As part of the blog, podcast and support channels here at Fashion Podcast, I will be interviewing a selection of industry professionals about their roles, with the vision to support students in their early career choices as well as supporting graduates into their first or future job roles. I hope that you all find them insightful! These blog posts are scripted from the Podcast episodes from ‘The Fashion Toolbox Podcast’ available on all Podcast listening platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.
This week I am joined by Alice Turner, Alice is a Design Team Leader responsible for the print methods & processes at a renowned print and embroidered merchandise company. She has a passion for textile print and embroidery as well as a keen creative eye for detail.
Alice completed a variety of internships through her placement year at University which gave her a fantastic insight into the industry and the skills required to succeed. She is joining me to talk about all of the skills learnt in these internships and to fly the flag for the importance of industry placements and apprenticeships.
Fashion Toolbox 00:05
Can you tell me about how you came to working in the Fashion industry?
So, and it really all started at secondary school, when I did my Textiles class, so when I was about 11, and I just absolutely fell in love with it. You know, just everything. I have never done Textiles like that before. But the main thing was that I did not know what kind of job you could get with Textiles; I did not understand where it would lead to. I found all other career advice at school only showed a Fashion Designer and I knew that I did not want to do that. I just really wanted to be involved in the fabrics and the textiles and the making things aspect. And it was just this 'Fashion Designer' word I did not connect with because I was not necessarily interested in the clothes, it was more of what they were made out of and how they were decorated and that side of it.
So, I did Textiles at GCSE as well and I just had the most amazing teacher ever. She showed me her own personal projects that she worked on at home and let me use her fancy embroidery machine, you know that were not the school's machines. So, I was really grateful for that because it made me feel quite special, like she could see something in me, and the passion just grew from that. It just made me so much more interested in the class and I think she was the only teacher that I wanted to impress and the only class I wanted to stand out in in school. That teacher, I have actually seen her a few times since I have finished school and we have gone for coffee and stuff and she came to see my degree show at University. I keep in contact with her, so she knows what an inspiration she was to me.
Then at A level my school did not actually do Textiles, so I had to do Product Design, which was a bit, it is just what I had to do I suppose. I ended up making something out of steel, I think in my final projects, which was I was like, "What am I doing?!" but I found some night classes at a nearby college and because I was still in education, they were free. So, I did two Textile night courses while I was doing my A levels, and they were amazing. It was a group, I think they were retired women in the group because it was a class you could pay for, and I just had the most fun with them. We just chatted about textiles and I did a lot of printing and embroidery and making things and it was just a really nice gathering situation to be in and of course it let me continue with Textiles in that way when I couldn't at school.
So then, when I finished school, I went on to study Textiles with Surface Pattern Design at Huddersfield University. I just loved that; I did a sandwich degree with a placement year. And then when I finished, I went straight to working in the clothing company that I am at now once I graduated, and I have been there almost three years now.
Fashion Toolbox 03:18
Great. So you've been on quite a journey and I think it is really good that you had that opportunity at school so young to do Textiles, that's an opportunity that I didn't get, and I was a little bit like you in that I was kind of pushed down that Product Design route and hearing a lot about Fashion Design and that being like, the only role that you can get into, all the glitz and glam and it is just is really shameful that is the only role that is highlighted as being I don't know successful, I guess
Yeah, it is like that is the only one they could see value in. It is probably the schools that have not done the research into all the different fields for it as well. But it is bad because it just does not help you at all.
Fashion Toolbox 04:13
I would completely agree with that. It is, it is a lack of knowledge, really. I think that there should be more skill in terms of career advice so that people can actually guide you in the specific areas no matter what it is, even if it's not Fashion, you know, there's lots of specialised areas. And it is absolutely great to hear about your tutor that was so supportive, fantastic to know that there's people out there like that, that will support you in the industry.
Yeah, she was amazing. I can even remember we made waistcoats, and it is just simple stuff like that. She had two different patterns. And one was easier, and one was more difficult, the majority of the class went for the easy one as you would, but she was like, "Why don't you try the more complex one?" I think in the end, I did not actually hand that project in on time because it had taken me so long, I ended up doing it over like a half term break. So, I was disappointed because I do not think I got the grade for it. You know, it was not a massive project, but it mattered. And she said, "Oh, do not worry about it at all, but like what you've made is amazing. And you have spent that extra time on it." So even that was really good.
Fashion Toolbox 05:29
So, what role did you actually want to do when you first started out on your education journey?
Yeah, so like I said, at school, I just did not know what the job was at all. I just knew 'textiles, textiles'. So then at University that really helped me because the course that I was on, you had to do four disciplines in first year so it was print, knit, weave and embroidery and then you could specialise in one so I specialised in embroidery. I really want it to be an embroidery designer after that, and couture companies and Fashion houses really appealed to me, but I just did not know how you would get into it. I had this dream in my head of being in Paris working at an atelier, I loved that idea, but I just did not know if that will be possible.
One thing that really stood out to me at university was in a lecture, they once told us that we would obviously pick this course because we were not interested in making loads of money. And I didn't really agree with that, because I knew I wanted to be successful and make something of myself and I think they really focused on it being like an 'arty' course almost, and us as solo designer/maker, selling our stuff at craft fairs. And I did not want that I wanted to go out there in the big world and work at a really good company. I just wanted a good job really.
Fashion Toolbox 06:58
Yeah, I think they tend to do that to a lot of us in the art sector, and just, I don't know, dismiss it as being a successful role and it, absolutely, it can be, you can be successful. And you can probably make good money as well, in both Fashion and Textiles. There are so many roles out there, so many opportunities and like you said, when working for the big Fashion houses and maybe starting up your own business, there are many opportunities.
Fashion Toolbox 07:31
You have undertaken quite a few internships in London. Could you tell me about why you chose to do them and how you came across them as well?
I did the sandwich degree at University and that was something I knew I always wanted to look for in my course that I found because I thought with a practical course like that you needed real life experience and to make contacts, and also because the cost is very 'book based' kind of thing, you need that extra part of it. So I knew that I wanted that extra experience and just to see what it entailed in the industry what was out there, and to get stuck into it and get away from education for a while, because I just come straight from school and I had never had a full time job before, I had worked at cafes part time and stuff. So, I had never had any experience of work, Fashion work, Textile work, and I wanted to build my CV up while still being in that security of university.
I found most of my placements through the university placement system, which was good at Huddersfield. And then one of them was through a family friend who worked in the industry, so I was quite lucky there. And I returned to a company that I had started my placement year with to do another three months at the end of my year to do another London Fashion Week with them. So that was good that they brought me back there, because I think I worked at four companies in the end over the year, and I chose to do that because I know you could find ones that lasted for the full year, I did look and I thought, I wanted to see what was out there because I still wasn't 100% sure of what I wanted to do. So, I did take that risk, I suppose of finding shorter ones that were three months, six weeks, just to, experience more companies. And I found them all a real eye opener, and especially doing two London Fashion Weeks, the late nights for the build up to those and the work it entailed, it was crazy. And that really made me see that I did not want to work for a company that did London Fashion Week. It was exhausting! But yeah, they were great. They were really great.
Fashion Toolbox 09:58
I think it is really good that you chose to get that variety. And I would say that that is definitely a good way to go. I did not do that, sometimes I wish that I did. But I did a solid year placement. But, I mean, that was still just excellent. The knowledge that you learn on the industry placements is just fantastic. You know, you cannot get that from education. It is just so different, the skillset that you learn and everything.
It is. It is so important.
Fashion Toolbox 10:31
So, on that topic, how important are internships in industry?
Massively important. I think some companies I worked for, they actually seemed to rely on the interns to run smoothly and manage to get all the work out. So, from that point of view, the company's value you I suppose, as much as you value being there because they do need you. And unfortunately, that does come with disadvantages in that I only got paid expenses at most of the internships that I was at. So, I think that did come with me doing the shorter placements, whereas if I found a year somewhere, especially at a reputable company, I would have been paid. But I chose that other route. I do not think it is very fair to just get paid expenses, but it seems to be the way it is, and I would like to see a change in that really. But I think because I was still in the university environment, it was fine because I was getting a bit of a grant from university but there were people doing expense interns that were graduates which I mean, I think you're not allowed to do that? I think is it illegal?
Fashion Toolbox 11:43
I think it is, I think something came in not so long back that made it illegal, but I think when I was at university, it wasn't it's definitely not that long since at that happened.
Yeah. So, it is crazy, really. But I thought it was a really good step into companies though and a way to build up contacts and your CV and to meet these people and get an insight into other businesses. And also, how to meet people and communicate and see what is going on in the world. It is not necessarily the people that are working in the company, it could be the other interns that you are working with and chatting to them because you are at the same stage of education. And when you finish you need to gather the contacts in the industry that you have made through that same experience. And, you know, you could even end up working with them, you could set up a business with them. It is, you know, anything really,
Fashion Toolbox 12:41
Yeah, I agree with you that placements should be paid, it is not fair. And like you said to most companies, placements are absolutely invaluable, and they keep things ticking over, they do it year on year and in terms of the opportunity for networking, internships are priceless. Building your contacts is so important in the industry and for your career.
What would you say are the most valuable things that you learned on your internships?
So, because I worked at four different companies, and I thought it was, you know, even more of a great thing because I got to see and do a lot more. Because of me specialising in embroidery, I did do embellishment internships, that is what I was looking for, but I got a lot more into the Fashion side of it. So, I ended up doing a lot of pattern drafting and toiling and being involved in fitting sessions. And that was great to me. I got to make toiles something I had never done before and even make patterns for outfits and then especially seeing them being worn on London Fashion Week and the embroideries that I had done, it was just amazing to me to have those images up there on the internet that I could say, I helped to make this. That was amazing. Alongside going out sourcing things around London going to the trimming shops, seeing what was out there, hours and hours I would spend trying to find zips and things like that. It was tiring, but it was good, and it was exciting. You felt like you were part of something being in London as well.
I went to factories and liaised with them, like taking them the fabrics like leather to make trousers and just things I never thought I would do really. It was just amazing because I got to see all of this and it was design as well, I was involved with tech packs for when it went into bigger production and overseas for the garments. So, I was involved in a lot and I made really good friends while I was doing the placement as well. So that is another valuable thing.
Fashion Toolbox 15:07
It sounds like you had a really good insight in the placements that you had there how have these skills helped you in your career so far?
My confidence definitely grew so much from it and I felt that going back into final year. I thought in second year at university that I kind of got a bit lost with the projects I was on and I kind of lost interest I suppose in the course because I just wasn't sure what I was doing.
So, that year out really focused my mind and made me see where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. I went back in and knew what I wanted to do for my final major project and I had planned that in that placement year because I'd been working on a menswear collection and doing embroidery for a Designer Fashion company, you know on the pockets and cuffs and I went back to university knowing that I wanted to do embellishment, and menswear and enhancing things. So, it just really focused me. And I was confident. I went back and did a talk in front of first years about my placement year, which is something I never thought I would do in front of like, 40 first years, about my placement year, and I was like, I can't believe I'm doing this because before I would be terrified about anything like that. But I just felt like I had something that I wanted to share with people, and I want them to feel inspired and feel like they can do whatever they want to do, really. I still use things I learned in that year in my job now, as inspiration for directions we can go down. So yeah, I bring it in now like things that I saw things that I did that I was involved in. So, it was really useful.
And another thing that I think it really taught me was what I did not want to do and what kind of business I did not want to work for or be involved with and also, where I even wanted to look for a job when I finished university, it helped me with all of that.
Fashion Toolbox 17:12
Yeah, I absolutely agree with the focus part because I was exactly the same. I think I had totally lost direction in second year as well, did not really know what I wanted to do. And that placement just it really, I guess, because you have got to keep up with the speed of industry as well. You suddenly realise that university is not actually that bad. And you are planning and organisation just becomes spot on and it focuses your mind. You can decide what you want to do. I was exactly the same, I went back into final year, I had already planned like most of my collection, I had done mood boards and everything. So, it does prepare you well, I completely agree.
Yeah, because even my dissertation I was able to put a lot of what I had learnt in my placement year into that to hand in. So, I used that as my experience. And, the interviews and that side of it, the research was from my placement year so it was firsthand experience, what I had seen and I didn't necessarily have to go out and find something that I didn't know about. So, it was amazing.
Fashion Toolbox 18:24
What was the most useful thing that you learned at university?
How to be creative, I had a very Art led course and we were pushed to be experimental with everything that we did. So, we would just go crazy I remember doing a knit sample and I knitted necklaces into my piece, which, you just wouldn't necessarily do that in a commercial industry, but it just lets you push those boundaries and just do whatever you wanted, really.
And something else that stands out to me and final year was confidence boosting workshops they did with us. So, like the elevator pitch that we had to do and put in the room of everyone else on the course and if you met your dream employer in a lift, what would you say to them? And how would you sell yourself? So that was great. And the tutor again there, she was amazing and just really pushed us to say these things and was fully behind us because she knew us, and she knew what our potential was. And she wanted us to see that ourselves. And I think that, again, helped me so much from going for job interviews after university, just to know that I could do it and that I had these skills behind me and that I shouldn't necessarily be afraid of what I wanted.
Fashion Toolbox 19:42
Yeah, I was just going to say that about boundaries before you actually said it definitely shows you how far you can push things. I mean, in industry, you are probably a little bit more restricted, but at least at university and get to try that and it is kind of sets it for you, for the future, I suppose.
So how did you get into our current field of work?
When I finished university I spent the summer frantically searching for jobs like mad and knew that I want me to stay up north, I loved London and that is somewhere that I always thought that I was going to go but I think coming back for final year, I just fell in love with the North again and how nice everyone is and even the potential. Because in London, I could just see it was so crowded and everyone was searching for the same thing. But up here, I just thought there might be more room for me and there is a lot in Huddersfield especially, there are a lot of Textile companies, it is still a big industry up here for things like that. So, I just thought I will see what I can find. And if not, I can look elsewhere. But I found the company that I work at now and thought they looked really interesting.
So, we are a printing and embroidery company on clothing. So, we will do uniforms, leavers hoodies for schools, fashion brands, loads of stuff. And I just thought, this is a company again I have not really had much experience with them I do not know much about. So, I emailed them and had an interview and I started work that September straightaway so I was really grateful for that, but I kind of wish that I had relaxed more and enjoyed my last summer of no work! So when I started there, they asked if I'd be interested in an apprenticeship, and I was quite skeptical at first, because I had just done a degree so I to be honest I just thought "Why do I need an apprenticeship? I've got a degree what why would I do that?" So, I looked further into it, it was an NVQ Level 2 manufacturing sewn products with the Textile Centre in Huddersfield, so I looked, and I thought "Why not? Let's just do it. I mean, I am not losing anything. I'm doing it alongside my work at this new company”, So I went for it! And I am so grateful that I did because it was so valuable, and taught me so much more than I could ever have expected, mainly because I had never had a full time job before, and it really taught me about that. I felt at school and in University, they never teach you about having a job. And that is what the apprenticeship did. You know, simple stuff, like where is the fire escape? Where is the first aid kit? Questions like that, those that if I started at a company, I wouldn't have gone out and asked those questions, maybe because I felt self-conscious, I didn't want to seem annoying and asking silly things like that. But the apprenticeship made you do that and talk to nearly everyone in the company to find out that information even the directors. We had to do a project on how the company was founded, when it started, who worked there. So, I had to email these people and ask all these questions to learn more about it, and that really helped me because it made me more interested in the company, really. I could see where they started and who was there from the beginning and learn more about it. So, I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship to anyone because it was really good.
Fashion Toolbox 23:28
Yeah, it does sound like a really good experience. And I hear lots of good things about the Textile Centre of Excellence in Huddersfield, and they do have quite a few other courses there as, well don’t they?
They do yes, I think because we just decorate products I couldn't go any further there, because we would have gone for another apprenticeship after that, but because we don't actually sew the garments ourselves, I would have to have gone to another company to get to the next level but what I did was great.
Fashion Toolbox 24:02
In your opinion, how useful are apprenticeships for expanding your skill set in the industry? And do you think this is something which maybe should be promoted earlier on in education?
Definitely, I think they are amazing. It is on the job learning so it helps you to realise your mistakes and that it is alright to make mistakes, as long as you're learning from it and looking into them and ways you can improve. I think it makes you better at your job because you are looking out for those things. Especially with the mistakes again, for example, if I'd set up an embroidery and something had gone wrong on it, it wasn't necessarily the end of the world, because I was learning, so I knew this is what I can improve on so that next time I do it I won't make that same mistake again. Everything that you do you put into an A4 folder, including all the documentation. So, for example with that embroidery reference again, if I had made that mistake where it pulled in too much, I would have kept that piece and written about what had gone wrong with it. So, then you can see the progression you make over the year at the company. And I have still got that folder now, it is great to look through because it can still teach me things. And again, like I said about the company history, it's just asking those questions and looking at things that you might not have done at a company before, you would just sit at your desk and think this is my job, but it just makes you look that bit further into it. But yes, school should definitely push apprenticeships more because I have never heard much about apprenticeships at school before and if I did, I would say it was more focused on construction type courses and electrical engineering. That's what I'd put with an apprenticeship but especially at the Textile Centre of Excellence the things that they do there is amazing, and I would have loved that if I knew that something like that existed when I was at school, because it would have really inspired me but we just had no information about it.
Fashion Toolbox 26:14
Yeah, this is something that I find really frustrating because I believe that Fashion and Textiles are a trade skill. Just as Construction, Plumbing, Mechanics are a trade skill, as is the Fashion Industry and it should be treated as such. So those apprenticeships, for us interested in those industries would just be fantastic. If only they could be introduced sooner. So, let us keep our fingers crossed for that for the future!
What skills would you say are paramount to your role in the industry?
Definitely computer skills for me. At work we use Corel Draw, which I had never heard of when I started, at University we were just taught Photoshop and Illustrator. So, I would say, and I'll admit that I was quite snobby that I thought Photoshop and Illustrator were the bee's knees, and Corel Draw, I was like, "Oh, what's this?!" but I actually love it now. And it is definitely like an illustrator type programme, but it is so much easier to use. I have found that I cannot use illustrator anymore because I find it so difficult to redraw stuff. And, if a customer sends me an Illustrator file, I will open it in Corel Draw instead, I would say to anyone; search for other software's that are out there, don't just go with the Adobe Suite because there are alternatives. Wilcom we use for embroidery and digitising and again, we didn't use that at university, So, I have had to learn that at work. That again is really amazing software.
I also think that a real awareness of the commercial market is important for to me and making sure that the work is cost effective. Because we can make just one garment for someone and we can make hundreds of garments, but we need to know that the work we're putting into it is effective for that piece because I can spend hours and hours on one hoodie as much as that might want to! But you need to know about that and be aware of what you are working on really and be able to manage your time well. Definitely communication with people we have production in the same building. So, we need to make sure everything is running smoothly and that everyone knows what they're making and that it works for them, and that the job is easy because I think for a designer, it's so easy to say yes to everything, because for us the work is not as hard as when it gets to production. Last week, for example, we had an order for about 700 garments and they were all getting individually bagged, and the customer asked if he could have stickers put on the bags with his logo, so I was like, "Yes of course that fine" Then you realise it's 700 stickers that we're having to print, and they all need to be peeled off. So we ended up getting involved to help bag things and put the stickers on and it made me realise, that in design, I can say yes, it's easy for me to just design it because like the same work I put in for one garment is the same I put into 700 garments, but in the production side of it, that's where the time is. So, you need to be involved and be respectful for people that are doing that work as well and try to make it easy for them. And also, I think the willingness to learn and adapt and expand your knowledge as well is really important in Fashion and Textiles and to see what is out there and just be ahead of the game and be interested in it and love what you're doing.
Fashion Toolbox 30:04
Yeah, I completely agree with that I am totally committed to lifelong learning. And I think that the industry just changes so rapidly that we need to make sure that we are keeping up to date at all times with what is going on. It is not just about trends anymore, it is what software there is, what is going on, just everything really is just moving all the time. And it is so important to know and understand the knock-on effect that you can have in any role. I think especially as you say, as a designer right at the beginning of the process, you can just affect so many things that other people are having to do.
How important is it for a designer to be aware of fabric properties such as behaviours and characteristics?
Incredibly important, I cannot stress this enough. So where am I work, we use three different printing methods to fulfil our orders. So that's screen, transfer and direct to garment printing. So, when I am looking at an order, I need to know what print method is going to be most suitable for the garments that are in the order. So like polyester, for example, is really tricky to print on so I need to know that what I pick will be what the customer wants and will be happy with and will also look great, but also that the print will stay on the garment. Because that is something, I think that at university they never taught us how to cure inks and understand wash fastness and things like that. I remember doing screen print at university and we would hang things up to dry on a hanger, which I still to this day think, if I did that at work?! I mean it would take days for a start, but also as soon as it was washed, the print would just wash off and a customer I would not accept that. We have a massive dryer at work, a dual belt dryer, because screen print and direct to garment print cure at different temperatures, so we are just continuously having to do wash tests because if anything changes, we need to be sure that that product will stand the test of time and a customer can wash their top, for example every week and it's going to look the same. And another example is tri-blend materials. So, with polyester, cotton and rayon mixed together, they are quite fibrous, so the fibres stick out a lot. And especially with direct to garment it prints straight into the fibres of the garment so with tri-blends they can stick out and it can make the print look not very nice, so I need to be aware of that and try and find solutions that we can make it look better because it's all about the quality really and a customer being happy with what they receive. That can also apply to embroidery and making sure garment is framed correctly, because if you are just slightly off, slightly to the right, and it's going across the grain, then the whole design of your embroidery can be ruined, and it can just look wonky, and it just doesn't look right. So you need to make sure that's correct, that the backing you are using is stable enough for the material you're working on, if it's a thinner weight, and heavier weights, there is so much that goes into it all. Nothing is the same at all.
Fashion Toolbox 33:39
So much to consider!
So, what does your job entail and an average working day?
I mainly work on printed orders, which is funny as I thought I was going to be an embroidery designer, and that's what I wanted to do, but print has really captured me and I just love it. So, I would check that an artwork is good enough quality and suitable for the print method that I am using. So, for example, direct to garment, we can print directly from an artwork file. I would use Photoshop to make sure the resolution is correct, that there is no background behind it and make sure the size is set up, and then I would use Corel Draw to redraw artwork, for screen print I would use Coral Draw to separate artwork colours, etc.
And that is something else that I want to stress, at university I had no clue what the difference between a raster and a vector graphic was. And this is something that I have learned at work, I cannot believe I mean, even now, it did take me a while to get my head around it, I do not know why. But I just could not, I did not really know what the difference was between Photoshop and Illustrator and that is something that I have learned now, and it is so important to understand. Once I'm happy with the artwork, I will send a 'proof' to the customer to make sure they're happy with the design work I've done and get that signed off with them, and then the jobs can go into production.
But at my work, I also helped to bring in the direct print to garment process into the company, and I just love that process, because it uses water-based inks, it is full ecofriendly, minimal waste. I have had a great opportunity with that, I got to go to Dusseldorf where the direct to garment print machine headquarters is and have a training course there. So, I am actually a certified machine engineer, which I never thought that I would be! So, I am licensed to take it apart if I really want to. So again, that is something that I never thought that I would get into, but it is something that I am really fascinated with, like the printheads, making sure they are maintained properly. You know it is problem solving, if the print is not looking right I can work out what the cause might be, and if that's to do with the fabric I am printing on, or the artwork, there are a lot of aspects to it. So, I will oversee that everything is going well with the machine we have got, and I even operate the machine when necessary, and I love to do that. That's something I love about my work is that I can see an order from design through to production and packing and shipping it, and it brings me so much satisfaction that I can do that, that I can jump on any machine that I want. And my work promotes that, they want us to do that and be involved in it and it helps me see, again, that hard work that goes into it. Because working in design, I could just stop it there and think, right, it's not my problem anymore, but I want to see the production side and see it through and even check that what I've designed, looks good and that it worked and if it doesn't work, then I can improve it and make changes in design to make it work better.
Fashion Toolbox 37:01
I definitely think that is the best part about being a designer is being able to see the end product. And the kind of buzz that that gives you is just; you cannot get that anywhere else!
It is amazing! Even just feedback from the customers and if they're happy with it, if they're not happy with it, to ask them why, even just a phone call to talk to them, explain to them what I've done, can help people see that more and I have even invited one of our customers in, once this pandemic is over, to actually see the process that his orders go on, because I think it will give him a better understanding as well, of what we are doing and what possibilities there is for him to change his designs and to really work with the customers in that way as well.
Fashion Toolbox 37:51
I think I am spotting a bit of a trend between us all in the Fashion industry, that we all seem to be addicted to problem solving! Everybody that I have spoken to is the same! It is fantastic, it must give us a bit of a kick!
You mentioned there about the difference between a raster and vector and how you have figured that out, could you tell us a little bit about that?
Photoshop is for raster graphics, so a raster is made up of pixels, you are creating your artwork on there and it is pixel based, that is perfect for some forms of artwork, for example, if you are blending colours and drawing in Photoshop. So, for me, I would love that kind of artwork file if I were doing direct to garment printing because I can print it straight away. But if I was doing screen print, it is a lot trickier because I need to take those colours apart to print them. So that's where vector artwork comes in, and that is more to do with lines and curves and sharp edges. And that is what is great for screen-print because you can take the colours apart easier. The resolution and quality of the file in vector is so much better because it is infinite. You can, I do not know how to describe that, but it stays good. Whereas on Photoshop, because of the pixels, you can have lower quality files. And that is something that I see a lot is really bad quality files. And I think a lot of that has to do with the web and saving smaller files to go on there. But you just really need to have the different types of file and save them in all different ways. So, you are not just having this poor-quality version, because we want everything that is the best (so the prints can look their best!)
Fashion Toolbox 39:54
Absolutely. It is so important when you are printing, it has got to be a really high-resolution image doesn't it?
Fashion Toolbox 40:02
So, in your opinion, what makes a successful designer?
I definitely think a willingness to learn, because things change a lot, so you need to know the market you are in and adapt to it, and also keep up with your customers. So, you bring in something that they want, talk to them, see what is out there. You know, any idea is not crazy because things change so much, and you can change with the customer and bring them something new that is out there.
At the moment, obviously, ecofriendly is really important, it needs to change and a lot of changes are being made but it needs to go a lot further in respecting the garments that you wear and not just having what you want straight away, and not worrying about the quality of it. So we are doing a lot in changing the products that we're selling and trying to promote to people because, we can be sold selling these cheaper t-shirts, but they are nowhere near as nice and they don't feel as nice and they often don't print or embroidered very nice either, it is the nicer quality ones that for us are easier to work with as well. So, I think a lot is about changing as well. And even if something sells well for you but it is not doing good to anyone else just do not sell it, I personally think, you should not offer it. Also, looking at new processes, don't just stick to what you know and what you feel safe with all the time, change like learn new things, because it is obviously good to stick to what you're good at, but you can get stuck there and you become scared of anything else. If someone suggests something to you, you might think, "Oh no, I can't do that, I've never done that before!" But you can learn and take that risk and if it goes wrong at least you have tried to see what might happen. I think another thing is to see what your competitors are doing and be aware of that. I am not necessarily saying you should copy people at all, but just know what is out there. But to stick true to yourself is another thing I think don't just be designing for the sake of it and make something because you feel you should make it you need to have a connection with it. And sometimes I know that can be quite hard if you're given a brief from someone to make something but I think to find something in it that you can connect with, and really, find a meaning in is really important because you don't just want to be putting stuff out there for the sake of it really, it needs to have a purpose.
Fashion Toolbox 42:51
And just on that kind of note you spoke a little bit there about ecofriendly and sustainability, do you think that post Covid-19 the business is going to have to change in any way? Are there any changes that you think are afoot for the industry?
Yeah, I think so, definitely. I hope that it has made people a lot more aware of what is going on in the world and where we are getting things from. For example, with this mask thing now, the disposable masks, you know, I am seeing them on the street, and it is horrible and we are definitely trying to promote reusable ones that you can wash. Because that is what it is all about, it's reusing stuff and you can embellish things and change it to make it feel new, but you don't just have to throw something away when you have got bored of it. And for us, because we do this personalised clothing and that is about bringing people together, so we want people to feel good and feel together as part of a team or a work force, so I think we're seeing changes with that with for example, personalised gifts, leavers hoodies they have more meaning to them rather than just buying something because it's cheap you are just willing to put that bit of extra time and money into something that will stay with you for a long time.
Fashion Toolbox 44:22
Yeah, I definitely think that people are starting to open their eyes to sustainability and see the benefits. So, I do think it is going to become a much bigger thing in the future.
So finally, what one key piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to become a designer?
I have said this before but how to create and save your artwork and designs for the best quality outcome. So like I said already, know the difference between raster and vector graphics and which one is best for the artwork that you are trying to create because I have seen a lot of line work that's been done on Photoshop, which is fine, but I would always recommend to do it in Illustrator and have it as a vector. Even if you have just got both so when you are getting it produced that the companies producing it have the option to pick what is best for them. So, how to set them up, how to save them properly and make sure everything is the best it can be. And like I said, this is something that I did not learn until I got a job and it did take me a while to get my head round. So, definitely get as much as you can out of your CAD (Computer Aided Design) lessons because it is so important. I think for me at university, I liked CAD but it was only once a week for a few hours and I remember drawing in orange on Photoshop, which, I don't know why we did that, it didn't really stand out to me! So maybe they should be changed and should really teach people more about why they are learning it, because that could be what I felt is "Why am I drawing this? Why am I doing that? I don't understand what this is going to help me with in my career?!" So, I have definitely been saved by a lot of YouTube video tutorials in my time! So, never stop learning what is out there with every update even on Photoshop, because they are always changing things all the time. And you can create such good things, you just need to see what you can do with it.
Fashion Toolbox 46:35
Yeah, I agree in terms of the CAD lessons were for me the same, I didn't really learn anything, when I first started using illustrator, I wanted to just chop my arm off because I couldn't figure it out how to work the pen tool, it was so frustrating! But I just persevered, and like you, I would say that I am self-taught. I do not think that anything that I learned on the Adobe suite was from university. So definitely push yourself to learn even if you are not picking it up from university, make yourself aware and get involved.
Yeah, I remember at university that we were not allowed to use a mouse, we had to do everything on a Wacom tablet. They said, put your mouse to the back, you are not allowed to use it, you have to use a Wacom, which was fine but it took me a while to get used to it. But then when I started work, they did not have Wacom tablets, they had mice and I found myself being like, Oh, I cannot use a mouse. And they were like, what? And they were like, I do not know what a Wacom tablet is?! I did have one at home. So, I did bring that in to work to use for a bit because I found designing with a mouse so hard, so I do not know why they did that at university because it didn't help me. It did hinder me when I first started work and everyone was like, "What are you using?" You know, because it is a pen and they were like, "Why are you drawing on the table?!" I think they thought I was crazy! I did eventually go back onto the mouse, so that is what I can use now. But do what you feel comfortable with, I think.
Fashion Toolbox 48:17
Yeah, I would agree with that. I learnt with a mouse. We did not have to Wacom tablets when I was at university. But I learnt eventually because when I went into industry, it was the other way around for me. They had the tablets, and everybody was using them. And I was like, "I need a mouse!" So, I bought myself one at home and practiced until I could do both. So, it is another skill that I would say that is quite important to have as a designer.
Yeah, definitely. So, get both everyone, a Wacom, and a mouse!
Fashion Toolbox 49:01
So that is all of the questions. So, is there anything else that you want to add?
I just think, this podcast is going to be so great to so many people. I hope that you find it useful and know that there is so much more out there than you have probably thought or have been taught. And it is all about connecting with people and learning from people and asking the questions and doing what you want to do and enjoy it. Definitely.
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Glossary of Terms
Toile = The word toile can refer to a garment or a fabric, and they are interlinked. Toile comes from the French for a “linen cloth” or “canvas” for painting on. The same word is used to describe a garment made to test a pattern. These test garments are usually made in unbleached woven cotton called calico or a basic unbleached cotton single jersey. Interestingly in America toiles are sometimes referred to as “muslins” a more loosely woven unbleached cotton fabric. (The Makers Atelier, 2015)
Vector = Vector artwork is a term that describes any art made with vector illustration software like Adobe Illustrator. Vector artwork is built from vector graphics, which are images created with mathematical formulas. (Adobe, 2020)
Raster = Raster art (also referred to as bitmaps or raster images) is created with colorized pixels. Enlarge pixel-based art in a raster file too much and it looks jaggy (Adobe, 2020)