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Working at M&S: the Marks & Spencer TexSelect Fashion Textile Award

6 June 2018 by Roger Tredre in Alumni Stories, Fashion, Sponsors, Judges & Champions

Roberta Fox shows her collection to Natalie Ansell, M&S senior print designer, and Libby Allan, M&S trend lead womenswear & lingerie, at Première Vision Designs, Paris Sept 2017

Iconic British retailer Marks & Spencer sponsored a new award for TexSelect in 2017, which included an opportunity for the winning designer to work for three months with the design team at head office. We spoke to Roberta Fox about her experience.

Designer Roberta Fox was the winner of the first Marks & Spencer TexSelect Fashion Textile Award, announced last September in Paris at Première Vision. Besides a £1,000 cash prize, she won herself the opportunity to join the design team for a three-month paid internship.

Roberta, who had studied Print at Edinburgh College of Art, caught the eye of Libby Allan, Trend Lead, Womenswear & Lingerie, at Marks & Spencer, when she first saw her work at TexSelect’s London show in July 2017. She says: “We were so impressed by the breadth of talent at the TexSelect graduate show – but Roberta in particular stood out in her considered use of colour and graphic print effects.  We felt that her keen pattern & colour eye would be a great fit for our team here at M&S”

TexSelect asked Roberta how she found the experience of working at Marks & Spencer this year. “It’s been incredibly rewarding, insightful and inspiring time,” she says. “It was such an amazing opportunity to work with a global leading fashion retailer and begin to understand the work that goes into producing their vast clothing collections.”

Her first week was a whirlwind of introductions. “I was introduced to various womenswear heads of departments: Print, Design, Fabric Sourcing and Colour. These informal meetings were really informative and eye-opening – at university, you’re not necessarily made aware of the numerous roles within each department.”

Left to right: Hannah Rivers (M&S print designer), Natalie Ansell (M&S senior print designer) with Roberta Fox

Roberta was set a project to pursue throughout her time at M&S. “This focused on how I could offer new interpretations on stripes, colour and non-print designs. I loved the research stage, gathering lots of ideas from various resources to gain inspiration to inform my own work.”

She adds: “I worked from my mood boards to create hand drawings that I then developed using Photoshop. It was great to follow through the whole process. However, I was aware I had a lot more time to create prints than the rest of the team who were continually moving from one project to the next while keeping on top of print requests!

“Sitting among the print team was really great, as I witnessed how much communication was needed between the print, design and buyers and how much consideration and decision-making was done before garments hit the shop floor.”

Roberta Fox print concept boards for M&S spring/summer 2019

There were many special moments, she says. “With my love and interest in colour, I really enjoyed sharing my time with the Womenswear Colour team. M&S is one of the few clothing retailers to have a colour department that creates and uses its own colour standards. This means that the colours used on the clothing are unique to M&S. I loved rummaging through the colour swatches as there were so many different shades, textures and fabric qualities. It was inspiring to see the skill of the colour team in producing such complementary palettes from so much choice.”

Any final thoughts? “I absolutely loved being part of M&S and I was so grateful for the opportunity to be able to design and be part of a vibrant and dynamic team. Thank you to TexSelect and all those people I worked with at M&S who gaveme tip-top advice.”

CLICK HERE for Roberta Fox (alumna 2017) portfolio and contact details 

CLICK HERE for Interview with Libby Allan 07 Sept 2017

Roberta Fox print concept boards for M&S spring/summer 2019

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