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TexSelect 2019: Notebook from London

14 July 2019 by Michella Oré in Alumni Stories, Fashion, Features, Sponsors, Judges & Champions

Fifty years of supporting textile designers is a very special achievement – and for TexSelect the celebration included, as always, the addition of 24 new designers to its dynamic network. The latest cohort of emerging talent, a mix of graduate designers from 17 colleges and specialising in print, weave, knit and embroidery/mixed media, showcased their work during the TexSelect London Preview (July 9-10).

Over the course of two days, industry professionals and textile specialists gathered at the Chelsea College of Arts, where the preview took place, to explore the designs and creative innovation of these young designers – and to celebrate TexSelect’s 50th anniversary.

Chelsea’s Banqueting Hall and Red Room seemed to come alive with richly hued textiles hanging from the walls and spread across the different stations set up for each designer. There was a palpable energy in the air as this was the first time many of the recent graduates had been given a platform to share their work with industry heavyweights. “It’s confirmation that I can do this,” Gabe Dolan, from Dundee University, excitedly shared.

ABOVE – Emma Sewell (right), Wallace Sewell, talks with designer Rhianna Parker-Yates…

Dolan, a print designer, whose work is primarily focused on interiors, creates pieces that mirror abstract paintings rich with emerald with chocolate brown hues. Soft systems and “breaking down space with fabric” is Dolan’s big interest. “I’m excited to see where fabric is going to replace hard, substrate material and make for more adaptable space,” he explained. Dolan is shortlisted for the TexSelect Colour Prize, the winner of which will be announced in Paris at Première Vision Designs in September.

ABOVE – Judge Kirsty McDougall (right) talks with designer Emma Fallon…

Priscilla Luong, a knitwear designer from the Chelsea College of Arts, was also shortlisted for the TexSelect Colour Prize, which she saw as affirmation of her achievements. “It has given me a boost of confidence in my work and in myself,” she said, standing next to the brightly knitted performance wear that rounds out her latest collection. Her designs are forward-thinking, drawing from the “lines of non-extension” on the epidermis to create fabrics and shapes that adapt to feel like a second skin for the wearer.

ABOVE – Debbie Buchan, AVA Cad Cam, talks with designers…

Sustainability was a top priority for many presenting at the previews. Knitwear specialist Stefan Elobi’s work is built around limiting plastic use and repurposing materials such as PVC before they reach the landfill. “I’m fascinated by waste, especially electronic waste,” he said. It’s his hope to generate a conversation about how clothes are made and how consumers purchase.

This was music to Libby Allan, Trend Lead Womenswear & Lingerie at Marks & Spencer, among the many visitors on day one of the London Preview. For the third year running, the company is sponsoring the Marks & Spencer TexSelect Fashion Fabric Award. Allan said: “We care about supporting creative talent particularly in the UK, and sustainability underpins everything we do at M&S.”

ABOVE – Libby Allan (right) talks with designer Jo Rance…

Besides providing the up-and-coming designers with exhibition spaces in London and Paris to present their work, TexSelect also provides an important mentorship programme that covers everything from business management (such as how to write an invoice) to marketing best practices and copyright guidance.  For Barbara Kennington, chairman, the importance of TexSelect’s presence over the decades has been clear: “The mentorship programme serves as a vital bridge for a graduate leaving university and going into the industry, creating an opportunity for each designer to gain confidence, connect with industry, making the first steps in their careers that much easier.”

ABOVE – Sarah Campbell (right) talks with designer Eve Row-Care…

Once selected, the designers present their work at the London Preview, where a committee of judges decides the shortlist for the coveted annual TexSelect prizes – an additional bonus for designers admitted to the programme. Prize categories include Fashion, Interiors (sponsored by The Clothworkers’ Company), Pattern (sponsored by Liberty), and Colour (sponsored by Mode Information).

Judges for this year’s shortlist were all TexSelect alumnae, which created a warm, supportive atmosphere as they considered the work being exhibited. The judges: Lauren Bowker, material alchemist of See The Unseen; Kirsty McDougall, weave designer and co-founder of Rare Thread; Carlo Volpi, RCA knitwear visiting lecturer and UPW Design Consultant; Emma J Shipley, eponymous print designer; and Fleet Bigwood, highly influential print designer and Central Saint Martins tutor.

The Marks & Spencer TexSelect Fashion Fabric Award was judged by Libby Allan.

ABOVE – Judge Emma J Shipley reviews work…

After announcing this year’s short list, each judge had wise words of advice for the designers in the room. “Use this amazing network, you don’t often get help in the industry so this is a great time to learn from each other,” McDougall passionately said. And Bigwood reminded the rising stars that now is not the time to pause but to continuously “do more work, keep moving forward and innovating”.

ABOVE – Judge, Fleet Bigwood reviewing work…

He’s right, of course. And, with Première Vision Designs coming up in September, these designers will have no problems in motivation to do precisely that.

*2019 shortlists: TexSelect Fashion Prize – Rhianna Parker-Yates, Lucy Spendlove, Georgia Hardman; TexSelect Interiors Prize – Emma Fallon, Charlotte Howson, Amber Sorayapour; TexSelect Colour Prize – Priscilla Luong, Gabe Dolan, Maddie Sellers; TexSelect Patter Prize – Ruth Blanke, Sophia Gray, Cindy Yu; Marks & Spencer TexSelect Fashion Fabric Award – Rhianna Parker Yates, Amber Sorayapour, Joanna Rance.

Winners for both the TexSelect prizes and the M&S TexSelect Fashion Fabric Award will be announced at Première Vision Designs Paris on September 18.

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