Designing Textiles For Womenswear With Maayan Alper-Swan

Maayan Alper-Swan is a Brooklyn, New York illustrator and surface designer who combines her love of watercolors, traveling, and fashion into her successful design business. Maayan’s muses are her multicultural upbringing, Art Nouveau, color palettes from the 1970’s, folk traditions, and women. She designs art for clothing, editorials, and paper products while working with clients like Zara, Calvin Klein, Cynthia Rowley, Victoria’s Secret, Strand Bookstore, and Planned Parenthood. Maayan will be our March Guest Expert in The Textile Design Lab, speaking to members about creating art for womenswear, March 27th at 1pm EST

Who was your first client that helped you break into the industry?

The first client that helped me break into the industry was actually a textile studio. When I was transitioning from a career in fashion to textile design I was designing prints for a textile studio. Some of my prints from the studio sold to pretty large retailers like Calvin Klein and Zara. Having those big names in my portfolio and seeing my work out there in the world gave me the confidence to reach out to brands directly and really got me started in the industry.

How did you refine your style and learn your favorite mediums like watercolor?

Ink has been a part of my work for a long time. I started experimenting with it as a teenager, after I inherited a set of vintage ink pens, nibs and drafting tools from my great-grandfather who was an architect. I started exploring watercolors when I was still working in fashion design but building a textile design portfolio. I’m completely self taught so there was a lot of experimenting, but this medium instantly spoke to me and has become my favorite as well as what I am known for. I think I really honed in on my style once i started combining the intricate lines of my ink illustrations with the flow, movement, and color palettes of my watercolors.

What is a typical work day for you? How many projects do you juggle at one time?

Frankly, there is no typical day. The days really vary a lot as I balance developing artwork, sketching + painting with scanning artwork + finalizing repeats in photoshop as well as the less glamorous aspects of the work such as answering emails, invoicing, etc.

As I’m writing this, I am currently juggling 6 projects but that also varies quite a lot. I am very lucky to have a roster of clients that I have collaborated with for many years and can count on working with for an ongoing or seasonal basis.

You love to travel and find influence for your art, tell us about some of your most favorite travel experiences.

In terms of experiences that influenced my work the first one that comes to mind is walking through the Alhambra in Granada, Spain at night. It was magical to experience the intricately tiled and patterned walls of this palace the same way the people who built it in the 14th century had every night – lit only by candles.

Stargazing in the Elqui Valley was an incredible experience. In this very special corner of Chile, the southernmost point of the Atacama desert, I felt very close to all celestial bodies.

The cities of Fez and Tangier in Morocco are very dear to me and have inspired a lot of my work with their history and unexpected beauty.

Lastly, I have always been a lover of nature, but visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon and experiencing the rainforest in its many scales {the tiniest orchids to the biggest trees to the microscopic insects to the grand birds of prey} has made me appreciate nature’s intrinsic harmony in a whole new way and has inspired a lot of my botanical work.

Maayan at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain

What do you feel makes a successful print for women’s apparel, or what considerations do you keep in mind when designing for this market?

I am obviously biased, but I think that a beautiful or interesting print is what sells a garment. It’s often what catches the eye before silhouette or cut. A successful print for women’s apparel considers layout and scale, but possibly most importantly, it tells a story through color. Of course layout, color, and scale are key in surface design regardless of the market you’re designing for, but in womenswear I think it’s necessary to keep in mind that there is a body wearing the garment and a successful print is designed ‘in relation to the body’ as Sonia Delaunay said.

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

I am proud of having worked and supported myself as an artist and designer for more than 10 years, and the growth I see in my creative practice from when I first started in textile design. I am especially proud of artwork that I made as part of my personal practice that ended up being licensed very successfully. It is so gratifying to see the work that feels the most true to my own creative expression resonate with people and be a part of their homes and daily lives in the forms of wallpaper, bedding, phones cases, wall art and more.

As for my goals for the future, the dream is to work with one of my favorite designers Dries Van Noten. I would also love to design prints for Stella Jean + Ulla Johnson.

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 walking the Textile Design Lab members through my process of designing prints for womenswear and the different ways I work with clients in that market from one off prints to entire seasonal collections. I will take them through my process from color + moodboard to the design + art making phase to working with printers + manufacturers all the way to the most fun part – the final product! I will see you there March 27th at 1pm EST

You can check out Maayan’s website here and find her on instagram here.

Want to check out even more surface designers out there….Here is a design feature on Claire Iglesias you might love.

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