Interview with Naila Malik, guest expert for February in The Textile Design Lab

Naila1Naila Malik is a British textile designer and lecturer and this month’s guest expert in the Textile Design Lab! Naila studied at Winchester School of Art and has worked in the fashion industry for several years designing for the high street, creating hand painted and CAD textile collections. She has also worked as a freelance designer for several London design studios including Palm Studios and Whiston and Wright, as well as working as a textile lecturer. Naila writes, “I am a very commercial, trend driven, versatile designer and am passionate about pattern, colour and good design!” One of the areas Naila lectures on with her textile students is “how to create textile sketchbooks and collect ideas which I would say is my favorite area, one day would I love to create a book showing how textile students/designers can display their textile ideas and research in their sketchbooks in a creative and eye catching formula.”

Later this month Naila will be providing free training on creative sketchbooks to all members of the Textile Design Lab! Join here to have access to this exclusive content.


We compiled questions from our members as well as some of our own to help you get to know Naila a little better:


1. Tell us a bit about your design background. How did you become interested in textile design?

As a child I spent hours drawing and making things and all I ever wanted to be was an artist I wasn’t really interested in much else so it was a natural progression for me to go to art school and study Art and Design. Drawing was my real passion and at one stage I was going to specialise in painting and illustration rather than Textiles. But my love for colour drew me towards textiles at that time. I loved the textile work of Collier Campbell and the colour in the fauvism movement, naive art and artists such as Hockney, John Piper, Marc Chagall and Van Gogh. Textiles enable me to play around with colour and use it in a bold energetic way, even in my still lifes and observational studies I just couldn’t stop myself from adding a splash of bright yellow here and there.


2. How much do you feel your education prepared you for working in the industry? Did it teach you all the technical/digital-based skills you needed to know or did you learn those skills on the job?

I did a two years Higher National Diploma course after my design diploma which I then top up another year on the BA hons textile course at Winchester School of Art. I was so lucky to do it this way as on my HND I was taught about how the textile industry worked, about creating good repeats, colour ways and also went on a work placement at Palm Studios in London where I worked on my range of children’s wear prints and was later offered a studio job as well. Winchester was totally different, we were more free to experiment with our work and encouraged to explore new techniques and ideas and not to worry too much about the printing practicalities, so I felt I was able to experience both positive sides of the two very different textile courses. I learned all my CAD skill whilst taking on as an in house designer and was very lucky to be trained up on what was then a very new area in textile design at Courtaulds Fabric Prints. My design director was very forward thinking and pushed his team towards digital design, there was only a handful of us in UK at the time and we all knew each other.


3. Could you talk a bit about the experience of designing for print studios? Did you feel you had a lot of creative freedom or were you expected to adhere to a certain style or certain trends? Do you have any words of wisdom for designers interested in having a print studio represent their work?

I freelanced for several London design studios, this was a real contrast to often the quite commercial print collections I worked on and even though I was asked to follow the current trends I had much more freedom and was able to continue to develop my own style of work, as the studios wanted each of their designers to have their own individual hand writing. Whilst at art college some of my designs were chosen by Sir John Miles who was the design director at Next plc at the time, so later it made sense to freelance for his design studio. I would advise designers to look around at a few design studios and have a whole range of design work in your portfolio to show various styles of work.


4. Did you start designing for the UK highstreet through freelancing or working in-house? For designers based outside of the UK, do you feel it is possible to design for this market solely via the internet? Do you have any advice for designers looking to reach out to print buyers for the UK highstreet?

After graduation I worked as an in house textile designer for a company called Dash who are part of the Alexon Group plc. I worked closely in the design department with the whole team of very talented fashion designers and buyers. We had our garments produced in the Far East, I learnt very quickly how it is so important to be able to communicate design ideas to each other, being able to liaise with other designers, buyers, production teams and clients is such a important skill for designers whether you are there in person or in another country. I would say it can only get easier to reach out to print buyers via the internet as we are more open to this way of working, many U.K. design studios prefer you to email examples of your work rather than see you in person with your portfolio.


5. What do you feel is the hardest step in creating a successful print? How about in creating a collection of prints? 

I would say a good repeat, One of the things I often see is  a wonderful print ruined by a bad repeat. Spend time on the repeat, it can really make a big difference. As a ideas person creating a collection of prints ideas flows very quickly. Once I am happy with the first initial print creating several versions to sit along side it is normally quite a quick process. I think working for the UK high street was very demanding and really taught me how to quickly work on different design collections at the same time.


6. Do you have a favorite print type to create or a favorite market to design for, and if so, what makes it so enjoyable? 

I love all areas of textiles but children’s wear has always been one of my favourite, it allows me to be bolder with colour and freer with abstract and naive imagery.


7. What are your preferred media/design tools?

I enjoying using both traditional art supplies and CAD. I always said that the computer for me was just a tool, you still need to be a good designer to know how to create a good print on a computer. I enjoy hand painting I love the feel of the paint and then scanning them into a computer, and enjoy the way a computer can create several other designs from the original. You can create instant repeats and endless colour ways, it’s fantastic.


8. Where do you gather inspiration for your work? Are there any books, blogs, magazines, etc. that you recommend? 

Generally I find inspiration from every where around me, places, nature, fashion, interiors, art, cinema and people. Interior magazines and books are one of my favourites as well as exhibitions, shopping trips, I used to work very near to Liberty’s and would often visit it several times a week. Being in the heart of Oxford street was a great place to be for inspiration. I love the buzz and energy of London there is always something new and exciting to see.


9. What role do trends play in your design process? Do you subscribe to any trend or color forecasting services and if so, how does this affect the way you design? What are your current favorite print and pattern trends?

Yes trends I play a huge role in my design work! It is always so important to be aware of what’s going on in the design industry. Creating mood boards of new themes is always the starting point for a new textile collection. At the moment I love several design stories, one of my favourites is the historical looking botanical prints, I like the faded greens and the soft colours.


10. Who are your textile design heroes? What about them inspires you or influences your work?

I have a real mixture of textile heroes old and new. I always loved Elsa Schiaparelli’s work especially her lobster print dress. Celia Britwell–I have always loved her work. Collier Campbell designs, Missoni, Paul Smith mainly for the colour and highly patterned textiles and of course my favourite is William Morris as nature has always inspired me and was a large part of the Arts and Crafts movement.


11. Over the course of your career, what one action has made the biggest impact on your design business?
Being flexible and open to new ideas and technology. Never limit yourself.


12. Do you have any words of advice for aspiring designers trying to make their way in the textile industry?
At the beginning of your career try and work with large companies, get solid experience and learn from your seniors. This knowledge is priceless.

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

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