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We are Makers and Creators: Textile Design & Fashion Course Leader – Kate Farley

BA (Hons) Textile Design and BA (Hons) Fashion Course Leader Kate Farley is a practicing designer with over twenty years industry experience; from book design to printed pattern design for brands such Transport for London and the Barbican Centre. We met Kate in her Norfolk-based studio to explore some of her work and to get a sneak peek of new projects. This blog serves part of our Makers and Creators photo series, showcasing our talented staff.

You’ve got a diverse practice – what’s been your path to this point?

I studied BA Printed Textiles & Surface Design and MA Book Art, and I’ve combined my interests of printed pattern design and visual communication in many different guises.

I’ve designed books and prints, and undertaken commissions for site-specific public artworks including a hospital roof and airport terminal as well as bespoke patterns for organisations such as the Barbican Centre and David Mellor Design.

I’ve also launched three collections under my own brand name focussing on British production including Formica and Standfast & Barracks.

I love the challenge of diverse projects, particularly in learning the specifics of each design context or manufacturing process. This design practice feeds my academic career that has always been in tandem, keeping me in tune with industry know-how, to inform course content and teaching material.

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Where do you find your inspiration?

Drawing is at the heart of all I do. I am always spotting patterns, lines, rhythms and shapes in my everyday life, in the built environment as well as in nature.

I make drawings of motifs and line qualities in order to develop ideas – I spent months tussling over a diagonal pattern structure before solving the conundrum with my Parterre design – my head is a vast filing cabinet of stuff that feeds my practice.

I am aware of trends and contemporary designers for my teaching, but my visual language is more likely to be aligned to 20th Century artists and mid-century designers across graphics, photography, textiles, fashion and craft.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am busy with a few things. An international collaboration with Japanese brand Stamp and Diary is launching soon so I’m finalising some promotional material for that.

I’ve drawn a large-scale design in repeat that has been screen printed on cotton in Japan for a capsule fashion collection.

This came about when the Director of the brand bought tea towels from David Mellor Design’s London store that I had designed to celebrate their cutlery. He returned to Japan and asked his staff to track me down to see if I’d collaborate. We met in London with my portfolio and it’s been a wonderful project to work on.

I’m also writing a book on the subject of printed pattern in relation to my own teaching approach while developing a new practical research project exploring formal pattern structures. I don’t like to be idle!

What is the future of the textile design industry?

Customisation. We will see a greater application of technology in textiles / surface design and production at the point of sale – a revival of the made-to-order service but without the long wait.

Bespoke digital design and production can enable consumers to make individual choices such as their names embroidered on products, while saving companies from sitting on unwanted stock.

I have sold my designs on laminate in collaboration with Formica and licence designs with The Window Film Company in this way. Digital technology enables clients to specify details of the design such as colour, size and finish to suit their needs, prior to production.

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“In the UK we have excellent, highly skilled manufacturers working across textile production methods of weave, knit and print that are growing their capacity and investing in new technology as more companies realise the appeal of buying British.”

Kate Farley

Why is textile design in the UK important?

Textile design is important everywhere – we all wear pants! We rely on cloth every minute of the day, from the moment we are born.

In the UK we have excellent, highly skilled manufacturers working across textile production methods of weave, knit and print that are growing their capacity and investing in new technology as more companies realise the appeal of buying British. This is an exciting time to be in the industry. 

We need to think sustainably, and so local production for UK markets with long term investment from businesses through to the consumers will be part of the strategy.

The UK has been a world leader of design and manufacturing of textiles in history and there is no reason this should remain in the past. We have to acknowledge and develop the potential within our school education system to generate and nurture a future of creative, technical and innovative makers and designers.

Meet more of our academic Makers & Creators