Guest Expert Interview: Fizah Malik

We are thrilled to welcome Fizah Malik back to the blog and to have her as this month’s guest expert in the Textile Design Lab. On Tuesday, May 19th at 12:30 pm Eastern, Fizah will host a live training event for Lab members in which she will be talking about the ins and outs of working as a freelancer for design studios. 

Please read on to learn more about Fizah’s work and the wealth of experience she will be bringing to her role as a TDL guest expert!

Please tell us a bit about your design background and career path. How did you become interested in the world of patterns and surface design?

My journey began at quite an early age. As soon as I was able to hold a pencil, I found myself drawing.
I took a leap of faith quite early on by not going to medical college and taking up Textile Design as my degree.  A lot of my teachers and mentors advised me against it but my parents always supported my decision.

They encouraged me to follow my inner voice and with  the confidence that they gave me, I went on to graduate at the top of my class with a distinction from University of Punjab (Lahore). I got a scholarship for my Masters degree and was the topper again.

After finishing my studies I started working in a local clothing brand and was hired as the youngest head designer there at the age of 25.

Life throws you curveballs all the time and moving to Australia in 2012 was one of them. I moved to Sydney after getting married and here I was in Sydney with no experience of the international design market, no family or support system, in a place I knew nothing about.

I had to start over and so I thought learning about the international market should be the first step. So I enrolled in a short course called Advanced Textiles from Tafe Ultimo and I must say I learnt a lot from that.

My freelancing career started with working on websites like Upwork and Freelancer and I remember I sold my first design online to a client for $50 and I was just beyond ecstatic.

Things really took a turn when I started freelancing for the biggest retail group in Australia. They had 6 brands under their name and I designed hundreds of print for them for almost 4 years.

I believe that learning never stops. Even after having my first born I went on to complete my postgraduate design certificate  from University of New South Wales.

I also did the Make it in Design’s modules 1-4 which really opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities out there.

I refined my portfolio and just started applying for different design studios and today my prints can be seen in major international brands and I am part of well esteemed international studios.

Can you tell us about your current freelance business and what sorts of projects you are working on?

Currently I am part of multiple design studios that sell my designs to international buyers.

I also have personal clients that have their own clothing lines or projects and use my services for bespoke prints.

I am particularly proud of my collaboration with DashWood Studios (UK) this summer for their fashion prints. Let’s see how it goes with the current lockdown situation.

My work is also going to be published in a  book highlighting Australian surface designers later this year.

What does a typical day look like for you as a freelancer? Where are you investing your time?

I am a mum of two so the day usually started quite early around 6:30am before the lockdown. After my daughter leaves for school I start with checking emails from clients and studios and then the rest of the day is divided into painting and digitizing the designs.

I plan my week ahead so that it doesn’t get overwhelming since I produce a lot of prints each week and I don’t compromise on the quality of each design. For me, each design is the hero design and I make it with my heart and soul.

All my designs are hand painted, drawn or sketched before they enter the digital world of Photoshop.

Nowadays because of the Covid-19 situation, things have slowed down and it has given me a rare chance to learn again. As I mentioned earlier I am obsessed with learning new things.

I am really interested in web development and digital marketing these days and trying to go through tutorials to learn more about it.

Apart from that I am doing  the 100 day project 2020 on Instagram in which I make a new flower everyday and the next day make a repeatable design out of it. I will be doing it for 100 consecutive days. You can have a look at my Instagram to see what is it all about……@fizahmalikdesigns

In addition to being a mum of two, I am a plant mom too. Nowadays it’s spring time and you can find me in the garden propagating plants.

Can you talk a bit about your perspective on trends and how you incorporate them into your design process? Are there any current pattern trends that are particularly inspiring you?

TRENDS are everything when it comes to fashion prints. As soon as the New York or Paris fashion week ends, we see a rise in demand for commercial prints inspired by the runway trends.

As a freelance textile designer, I always have to be on top of trends. At the moment I am just in love with the “pressed flower trend.”

What actions or decisions have made the biggest impact on your design business over the years?

I think it might sound cliche but not giving up has made the biggest impact on my design business.

When I was pregnant with my son 3 years back, I moved back to Pakistan with my family after living in Sydney for 6 years.

Coming back to a new city with no family around was really hard for me. After having my son, I went through terrible postpartum depression which we rarely talk about. It got to the point that I couldn’t even draw a straight line.

I genuinely thought that I will never draw again and my career is over.

I took a break for almost 8 months, didn’t work at all. Dealt with my depression first and when I felt I was in a good mind frame, I started working again slowly and steadily. It was like riding a bicycle. It all came back to me. The more I drew, the more I felt like myself each day.

Things just got better and better with time and I can’t thank my parents and my husband enough for supporting me at that time and always encouraging me to draw again. My husband helped me set up my current studio space in the house, which I am really proud of.

Now my design business is better than ever and there are so many amazing projects that are in the pipeline that I am looking forward to.

Every artist goes through a creative block and it is ok not to be ok sometimes and all of us go through it sometimes.

Fizah’s studio

What would you consider to be your proudest moment or greatest success in your career so far? What are your goals for the future?

My proudest moment was when I spotted my first design at the retail store of this Australian brand “Katies” while walking through a mall with my baby in a stroller.

I have bought a lot of prints that I designed after that but I still remember that feeling to see it for the first time and feeling like my heart was going to explode with joy. My goals for the future are to design a fabric collection and make amazing hand made products out it.

What advice have you received in your career that has stayed with you or influenced you?

The best advice that I got was not to compare myself with other established artists when I was starting out and that’s exactly what I tell all the new and upcoming designers now.

Everyone has their own journey and their own place in this industry. Don’t get intimidated by looking at someone else’s shiny Instagram account.

Focus on your skills and keep learning till the day you die.

Do you have any words of wisdom for designers considering a freelance career?

If you are driven, focused and ready to put in your 100% then freelancing is an amazing career choice.

The creative freedom and flexibly that you get from this career is unmatched.

Can you give us a quick preview into the training you will be offering to our Textile Design Lab members? What can people expect to learn?

I will be talking about the ins and outs of working as a freelance designer for design studios; how to decide if working for design studios is the right choice for you and since there are so many design studios out there, how do you decide which one is the right fit.

The students can learn about some of the terms and conditions of design studios, and the financial aspects of working with them.

I’ll also discuss how to be more productive as a freelancer and some of the pros and cons of this career choice.

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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