Featured Designer: Olu Vandenbussche

Featured designer Olu Vandenbussche on Pattern Observer https://patternobserver.com/2016/07/21/featured-designer-olu-vandenbussche/‘Meanwhile below the surface’: print inspired by my childhood pets (goldfish), dress by Lily&Woody

Featured designer Olu Vandenbussche on Pattern Observer https://patternobserver.com/2016/07/21/featured-designer-olu-vandenbussche/Custom print inspired by the dinosaur collection and toolbox of this 4-year old, shirt by Fruitsdemere

Featured designer Olu Vandenbussche on Pattern Observer https://patternobserver.com/2016/07/21/featured-designer-olu-vandenbussche/

Custom print inspired by my family’s favourite appetizer ‘guacamole’
Featured designer Olu Vandenbussche on Pattern Observer https://patternobserver.com/2016/07/21/featured-designer-olu-vandenbussche/

Ecofriendly wallpaper collection intended for nurseries and inspired by the story of the princess and the frog Featured designer Olu Vandenbussche on Pattern Observer https://patternobserver.com/2016/07/21/featured-designer-olu-vandenbussche/Wear your own Brand: print inspired by the logo of De Punt, a local growing platform for sustainable entrepreneurs, shirt by JoChapeau


Belgian textile designer Olu Vandenbussche founded her design studio Manel in 2015 to deal with the challenges caused by Fast Fashion. To name but a few: largescale pollution, exploitation of textile workers in low wage countries, job loss in the western textile industry etc. Olu deals with these challenges in her own, hands-on way through workshops, a sustainable fabric line and custom design projects that follow the principles of Slow Design.

For her sustainable approach she was awarded the Bizz Buzz Award for Sustainable/Social Entrepreneurship in December 2015.

Olu is currently working on her first ecofriendly baby collection for a Belgian brand called Timmy. The collection will consist of sleepwear, interior products and soft toys and is due to launch this fall.
Olu likes to draw her designs by hand first, then scan them and add colour in Adobe Illustrator. She finds inspiration for her designs in the fantasy world of children, their favourite stories, toys and pastimes.

We are delighted to announce that tomorrow Olu will be kicking off 7 weeks of member-created tutorials as part of the Summer of Creativity in the Textile Design Lab. Her enlightening post on “A Slow Approach to Textile Design” describes the key features of the “slow design” movement, such as local production and low waste, what designers can do to promote slow design, her recommendations for the production stage, and more. You can join the Lab here to have access to the post when it is released tomorrow.

You can see more of Olu’s work at www.manelprints.com or visit her on social media at the following sites:


Even Heroes Need Help

Even Heroes Need Help-Pattern ObserverFrom an outside perspective it might look like we just create patterns that get printed on fabric or design products that sit on a shelf. We both know that there’s more to it than that, though, don’t we? Consumers, clients, and our creative souls are all begging for truly exceptional products; work that inspires, empowers, comforts, and brings joy to the consumer on a daily basis.

In order to provide this level of quality, we must give ourselves time to focus on our craft and our strengths. We need to give ourselves time to experiment and innovate. We must give ourselves time to connect with our clients, connect with our customers, and connect with our community. Making the room in our lives for this deep work means that we have to focus on what we know we do best, and then reach out to others for help.

Going it alone is not productive, and certainly not necessary. By coming together as a community of creatives, where we can reach out to one another to fill the gaps, we raise the level of our work. We become heroes to the consumer and to our industry.

Once you know you need help, you can tackle the roadblock a whole lot better. You know that roadblock…most of us have had it; at least I have experienced it many times in the past. It all starts here: who can you trust for the quality of work you need? And once you find quality help, will you be able to afford it?

I’ve worked with web designers who promised me over and over again that they could bring my vision to life. Only after weeks of being lead on did I discover they didn’t have enough technical know-how to get the job done. A tough lesson learned, but I moved on, a bit smarter because of it. After all, web design is not my expertise. However, textile design is.

I’ve worked with freelance textile designers who weren’t familiar with repeats. Had I not taken the time to review their work and find mistakes, my client would have spent thousands of dollars to fix the work at a later date. The result would have been detrimental damage to my reputation.

In both of these cases I worked with inexperienced designers. They were talented. Both were passionate about their work. They each responded enthusiastically when I asked if they could execute my ideas. But in reality, they didn’t know enough to bring my vision to life.

Bringing another person into your world and into your work is scary. We all fear situations such as those I’ve shared. But when it works…when you find that person who is as passionate as you are about your business AND is a superstar at what they do…then you’ve tapped into pure magic.

So, how do you find these gems?

Look for these things:

  • A quality portfolio that resonates with your brand
  • Testimonials or case studies demonstrating success
  • Clear pricing so you know what to expect
  • Appropriate response times for your project

There is no solid reason to NOT allow yourself the time and freedom to focus on the work you do well, work that makes your creative soul thrive. Reach out to creatives who have the experience and demonstrated success to come alongside you and add value to your project.

That’s the best way to be a true hero.

Our Changing Industry, And How To Become A Hero

Become A Hero- Pattern Observer

The textile design industry is changing rapidly, just like most industries do. That’s what happens with time, growth, and in the spirit of progress. Budgets are tweaked to fit different business strategies, timelines have become tighter and with more being done via the internet the opportunities to travel and meet with clients are rarer.

Even so, we still love and respect the industry, don’t we? We still feel passionate about design. So what do we do? We take more and more on ourselves. We try to be the hero. We try to do it all in an effort to give our best work to our industry.

We find ourselves doing work that isn’t our passion and isn’t our area of expertise because we know that the work needs to be done. We think doing it ourselves will save us (or our clients) time and money. We find ourselves doing things like designing websites instead of focusing on patterns. We find ourselves designing patterns when we ought to be designing products. The list goes on and on…

Instead, we need to focus on finding solutions that help clients, while saving ourselves from becoming overwhelmed or disconnected with our favorite parts of the business. We still feel passionate about design and want to deliver exceptional products. We want to feel like a hero—the one who gracefully gets it done for our clients, even if we have those “frazzled” moments that we all have on occasion. Those are our little secret!

So, how do we make it happen?

We need to understand the changing demands of our clients, without losing the insight as to what we love about the industry, which is a reflection of us in so many ways. To do this, it requires focusing on four things:

  • Dependability—when we deliver what we say we will, clients will appreciate that. This never goes out of style!
  • Passion and innovation—staying abreast of the trends and what our clients’ expectations may be in regards to them helps us be better, and for most of us, it’s a joyful part of our creative experience.
  • Flexibility—if we show that we can adapt and keep delivering high quality results to clients, even if their budgets and scopes are changing for any reason, we show our value as a collaborator and partner, despite being independent.
  • Excellence—our goal should always be to produce high quality patterns that we are proud of, which is the main purpose that clients need us. Everyone’s ultimate success always lies in the design and its application to the products.

Yes, this is quite a list! It’s tough to balance these requirements when you’re trying to do it all. Imagine if… You could stop trying to do it all and focus on what you do best. What if you reached out for help so you could focus on the quality work that got you here in the first place?

Perhaps it’s time to stop doing everything so you can truly become the hero. By focusing on what you do best, you’re set free to deliver exceptional products. Your reputation will become stronger and that will give you all the makings of a hero.

That’s what I want for you. That’s what I want for our industry.





From the Textile Design Lab: Chelsea’s Challenge – “Graphic Statements”

Chelsea’s Challenge is a monthly post series in the Textile Design Lab, in which we share design ideas and inspiration to help our students build pattern collections for their portfolios. During the month of June our Chelsea’s Challenge focused on the Graphic Statements trend that we spotted on the Fall ’16 runway. We haven’t done one of these posts in a while but with all of the beautiful, marketable collections that are constantly being created by our Lab members in these challenges and it was high time to share some! Here is just a small sampling of the work that was created around the Graphic Statements trend. Enjoy!


Annette Chatman

Annette Chatman featured on Pattern Observer http://patternobserver.com/2016/07/15/from-the-textile-design-lab-chelseas-challenge-graphic-statements/

“My inspiration for this collection was the organic geometric patterns that occur in the natural world around us. I used mono printing, collage and wax crayons to create textural artwork which I scanned in to the computer before layering the images and simplifying the colour palette. The target market for this collection is women’s fashion.”

See more of Annette’s work at ascdesigns.co.uk.


Sarah Nussbaumer

Sarah Nussbaumer featured on Pattern Observer http://patternobserver.com/2016/07/15/from-the-textile-design-lab-chelseas-challenge-graphic-statements/

“Chelsea’s Challenge “Graphic Statements” offered three ways into the topic. I explored the trend that focused on organic textural patterns simplified by a monochromatic color palette. My inspiration was patterns from woodland views, animal textures as well as the weathering patterns on abandoned painted structures. I worked in Adobe Sketch, Adobe Draw, PS Touch, Adobe Capture and Concepts apps before moving to Photoshop and Illustrator. With the apps I explored many textural ideas and experimented with the features of each app. Finally I started to select areas that became motifs that helped to develop the collection. The patterns would be suitable for the apparel market, especially active wear. The collection appeals to women in the color range presented and men with a shift to a deeper richer color palette.”

See more from Sarah at her portfolio site (http://www.s-nussbaumer.com/) or visit her on Facebook, Instagram or Behance.


Cynthia Jacquette

Cynthia Jacquette featured on Pattern Observer http://patternobserver.com/2016/07/15/from-the-textile-design-lab-chelseas-challenge-graphic-statements/

“My collection was developed from one of my greatest sources of inspiration—the graphic and angular shadows found in urban environments. To achieve a bold look with a handmade feel, I began by experimenting with black Pigma markers on white paper. In Illustrator, I combined the vectorized scans of the sketches and added pops of color. This collection is aimed at the women’s activewear market, perfect for a customer who loves the fast-paced city life.”

Visit www.cynthiajacquette.com, www.facebook.com/cynthiajacquetteartanddesign/, or www.instagram.com/cynthiajacquette/ to see more of Cynthia’s work.


Catherine Wilson

Catherine Wilson featured on Pattern Observer http://patternobserver.com/2016/07/15/from-the-textile-design-lab-chelseas-challenge-graphic-statements/

“For this challenge I tried to translate the movement and energy of Abstract Expressionism and calligraphic marks into wearable designs for women’s fashion. I drew dozens of ink drawings before I made ones I really liked. I also incorporated scanned textures and a photo I took of an multicolored dyed piece of fabric. I assembled and tweaked everything in Photoshop.”

Check out Catherine on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/cathewils/.


Feeling inspired? We have over 70 challenges now available in the Textile Design Lab, with a new one released each month. Join us to participate and build your portfolio!

Check out more student responses to the Graphic Statements challenge and others on our Chelsea’s Challenge Pinterest board.


The Textile Design Lab Summer of Creativity

Soc_GraphicDo your patterns always seem to fall short of your vision? Before long you start doubting your work, trying too hard to make something happen, and eventually you end up losing interest in the entire project.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In our new Summer of Creativity course we’re sharing the exercises and techniques we use to bring our vision to life and create the patterns we see in our mind’s eye. This 7-week course runs from July 18th-September 2nd and highlights include:

  • our annual Collaboration for Designers group study: In this course you will learn the importance of working alongside other designers whether they be peers or clients, how to handle conflicts when they arise and how collaboration will enrich your design process. You will identify your strengths and what challenges you when working with others, and practice your new-found skills giving you the confidence to put them into action. August 1-12.
  • a brand new two week repeat challenge: Want to add repeats to your list of services in your design business? Over the course of two weeks you will practice your repeat skills and get feedback on our private forum. Learn to spot a poor repeat and how to improve it, what you need to ask before starting a repeat for a client, and more. August 22-September 2.
  • *weekly design tutorials: pulled from our popular Mastering Your Market Workshop (no longer offered), these tutorials cover techniques from working with hand-painted textures in Photoshop, to digitally painting with the Mixer Brush Tool, to creating artistic motifs by stamping with household items.
  • *weekly One Hour Challenges: fun, bite-sized tasks that can be completed in just one hour. If you find yourself in a design rut these challenges will offer quick ways to pull yourself out and can be used time and time again. Put these tasks into regular practice and you will develop habits that will make you a more efficient and creative designer!
  • Textile Design Lab member tutorials: we are thrilled to be able to share new voices and perspectives in more than 10 member-created tutorials that will be released throughout the Summer of Creativity. From “A Slow Approach to Textile Design” to “Creating Textures Using Lace” to working with casein, watercolor and other techniques, these written and video tutorials will cover a variety of topics to broaden your perspective of the many ways to approach textile design.
  • 7 weeks access to WGSN Fashion or Home for the first 290 registrants


The Summer of Creativity kicks off on July 18th in the Lab and we hope you will join in the fun! Lab membership also comes with access to all of our most popular courses including The Sellable Sketch and The Ultimate Guide to Repeats, weekly live artwork critiques, guest expert trainings, and lots more. Learn more here.


*Not interested in a Lab membership but still want to take part? We’re offering an à la carte option that includes the items starred above. Grab your spot here.

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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.