in 1989, Greenyer also had no hesitation stalking the designers she admired – with impressive results. She pitched up at Christian Lacroix’s atelier in Paris (sans invitation) and was soon creating designs for the great French couturier. Back in London, she hounded Wayne Hemingway, founder of Red or Dead, who told her to p*** off and find someone “mad in England” – she promptly came back with Stanley Green, an eccentric who spent most of his life patrolling Oxford Street with a billboard reading “Less Passion from Less Protein”. Hemingway gave her a job. Pentland bought Red or Dead in 1996, which marked the beginning of her long association with the group.
These days, textiles is a relatively small part of her focus, but she realised early on that her experience as a textile designer gave her an ability to work across all forms of creativity in the fashion sector. Her work is about “colour and composition, about having a real aesthetic and a commercial approach. I’m constantly asking: Is it commercial? Is it right for our brand? How can we do it better? That’s what I ask our team.”
The scale of the Pentland creative operation is impressive. Careful attention to recruitment is essential for nurturing an innovative culture within the business. Pentland has its own ‘design pool’ of up to eight designers who work on 11-month paid placements, rotated across the brands to develop their experience and explore where they are most suited to work. As designers are employed in full-time positions, more places open up in the design pool for a new wave of young names.
It’s a clever approach. Texprint designers have come to Pentland through this process, including most recently Charlie O’Byrne (Texprint 2012), who was talent spotted by Pentland design pool manager Tamara Sivan.
Do these placements always work out? Aren’t some of the young designers occasionally a little difficult? Greenyer laughs: “I like difficult! It’s part of being creative. I am difficult too! I sometimes compare my job to herding cats.”
Both Sivan and Greenyer have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the design colleges and universities of the UK with a wealth of personal contacts. Pentland are constantly setting projects for students, enabling the company to keep in touch with the best creative talent in the country.
Pentland was founded way back in 1932 as the Liverpool Shoe Company, but it was the acquisition of Reebok by Stephen Rubin in 1981 that catapulted the business into the major league (it was sold in 1991). Since then, the company has established a global reputation for successfully nurturing brands and combining commercial acumen with creative flair.
The company is based in Finchley, north London, where Greenyer worked with Rocktownsend architects to design a work environment that has won plenty of awards and is abuzz with energy and colour (it includes a swimming pool and gym). “We’re a family business,” explains Greenyer, paying tribute to the Rubin family. “What makes us truly different is our appreciation of people.”