Free Live Training: Start Designing Textiles for the Women’s Activewear Market


Join me this Wednesday, May 25th for a new FREE live training event! We’ll be discussing the women’s activewear market and how you can start designing for this inspiring market. I’ll also be sharing more information about our upcoming Women’s Activewear workshop! The free live training is this Wednesday, May 25th at 1PM EDT. A recording will be sent out to all registrants. Bring your questions and grab your spot here.

Interview with Lise Gulassa, guest expert for Designing Textiles for the Fashion Industry: Women’s Activewear

Lise Gulassa is one half of the creative duo behind Sisters Gulassa, an international design house that produces art, patterns, products, and trend forecasting. Throughout her career she has been head designer for a number of clothing designers, including Levi Strauss & Co., and instructor for the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

We are delighted to welcome Lise as the guest expert for our upcoming Women’s Activewear workshop! She has worked with countless activewear brands including Athleta, North Face, Timberland UK and Title Nine and will be providing feedback and guidance through our private forum. We are honored to have the opportunity to share Lise’s perspective on this exciting industry, starting with today’s interview. Enjoy!


WelcomeTrioMy Sister Cyrille and I


Tell us a bit about your design background and career path. How did you become interested in textile design, and in particular, designing for the activewear market?

We grew up in California in a big creative family, before venturing out to our respective careers. I worked in the fashion industry, while my sister Cyrille went into advertising. My background is in fashion design, I graduated from FIDM in San Francisco. I worked in the industry for many years designing clothing and teaching on and off at FIDM before my sister and I started our namesake company, Sisters Gulassa, focusing on art & pattern design. Selecting pattern designs when developing a collection (and designing prints on occasion for the various companies I worked for) as well as working with color and textiles have always been my favorite aspects of designing a collection. When my sister first suggested the idea, it was a natural transition from one creative industry to another. We began with our first show in Paris at Premiere Vision.

When we started Sisters Gulassa, there were not many companies who focused on great print designs for the women’s active market. We have a style that naturally fit this market with our dynamic designs particularly for women, though we have sold our print designs to both the men’s and women’s active lifestyle markets. I have always been very active, cycling, yoga, swimming and an outdoor enthusiast, so I have been keenly aware of what was happening in the women’s activewear market from early on. There is currently a bigger focus on this industry, from fashion companies adding in “activewear” collections to traditional activewear companies expanding their offerings, especially as the “atheleisure” trend is gaining momentum.


Tell us a bit about your design process. What media/design tools do you like to use? What are your go-to sources for design inspiration?

Coming from the fashion industry I am always excited about new directions and influences from a variety of designers and trends. My travels are also a big influence. Before we begin a new collection we like to do research and then put together our inspiration/ trend stories and use that as our launching point. As far as media/ design tools we use water based mediums for print designing and often mix mediums. I love experimenting and trying new techniques, materials, and papers, including various surfaces to paint on. There are so many exciting discoveries in the process of trying new things. I love the challenge of that process. I always love sumi (ink) and brushes; my go-to favorites. We bring our art into Photoshop/ Illustrator to produce digital files.

My go-to inspirational resources are other artists old and new! I have books on some of my favorite designers and artists: Matisse, Sonja Delaunay, Cy Twombly, Leanne Shapton, Collier Campbell Archives to name a few. Dover Publications has published an amazing collection of design resource books. I always love to see what different designers are doing and have my favorites as they tend to have a big influence on the fashion industry, Alexander McQueen (before he died) inspired the industry with his animal skin, techno-camo prints and mirrored repeats. More recently Mara Hoffman has been a big influence in the activewear industry, with her colorful signature engineered tribal patterns on swimwear and more recently her own activewear line.

When we first started there was very little information online about design influences and trends, now there is access to so much information, and it is free! Pinterest is an amazing resource for anyone in the design industry, it is great for inspiration, current trends, retro influences and a great tool to use in working with clients. There are some pattern, color/ art focused websites in addition to Pattern Observer’s fabulous resources and community, so I like to follow some of those. My new favorite is TextileTribe. I also love following interior design trends, and love the European Decor magazines.

ActivePrintsSisters Gulassa print designs

What are your current favorite print & pattern trends for activewear?

Some of my current favorites:

I love how the ombré trend has really morphed into interesting tie-dyes and shibori techniques, creating lots of newness besides the ‘typical’ tie-dye looks from the past. There are many interpretations that become very abstract and painterly in one direction and more tribal in another.
The tribal/ global trend is still going strong, but I particularly love the influences coming from Africa as well as Indonesia.

There is also a hyper-surreal trend that is natural for activewear, and I love the merging of the techno with organic.

What do you think are currently some of the most marketable pattern styles in activewear? How about colors?

Patterns that are textural and dynamic and yet very wearable typically are the most salable, because they are easy to wear and can go from the studio to the grocery store or wherever you want to go with out looking like you are on your way to an exercise class. That being said, patterns that are dynamic and have a lot of energy and color, can be what people are attracted to buy because it is for being “active”! I think the global tribal influence is still strong especially for the swim side of the activewear market, whereas some of the more techno influences in the industry are popular for running, and other sports. For colors, I think a mix of neutrals, (i.e. heather greys and heather blues, blacks and whites, shades of grey) with pop seasonal brights are always good. Some yoga wear companies might have more more of a tribal, organic, approach with an earthy palette. It all comes down to knowing who you are designing for.

AfricanInspiredAfrican inspired designs with an original piece of African cloth to the left, and a photo for inspiration.

What are some of the challenges of designing for the activewear market? What do you love about it the most?

Activewear print trends tend to mean different things to different companies and within the active market there are many different types of print designs. It is important to know what your clients are looking for. Do they want more textural techno influenced designs, designs that are more organic and feminine, updated sporty stripes, more tribal influenced designs, or painterly ombré tie dye effects? Or botanical florals, or the new hybrids for example of blurred florals or organic techno prints? In the swim industry for example, a new interpretation of tropical florals might always be important, whereas that trend may or may not be picked up by the rest of the activewear market.

As this industry is growing there will continue to be some exciting influences and that is what I love about it. Like the activewear industry itself, it is dynamic, vibrant and always moving forward!

What do you feel are some of the differences in designing for women’s activewear vs. regular women’s apparel?

Activewear print designs are typically more dynamic, and can often be more colorful. Because of digital printing and sublimation prints, you might see newer techniques in print designs in the activewear market although this is changing now with more access to digital printing. There might be trendy influences like “techno” or hybrid print techniques that be more popular in the active sports market as compared with the women’s wear market. Designs often can be more “sporty” looking though the definition of sporty can mean different things to different clients. That being said, there is some overlap. For example, the Hawaiian tropical florals of past seasons have been popular in both the women’s activewear markets as well as women’s apparel.

Activewear_SistersGulassa copyHere is a sampling of some of our print designs for the various companies we have worked for. 


Could you talk a bit about the design cycle for activewear? How far ahead do you design an activewear pattern before it lands on the sales floor?

This varies with each company and their production calendar. Typically, the bigger the company, the longer the lead time, which means that a bigger company like NorthFace might be designing 12-18 months out. The further away your production is the longer lead-times you need to factor in making and shipping product from one country to another. If it is a smaller company, or more locally produced, they might be 6 months out or less.

Do you have any additional words of wisdom for aspiring designers trying to make their way in the activewear industry?

My suggestion would be to find the types of companies that you would want to be designing prints for and focus on developing designs specifically for them, so that they might be interested in buying your designs. Develop your own signature style within the types of prints you want to design. If you want to be successful, I think it is easier to approach the market in a more focused manner otherwise, it can be overwhelming. In this way you can become known for your area of expertise. If you really want to produce a lot of varied work, you can find a studio to represent your work in order to have more focused time to create, without worrying about both creating and selling your work.

Join Lise and Michelle in exploring the women’s activewear market through our hands-on, creative four week workshop, starting May 31, 2016. Learn more here:

Featured Designer: Frances Ellen Shaw

FLYERToday we are delighted to welcome Frances Ellen Shaw as our featured designer of the week! Frances is a surface pattern designer who is soon to be graduating from Leeds College of Art. We are excited to share her graduate collection The Embellished Rainforest, with you today.

“My work is a culmination of vibrant digital prints alongside delicately crafted hand embellishment and embroidery. I draw inspiration predominantly from floral imagery and plants although my use of colour evokes a more exciting take on the natural colour palette. Drawing and hand rendering has always been an integral part of my practice; it is something that I hope to convey through all aspects of my work. Every single piece of my work begins with drawing, whether this is pen, pencil, painting or digitally, I think that drawing is always the most important stage of the design process.”

“My graduate collection, The Embellished Rainforest, is an exciting vision of detailed hand painted tropical scenes adorned with exotic birds, reptiles and insects to whisk the viewer away into a bright and entrancing jungle world. Accompanying these handcrafted scenes are similarly considered hand developed iPad paintings, these more graphic prints give another dimension to the more delicate painterly imagery but evoke the same sense of otherworldliness. The collection also features intricate hand embellished details that add a delicate tactile quality to the vibrant collection of printed silks and polyesters.”

Digital-Jungle-print2 My embellishment 2


Frances Ellen Shaw’s collection will be exhibited at the Leeds College of Art Graduate show Made Here from the 11th – 16th June and at New Designers in London from the 29th June – 2nd July. You can learn more about Frances here.

Found Patterns: Vegetables

Pattern Observer Found Patterns - Vegetables ‎

Images via: (clockwise from top left)  Hillcrest Farmers Market” by Rob Bertholf (cropped from original),  untitled photo by j bizzie (cropped from original),  “Kale” by Quinn Dombrowski,  “11/52 – Beauty in the Everyday Details” by Nana B Agyei (cropped from original),  “Peas” by Ritesh Man Tamrakar (cropped from original) “peppers” by liz west (cropped from original),  “pepper” by fdecomite Cucumber like a spine” by Quinn Dombrowski, (center image)  Artichoke” by Matthew Robinson (cropped from original); carrot and beet images by Chelsea von Hasseln.

Interview with Dari Design Studio, Guest Experts for May in the Textile Design Lab

Interview with Dari Design Studio on Pattern Observer

Dariela and Dariana Cruz founded Dari Design Studio in 2009, with a “mission to infuse your life with creativity, a sense of style, and bold vibrant designs.” The California based sisters (Dariela in San Diego and Dariana in Los Angeles) work together virtually, and their “modernly eclectic portfolio blends certainty with experimentation, multicultural traditions with modern trends, and hand painted art with digital.” We could not be more pleased to have them join us this month as our guest experts in the Textile Design Lab!

Later in the month they will be sharing an exclusive tutorial with Textile Design Lab students, on adding flair to your watercolor illustrations within Photoshop. (Join us in the Lab to gain access to this tutorial when it becomes available!) Today we invite you to get to know more about Dariela and Dariana in our interview below!


Tell us a bit about your design background & career path. How did the two of you become interested in surface pattern & graphic design?

As kids, we were both very creative, always making things or taking arts & crafts classes. As adults, we each took a different path to begin with, but ended up working together!

Dariana: Everything I know about design I owe it to my mom and my sister. My mom for exposing me to it, and emulating it to me. My sister for patiently teaching me and answering all of my questions for years. That being said I am a self-taught designer. I never went to design school. I hold a BA in Marketing and Advertising. Yet, I am a confirmed eternal student. Addicted to all sort of courses, classes, summits, conferences there could be for creative entrepreneurs.

Dariela: I was practically born a designer, I loved everything art related since very little. After graduating with a BA in Graphic Design in Venezuela, I worked in corporate environments designing mostly food and toy packaging. My sister and I hold a strong bond and our paths always were crossing until we decided to make it official and do business together. We started with paper arts, logos and general graphic designs, then we learned about the surface pattern industry from a friend and loved the idea so we added it to our business.


Could you talk a bit about how you started Dari Design Studio and what it’s like working together? What responsibilities do you each take on and how do you collaborate through the design process?

Dariana: Back in the day, I used to work in a paper store. I wanted every single thing that store had. I was in love with their products, mainly because of their designs.  But more than wanting the products to use them, I used to dream about one day designing similar products. I would turn over the greeting cards, the wrapping papers and the journals to check the back and see what company made them; then I would write down the names and I would look them up on the internet one by one. At a later point, I realized creating artwork that could be translated into products and in turn make people happy was what we wanted to do.

In 2006, we started a paper arts company, Folklore Eye, and then in 2010 rebranded it to Dari Design Studio and we’ve been on that journey together since then. Our studio is more than just a physical studio. We believe anywhere the creative process happens is our studio, and our world is full of creativity. We live and work in 2 different cities (Los Angeles and San Diego) but stay connected through creative work and energy.

Our responsibilities and the way we collaborate together in business has evolved and transformed in many ways through the years. Today our guiding compass is to make sure we are individually inspired and stimulated with what we enjoy doing the most and what comes to us naturally. That always includes, creating, designing, painting and inventing. We are Artists in our core and everything we do for our company stays true to that.

Dariana: I hold the vision for our company and make most of the managerial decisions. I create our business processes and operations with our team.

Dariela: I am the Art and Photography Director. I manage all design and branding operations.

Interview with Dari Design Studio on Pattern Observer

Many designers in our community worry that they need to be very focused on one area of design (i.e. only textile design, or only graphic design) but your studio offers a variety of services, from packaging to web design to licensing your original artwork, in a very cohesive, well-branded way. Please tell us a bit more about these different avenues you currently pursue in your business and how you balance these varied projects.


I think the most important part about this balancing act is to embrace the fact that we were born to do more than one thing. And when I say “we” I mean us – Dariana and Dariela. There are 2 types of people out there, those who are perfectly happy focusing on one career or passion or thing or project their whole life and those who need to express their passion through different outlets. We are in the second group!! Both groups add value to this world and we can find plenty of examples of people in these groups that have proven that both ways can be ultra satisfying and fruitful.

However, there were two things that have contributed immensely to this path of multi-passions that have worked for us. First, is having a coach to guide us as an experienced outsider. People who have helped us discern among our offerings and obtain a clear view as to how much energy, time and money we want to focus on each of our services. The second one is embracing that we are multi-passionate and being empowered by owning that as one of our virtues. Before we were able to have that attitude, we were just doing business out of integrity and confusion. Because we were secretly blaming ourselves for doing too many different things and therefore didn’t attract the right audience for us. The message and energy we put out there was confusing and never consistent.

These are the services we offer:

DESIGN: Logo Design, Digital Publication Design, and  Inspiring Design Projects

PHOTOGRAPHY: Product photo sessions, Business photo sessions and Stock photography

CLASSES: We teach art classes and also classes about productivity, creativity and habit building.

LICENSING: We license our art work – we have a whole different website dedicated to that!

We are also launching our new design studio website soon!! We are happy that you get a sneak peek of our offerings here!


Where do you gather inspiration for your work? Are there any books, blogs, magazines, or other resources that you recommend?

For the most part, we are inspired by daily life and what we see around us, whether that’s natural scenes with plants and animals, or people, bright colors, lights, patterns, etc. It’s a great time to be a creative isn’t it? There are so many great creativity, design and pattern blogs and magazines that we like, for example Pattern Observer, Uppercase, Jungalow, Print and Pattern and Pinterest.

We also love listening to podcasts and Ted Talks while we work. Some are design related, some are about balancing life’s demands and making space for creativity, but they are all soul nourishing. Our favorite podcasts include Magic Lessons (Elizabeth Gilbert), Raise Your Hand Say Yes (Tiffany Han), and Smart Creative Women (Monica Lee) just to name a few.


What role do trends play in your design process? How do you seek out trend information and what are your current favorite print and pattern trends?

We are always on the lookout for trends. We look for trends in stores, in the fashion industry (generally those trends dictate what’s coming to the other industries). We also like to dedicate our artistic time to be trendsetters by listening carefully to our voice and dedicating time to projects that really fulfill us and from which inspiration is found inside of us. I like to say, pay attention to our “self trend report.” If all I can think of is painting insects and that idea comes to my mind often in different ways, that will rank high on my own trend report. Making sure we give our own twist on market trends is also very important for us and often challenging.

Our current favorite trends are:

Tropical and jungle flowers and animals and inspirational quotes.


Who are your favorite designers (past or present) and why? What about them has inspired you or influenced your work?

Geninne D. Zlatkis: I love how authentic she is with her work and with her lifestyle. I love artists that stay true not only to their style but also to what they enjoy doing as a means to be in business. Geninne is such good proof, with her business style and her artistry, that there are infinite paths to success and the trick is to pick the one that makes you feel good!

Crafty Chica: I love the way she does business. The creative ways in which she shares her work into the world. I also love how personable she is. Being humble, kind, real and generous while smiling and stating her boundaries is what I love to emulate from her.

Niki de Saint Phalle: I love her work history, the way her art has evolved and changed since her beginnings. Her late works are my favorite, bold, vibrant sculptures resembling some of Gaudí’s work as well. I identify with the use of colors in her work.

Interview with Dari Design Studio on Pattern Observer

Over the course of your career, what actions or decisions have made the biggest impact on your design business?

Outsourcing and building our team even when we weren’t making enough profit for ourselves. This helped us to hone the part of the business we really enjoy doing and create many learning strings that made us more business savvy. The overall growth of the business feels more organic and enjoyable vs rushed, stressed and resistant.

Working with a coach. This helps so much. It feels like having new eye glasses and seeing things much more clear! It also feels like working on a business that has a strong plan and structure of where we are going vs. jumping on our computer everyday trying to get done the work that falls on our lap.

Saying NO to the work we don’t enjoy and formerly thought we needed to do it as part of being in business or because designers must offer this or that. For example, we don’t enjoy selling on etsy, mainly because we don’t enjoy much of the packing, printing and the day-to-day of a manufacturing shop. We also don’t enjoy website design, so we don’t offer that as part of our services.

Embracing curiosity. Being ok experimenting with new things, talents, services, passions even if they don’t pan out or if we decide we didn’t like doing it as much as we thought. Specializing in the ones we try and really like even after we tasted the part of them that’s not much fun! In a nutshell listening to our intuition.

Taking time off and traveling.

Also doing a Business plan retreat at the beginning of the year!


What are your goals for the future of Dari Design Studio? What would you like to be working on a year from now or five years from now?

A year from now, we would like to be smoothly running the new products and services that we are launching this year. We would also like to be teaching more classes and having more public speaking sessions. We hope we can leverage our offerings to connect more with our audience on a real and personal way. A fun and warm community where we can all learn and grow together.

Our mission and our goal is to infuse your life and business with creativity, a sense of style and bold vibrant designs while sharing what we learn with our community.


What advice have you received in your career that has stayed with you or influenced you? Do you have any words of advice for aspiring designers trying to build successful careers of their own?

This might not be a piece of advice but more a perspective of life that we think is worth sharing. Practicing mindfulness and awareness in our creative journey has brought pleasant results to our quality of life. Because when we manage to be aware of what’s happening, we are the observer and not the judge (that judges others or ourselves). We noticed something special happens when we are able to judge less and instead notice or stay curious more by embracing the observer role. Our creative juices  and ideas stay handy. The creative process flows better. The passage through the “unknown dark phase” inherent to the creative process suddenly doesn’t feel so uncomfortable.

Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways. I started by just searching for the word and finding plenty of information and exercises to include in my daily practice. We encourage you to try it!


Become a Textile Design Lab member to gain access to Dari Design Studio’s tutorial when it becomes available later this month, in addition to all of our past guest expert tutorials and the other informative e-courses and helpful features of the Lab. Visit to learn more!


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At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and private design community, The Textile Design Lab.