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Texprint alumnae stories: Genevieve Bennett and Philippa Prinsloo

4 October 2016 by Roger Tredre in Alumni Stories, Home, Interiors & Auto, Sponsors, Judges & Champions

They met on an art foundation course in Manchester, crossed paths again at the Royal College of Art, and were both selected for Texprint. Now – fast forward some 15 years – they’re working together on a major collaboration for John Lewis.

Visual designer Genevieve Bennett is best known for her high-end bespoke decorative leather coverings, but has worked extensively in the broader market and built an impressive portfolio of clients and collaborations. Philippa Prinsloo is Head of Design, Home at retail giant John Lewis, where she has worked since 2011 following seven years at Habitat.

Philippa Prinsloo, head of design, Home at John Lewis

The collaboration is part of the John Lewis Design Collective, which was established to build collaborations with top design talent creating unique pieces exclusively for John Lewis. Textile names include Maggie Levien, Wendy Morrison, Suki Cheema, Timorous Beasties and Bluebellgray.

The Genevieve Bennett collection is the biggest launch by the Design Collective to date (click here to find out more), including wallpaper, furnishing fabrics, cushions and rugs, all in-store this autumn, with bedding and bathroom textiles to follow for Spring/Summer 2017. Philippa Prinsloo is thrilled with the results: “Genevieve’s work has such a beautiful and elegant handwriting,” she says. “Everything has a wonderful tactile quality, and the colour is incredible.”

Cushion from the Genevieve Bennett collection

She points out that designers from a textiles background are intrinsically versatile. “You have that skill set of working with others, of curating a landscape, of thinking beyond a collection of textiles to a collection of objects in a room.”

Bennett’s design work is full of patterns that are mesmerisingly beautiful. Over the years, inspiration has come from a broad range of sources, ranging from the wood carvings of Hanoverian craftsman Grinling Gibbons to 3D paper engineering techniques. She loves “ceramics by William De Morgan, Moorish lustreware, Art Deco embroideries, Chinese lattice screens, and patterned tiles of all kinds”.

Prinsloo manages a team of 17 and is a busy traveller, regularly attending the big shows in Milan, Paris and New York, as well as Heimtextil. She also loves London’s East End, including Brick Lane and Columbia Road markets – and she’s equally influenced by her family roots in South Africa, although she left the country at the age of two and grew up near Manchester.

The new collaboration with John Lewis actually got underway last autumn with a small rug collection, where Bennett sought to translate the qualities of her bespoke leather coverings into rugs made in India for John Lewis. She appreciates the opportunity to convey the qualities of her bespoke work in products for a broader market. Her wallpaper for John Lewis, for example, uses surface print techniques, with a block-print effect that has a wonderful texture and sophisticated handfeel. “My core business is working with leather for luxury hotels and private residences, but I also really enjoy working to briefs which target different markets,” Bennett says. “It’s been very challenging and satisfying.”

What do they remember of Texprint? Bennett, who studied printed and embroidered textiles at the Royal College of Art, enthuses: “It was just the best experience. I was doing very experimental work and didn’t think anyone would get it, but I sold loads in Paris and it really helped me to set up my studio.” She also met Catriona Macnab, now best known as head of fashion at trends forecaster WGSN but then at Woolmark (both The Woolmark Company and WGSN are Foundation Sponsors of Texprint). Macnab offered her work straight out of college that helped to broaden her knowledge of colour and materials.

Philippa Prinsloo talking with Texprint 2016 designer Lydia Knight at Texprint London

Prinsloo was equally excited about her Texprint experience in Paris. “I was amazed by the quality and the number of companies that we were exposed to at Indigo [the former name for Première Vision Designs]. It would take one week to book all those appointments with the right people – Texprint facilitates an incredible fast-track approach.” She freelanced for three years after Texprint, before joining the design team at Habitat and then becoming, at 38, the youngest-ever home design manager at John Lewis.    

Genevieve Bennett is not the only Texprint and Royal College of Art alumna to contribute to the John Lewis Design Collective. Woven textile designer Margo Selby is another Texprint alumna familiar to John Lewis customers. And, as the Texprint generation of 2016 prepares to show in Paris, no doubt there will be more to come.

Room set, the Genevieve Bennett collection at John Lewis Home

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