Textile Designers: To Work For Yourself Or Someone Else

My Honest Truth

Last week I visited New Designers in Islington to see all the amazing new talent emerging from this years design graduates. It was great to see and meet so many talented textile designers, I loved chatting with you all. It brought back good memories of when I showed my degree show there 11 years ago… Makes me feel old!

Funnily my work is still in a storage room from all those years ago! My dad has an office there, (im not just taking up random space ha)

Visiting the stands and meeting all the new graduates got me thinking about the next step after Uni...

With the experience I have now, would I try to advise other career avenues to look into as well as trying to get a job straight away?

Laura Cloughton
Jessica Baker Hollinworth
Saffron Eve Saunderson
Laura Mathias Milsom

Most of the graduates I spoke with at New Designers spoke about how they wanted to get a job straight away...

Sounds quite obvious really but being a designer there are so many more options.  I got the impression that Universities guide you to seek a job in an established company as quickly as possible, as I did when I graduated.

Don't get me wrong, I gained great experience in my first job and have lots to be thankful for getting that internship, as it opened other doors.

I do wish though I kept up designing on the side in my own handwriting. The designers I met last week all had such unique handwriting's and great creativity. It would be such a shame to lose that working straight away for a company that wasn't a good fit for you.

I believe universities should offer help on how to set up on your own as well as offering help on finding a job. All avenues should be covered, especially in this day and age when more people than ever are starting up their own businesses. And its the independent brands that are doing so well.

Working for yourself may be daunting to start with...

But in the long term it can be so rewarding, you will develop as a designer with your own unique style. This in the long run could land you collaborations with brands who want to use your designs for their products.

Lauren Henry - The Business Design Centre Award Winner

'See No Evil'

Looking back at my own degree show...

It was pretty nuts but so creative. I designed a printed wallpaper with LED lights inserted into the stripes. A structured printed 60s style dress. A cape made out of mirrored laser cut discs with a floral print layer on top. I was hugely influenced by the 60s, I love the graphic prints and bright colours of that era.

I was not prepared at all, to go out into the big print design world. My work and portfolio was not ‘commercial’ and I was made to feel that was a bad thing. Lets be honest Uni is about experimenting and finding who you are as a designer. I would never of wanted to be ‘commercial’ at Uni anyway. But we were then expected to go out there to interviews and try and get that first job.

I remember walking around with a huge A1 portfolio...

I still laugh now, my first interview for M&S carrying that big thing round and showing my life drawing sketches. Luckily though I got the job!

Keshia Pollikett's Collection - ‘Jeopardy’ Based On Endangered Animals

Experience is key, getting that under your belt and meeting people in the industry is the best way to be remembered...

I loved my first job at Marks and Spencers - it was a 6 Month internship. I got great experience and I learnt so much. The only one downside was that I lost my creative uniqueness that made me initially stand out.

11 years on and I'm working on getting back that unique handwriting I once had.

So what I'm trying to say is, don’t push the idea of working for yourself or freelancing aside, as those people who showed an interest at New Designers liked you for you.  Whatever you decide to do, keep that creativity living.

I would definitely advise to get experience yes...

But do not feel the pressure if it doesn’t feel right. It's a tough industry, buyers and managers can pick your print's a part. And sometimes expect everything ‘yesterday’ a phrase I have become to hate (so don’t say it to me as I may explode)

Remember you have a skill and people will pay for that skill so use it wisely and know your worth.

Alice Dodds Graduate Collection

The 4 Main Routes You Can Work In As A Print Designer...

Print Studio

Your designing all day, not dealing with factories or worrying how many colours there has to be in the print. You design how you like or to a brief. You will work on commission, how many prints you sell, the more money you make. A studio is definitely the most creative place in the industry.

Supplier Or Fabric Mill

This is where you are in charge of getting prints ready for production. You will design to brands briefs, learn how to reduce colours down so they can be printed cost effectively, colour match prints to swatches, Put prints in repeat and make sure everything is factory ready. This is a really important role in print, making sure its perfect to get on that shop/online floor.


Here you are coming up with the trends for different seasons. You will design in season and specifically for that brand, keeping the customer in mind at all times. You will be involved in meetings, coming up with new ideas and work with buyers to create best selling prints.

Working For Yourself

The list is endless... Freelance for a company, from home or in house. Build your own brand, wether you want to sell your prints or your services. You make the rules when and how you work and can be as creative as you like. You would need to market yourself, so get savvy at social media and keeping your website up to date.

Working For A Print Studio You Will Be Constantly Designing...


Wouldn't it be great if someone wanted to collaborate with you...

My old boss when I was at Arcadia, who then went on to be head of design at ASOS once said to me…

If you build up your own unique style as a print designer, people will then want to collaborate with you. Instead of always chasing brands you want to work for and fitting in with their style.

Two of my favourite print designers who have collaborated with fashion brands are...

Astrid Wilson - Astrid designs beautiful bright digital illustrations. Recently Rixo commissioned Astrid to work on a collaboration for them. The new designs are of Rixos prints digitally drawn in Astrid's original style.

Isabelle Feliu - Isabelle has an amazing unique style of print illustrations. Soi Paris wanted to use Isabelle's unique style on their clothing. Inspired by the Macarena hip swaying dance alongside her iconic female silhouettes.


Astrid Wilson X Rixo

Isabelle Feliu X Soi Paris

Some words of advice...

From talented print designer and business owner

Samantha warren

Samantha set up her printed accessories company in 2013. Her brand is all things print which I love. Her unique designs are influenced by her love of nature, colour and from her Filipino heritage. Samantha Warren has been stocked in fashion retailers and prestigious art and design institutions worldwide.

What do you love about working for yourself? 

I love being my own boss and creating a working environment I love. The freedom to create what I want and the ability to set my own agenda is great, and being able to make quick decisions and react is a big plus too. 

Any advice you would give graduates who are unsure about getting into freelance or working for themselves? 

If it’s an idea you’ve had for a while, you should try it. If it doesn’t go to plan, you can still go and work for someone but at least you can say you’ve tried. What I would suggest is to have some money saved for the quiet period at the start. This will help you stay focused on the job at hand and not panic about finances. 

How do you keep motivated working for yourself?

As a creative my mind is always active and full of ideas and I’m naturally self motivated. When you work for yourself, you wear all the hats so there’s lots to keep me busy. My motivation comes from my passion and the determination to pursue my dreams first and foremost.

Samantha Warren

Beautiful natural dye TECHNIQUe

And Finally...

11 Tips: What To Do After You've Graduated

1.Do a months internship in a studio, a supplier, or a brand - all three if you can. And ask lots of questions whilst your there.

2. Engage with people you want to work with on social media.

3. Keep learning, Do free online course, go to talks, watch tutorials on YouTube.

4. Set yourself goals and targets. With designs, emailing people, anything to get yourself out there.

5. Learn how to use social media for your business.

6. Keep your instagram personal as well as business - people want to know you.

7. Meet up with people, ask to meet for a coffee. People love to give advice so use it. 

8. Meet and talk to other designers in your same position, build a print and design community.

9. Take on freelance work. What's the worst that can happen? Learn along the way.

10. Go to exhibitions, keep up to date with current and future trends. And put it in your portfolio and on your social media.

11. Do not get disheartened if Instagram shows others getting jobs. Remember social media only shows the best parts. Message the people who have got jobs/started up on their own and ask how they got there. Your time will come.

I hope you've enjoyed reading...

I'm putting together a graduate guide, offering portfolio help and job and internship tips. Is this something you'd be interested in?

If so please email me at lizzy@theprintedit.com

I'd love to hear your thoughts. L x