Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Interview with Joanne Aguilar - Textile Designer

Joanne Aguilar is working as a freelance printed textile designer; producing and selling collections of textile samples for fashion and accessories, with a focus on menswear.

I've found it fascinating to learn more about what a Textile Designer does ... I hope you do too.

(Full disclosure - she's also my daughter!)

During your time at university, what did you REALLY learn? People often study a subject that they never refer to again (like me with History!), but yours seems very practical, hands-on and business-orientated. Was it?

My main aim in going to university was to learn the skills involved in textile design. I picked a course that was particularly traditional and craft based so that I would learn the processes step by step – I thought that if I knew how to do all these things properly I could then start to change the processes and experiment with the variables involved. So yes, the course was very practical but not especially business orientated or modern in terms of digital printing and new textile processes.

What does a Textile Designer actually do? Do you produce the fabric for making clothes? If so, what about the machinery you would need?
If you don't need a lot of machinery, what do you need? How do you produce samples?


My goodness – what a lot of questions! Textile Design is basically split into three disciplines – print, weave and knit. The designs can then be used for fashion, interiors or architectural spaces. If you think about it, textiles are everywhere in everyday life – inside and outside - so the possibilities are endless.

Personally, I specialised in designing printed textiles for fashion. I design patterns and prints in collections and make portfolios of small samples, which I then sell to fashion designers. I don’t need a lot of machinery as my samples are hand made and hand printed. I don’t make the clothes or produce any lengths of fabric – the fashion companies I sell to have their own manufacturers for that.

Why did you choose to focus on menswear? It doesn't seem so glamorous, colourful, tactile or exciting - things I'd have thought a textile designer would have been looking for!

Well, firstly, I think menswear can be glamorous and exciting - and it definitely is tactile. If pattern and colour are less obvious then the feel of the fabric really comes to the forefront. So touch is important to me when I design, and I am also really excited by high performance fabrics – fabric that has specific qualities such as being waterproof, reflective or protective. Good quality fabric is key, as are warmth and comfort. I’m much better at designing for a specific context than just printing pretty patterns in pretty colours.

All in all I think menswear suits my design style perfectly, and it’s definitely what I feel passionate about – menswear presents so many possibilities and challenges as there is still a lot of scope to innovate, all the while keeping it practical and wearable.


How do you begin working on a project? Are there any deadlines or timescales you have to work to? What about fashion seasons?

I start by drawing, taking photos and putting together sketchbooks and mood boards of ideas. One of the first things I decide on is a colour scheme and I like to get into the dye room pretty quickly and dye fabrics and papers to give me a palette. I also check all the upcoming trends as my collections are made for specific seasons in the fashion cycle – either Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter. I research contemporary designers to keep up to date with current fabric and fashion developments and also read a lot of magazines and visit exhibitions so that I’m aware of what’s happening in general. I’ll set myself a brief and a deadline and choose which fabrics I’ll start with, but once I start printing and sampling I quickly get carried away and new ideas and processes start presenting themselves!

Where do you find your inspiration? How do you get an idea and then translate it onto a design for fabric? How can you know if it's going to be commercial?

Phew! I tend to play with contradictions – for example between traditional and contemporary menswear, printed and constructed textiles, traditional tailoring with elements of sportswear. I consider and exaggerate the inherent qualities of the fabrics I am working with. For each project the inspirations are different but I often look at architecture and graphics and for previous projects have researched suits of armour and military uniforms. I’ll then continue drawing and designing patterns and thinking about which processes I might use for each.

As I said before I try to design fabrics that I know will be wearable and functional for clothing and according to the trends.

Who do you sell your designs to?

I sell to fashion houses but also in the future I would like to collaborate with designers, especially young designers; developing fabrics alongside them for their upcoming fashion collections. I can also sell through textile design agencies.

What kind of environment do you like working in? Is a studio space best for you? Do you prefer working alone or with others?

I don’t like working alone! Even though I produce my collections on my own, a studio in a creative environment is really important for me in terms of meeting people designing in different disciplines, sharing ideas, possibilities of collaborations and having friends nearby for cups of tea! Working in isolation is not conducive to my creativity and I need to build and maintain a network of peers, supporters and friends. Also in practical terms I need studio space – what I do is quite messy!

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a new collection of samples, my first post-university! You can see how I’m getting on at www.joanne-aguilar.blogspot.com

What's next?

The next step for me is to set up a print studio as soon as possible to enable me to continue designing and making samples.

Comments:
great interview... it´s interesting to know about the process that´s involved in it all, rather than just the final product.
lots of people have asked me what Jo does and I never really know how to explain as its not a course they have here, so this helps!

its a great area she´s chosen to specialize in too - in such a fashion-conscious age its still really hard to find modern, wearable, good looking mens clothes!

i hope the designers she works with do justice to her fabrics...
 
Good comment Claire!
 
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