Interview with MaryJane Mitchell, Guest Expert for June in the Textile Design Lab

Me in my studio with Ahoy Matey FabricsMaryJane in her studio with her Ahoy Matey Fabrics – photo by Karen Krogh


It is our pleasure to introduce our guest expert for the month of June in the Textile Design Lab, MaryJane Mitchell! MaryJane has been designing textiles for the babies and children’s markets for over 25 years. She has a wealth of experience designing for home decor products for kids, apparel, the quilt market and sleepwear, and we are so excited to have her on board!

Later this month MaryJane will be sharing an exclusive tutorial with Textile Design Lab students on designing for the babies and children’s markets. (Join us in the Lab to gain access to this tutorial when it becomes available!) Today we invite you to get to know MaryJane in our interview below. Enjoy!


Tell us a bit about your design background and career path. How did you become interested in textile design, and in particular, designing for children’s wear?

I graduated from Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles with a degree in Fashion Design. For my final collection at F.I.D.M. I created a children’s clothing collection. My daughter was three years old at the time, so I used her and some of her friends as models for the Collection. Since the experience of designing for children was such an inspiration to me, I went to work for a company that designed children’s home products, such as bedding and accessories. While working for this company, I decided I wanted to learn how to design textiles to use for the bedding I was designing.  I went back to school at night to enhance my knowledge of textile design so that I could design my own textiles. After completing the certification Program at Otis Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles, I was able to focus the skills I had learned, into developing 90% of the textiles for the company I was working for at that time. This was a great opportunity for me to design my own characters and collections and to have them shown in the industry. When I decided to go out on my own and free lance, I had an extensive background in designing fabrics for children and I also knew most of the fabric companies who were printing this type of collection.

MaryJane Mitchell guest expert interview on Pattern ObserverClose up of Ahoy Matey Toss – photo by Karen Krogh


What is a typical work day like for you? What are your favorite parts of your job.

My work day consists of managing many different projects. Typically, the night before, I make a goal list that spells out what I want to accomplish during the next day. This list can be different each day.

A typical list might look like this:

  1. Start gathering information for trends for next years season
  2. Make up trend boards for the Spring/Summer season for 2017
  3. Begin working on a new collection for the quilting industry using Forest Animals
  4. Finish up design ideas for fabrics for a new Baby Sleepwear Collection

My favorite parts of my work are finding the current colors and trends for the next season and then creating the characters and designs for what ever project I am working on. It could be a new fabric collection or other children’s products.Floral textile and King of JungleFloral Textile and King of the Jungle by MaryJane for Baby Funkoos Sleepwear


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? 

My design process usually begins by looking at children’s design trends and colors for the next season.  I love to go out and search my favorite children’s retail stores for current trends. This helps me see what trends are popular now and could be going forward.

For the past few years, I have been designing large children’s fabric collections for the Quilt Market, so it is important for me to attend at least one Quilt Market Show a year to see what other designers are doing.

Another trade show, that I make it a point to attend, is The ABC (All Baby Child) Trade Show in Las Vegas. This yearly show, which usually happens in the fall, is fabulous for showing the latest trends for the Children’s Market in both the apparel and home product industries. I also write for a Trend service called, Trendease and do an article every year on The ABC Show.

I also feel that you can get quite a bit of excellent information by attending Gift Shows. The Los Angeles and Atlanta Gift Shows are two of the most popular shows to attend because of the wide range of products shown. Seeing products from other industries can sometimes set a creative spark off and make you go in a direction you hadn’t thought of before. I am lucky to live in Los Angeles where we have great resources to tap into.

Once a year, I travel to Europe to observe what is trending in children’s stores and at the same time I attend the MoOD Show (Meet Only Original Designs) in Brussels. The print and pattern Trade Show, Indigo runs concurrently at the same time and is full of new designs to ignite your imagination.

The internet has some wonderful websites that also excite my creative spirit. Nowadays, you’ll find there are so many more readily available resources for inspiration, colors and design trends than ever before coming from the internet.

My favorite online information comes from the following resources:  Pinterest, The Pattern Observer website and their very informative newsletters, Print and Pattern Blog, Emily Kiddy’s Blog, lovelyindeed Blog, ColorCrush Blog,,, (they created a Kids trend report for apparel and stationery this year for 2017 that is fabulous and well priced),, and Design Options newsletters.  Children’s magazines Earnshaw’s review, Kids World, Kids Today and Baby & Children’s, give me a look into what is going on in the Industry, as well. European magazine resources for me are: Milk, PosterChild, Bambini, Kids Wear and Papier Mache.

Race CarMonkeyTextileRace Car Monkey Textile by MaryJane for Baby Funkoos Sleepwear


What are your current favorite print and pattern trends for kids and babies?

I still love the Forest Trend, the Boho Trend, Garden Trend and the Into the Wild and Magical trends using Unicorns, etc. The Gender Neutral Trend, that has emerged in the last year for kids and babies, is also one that I feel very enthusiastic about.  The Contemporary trend with cute sayings is gaining a lot of momentum. This trend shows a lot of hand lettering, which I love to do.


What are some of the challenges of designing for the children’s wear market?

Nowadays, the greatest challenge, I find, is pleasing both parent and child. In the past, the parent decided on what colors a child’s room would be and what a child was going to wear. In today’s world, children are making their own decisions, at a much earlier age, concerning color and trends. As a designer in this market, I have to try and find a middle ground in order to appeal to both the parents and the kids.


Who are your design heroes (past or present)? What about them inspires your or influences your work?

I adore, (I own all of her books), Tricia Guild. Her ability to see future design trends and colors are uncanny. The sister design team of Collier/Campbell is another beloved hero. I follow Sarah Campbell’s blog religiously and am amazed by how she consistently comes up with wonderful ideas and subject matter. The colors in her work are outstanding and she still creates all of her fabric repeats by hand.  Marimekko, the Finnish design company, has a very distinctive style and color palette that appeals to my minimalist side.  Finally, the two children’s clothing companies that I have recently fallen love with are Finn and Emma and Kid Wild.

The design heroes of the past that have greatly influenced me would include: Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, because he was so authentic, Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Train Textile and Carousel pony2Train Textile and Carousel Pony by MaryJane for Baby Funkoos Sleepwear


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

The decision to follow my instincts and being true to myself has had the biggest impact on my design business.  Even though I have designed for other industries, I always seem the happiest designing for kids and babies. Children have the special quality of innocence and they do not pretend to be anyone else but themselves.


What would you consider to be your most proud achievement/greatest success so far in your design career? What are your goals for the future?

There are two things I feel most proud of: The watercolor design for the first baby bedding fabric collection for Disney’s “Classic Winnie the Pooh” and the other achievement is being an inspirational catalyst for other designers on their design journey.

The Winnie the Pooh project became a labor of love.  It went through many changes but in the end, the collection became the top seller in the market for eight years. The screen printing was exquisite. All 24 screens for the project, were Galvano screens, which produced incredible detail.

Helping other artists and designers find their way in the Textile Design Market is my second proudest achievement. It is a great feeling to see other designers succeed and to realize that I contributed in some small way by simply taking the time to listen to their concerns.

My future goals include designing more textiles for Kids and writing and illustrating Children’s books.


What advice have you received in your career that has stayed with you or influenced you? Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring designers trying to make their way in the textile design world?

I wish, when I first started out, I would have had someone tell me to “ be authentic to yourself, find something wonderful to do that makes you happy and make your career out of that.” The second bit of advice I would like to share is this: If someone asks if you can do something, even if you are not sure how to do it, say “yes” and then, go and find out how to do it.  Always push yourself to learn new skills!


Featured Designer: Simone Evans

Simone Evans featured designer on Pattern Observer Evans featured designer on Pattern Observer Evans featured designer on Pattern Observer Evans featured designer on Pattern Observer3

Simone Evans is a passionate artist and textile designer of many talents! As a Shibori-dyer she works with bold and beautiful colors, then constructs garments for women of all sizes. Simone is also a hand weaver and digital printer and graduated from Kutztown University in May 2015 with a BFA in Textile and Material Studies. Read on to learn more about her process!


“After dyeing silk for the first time, having been always intrigued by color, my hands and my heart cohesively agreed on pursuing dyeing as a medium to design fabric, by applying color directly onto cloth.

I use a combination of Shibori dyeing techniques, dye removing, and re-application of dye onto silk, to achieve color-drenched, vibrant, and energetic yardages of fabric. The fabric is then used for collections of women’s apparel that is free-formed and fitting, and comfortable for women of all sizes. I am indulged in this constant exploration of color, while valuing the process of manipulating cloth to produce unique and striking patterns onto silk, to then produce statement pieces of clothing that that are bright, bold, and beautiful.

With the Shibori process, I work in concert with the material, allowing the materials full expression, with no intention to overcome their tendencies or characteristics. While there is some will and control of the dye results, an element of spontaneity and the unexpected is always present. And I believe that is the beauty of the entire dyeing process.

I incorporate my dyeing techniques into my woven work–where I hand-dye fibers using low-immersion dyeing, to then weave those fibers together on a floor loom, creating woven collections of garments and other woven products. My website, holds my online storefront where orders are made, and custom orders of Shibori dyed garments are requested. I love everything about this journey as an artist and I look forward to always finding new aspects of this process to amazed by.”


You can learn more at Simone’s website, and be sure to check out her Facebook page and beautiful Instagram feed. Enjoy your weekend!

Featured Designer: Katie Punton

Pattern Observer featured designer Katie Punton Pattern Observer featured designer Katie Punton Observer featured designer Katie Punton

The amazing work you see here is the creation of Katie Punton, currently in her final year at Leeds College of Art studying Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design. I love Katie’s blend of photography and graphic digital elements which result in such a fun and modern pop look–she is one to watch!


About Katie’s process

Throughout my degree I have established a strong aesthetic within my work, developing digital skills and techniques to create prints for fashion. I have embraced the use of digital processes, using them from the beginning stages of drawing, all the way to digitally printing my fabrics. I feel that my strengths lie in digital design, as I am very competent with using Adobe programmes such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. However I still utilise print room processes throughout my work, such as foiling, flocking and discharge pastes to enhance my digitally printed work.

As a trend conscious designer and consumer, I am constantly on the look out for new trends throughout fashion, using this as a solid base for my research, and to help develop my concepts and ideas. I have also worked in retail for a number of years, along side my university studies. Therefore I have experience and understanding of the consumer markets and how trends can be filtered down.


See Katie’s work

My degree show will take place at Leeds College of Art from the 10th – 16th June (excluding the Sunday). Also I will be exhibiting at New Designers from the 29th June – 2nd July at Stand T14.


Visit Katie’s website at or you can find her on Instagram @katiepunton_design. Have a great weekend!

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:

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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.