Monday, 8 August 2016

How to Become a Textile Designer

Today we had a chat with the talented Rebecaa Osewa who creates and sells unique designs to fashion and homeware designers with a focus on the African fashion market that requires bespoke looks and seasonal prints. She owns her own business (Rebecca Osewa Textiles Design LTD) and is based in London. 

Rebecca is an entrepreneur and is currently working on building her brand and taking over the world. If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a designer, read on!

So tell us a little about yourself:
My name is Rebecca Osewa, I am 23 years old and a textile designer from South London.

What does a textile designer do?
A textile designer looks at inspirations that support their creativity and there are two main sectors: interior design and fashion. I previously had an emphasis on fashion design but now I am rebranding to spread my designs to a wider market.

Did you always want to be a designer?
No, previously I wanted to be a lawyer because people always used to tell me that I was good at arguing and standing my ground, so I thought that trait would help me if I went into law. But when it came down to choosing my subjects at GCSE I tried out the Law class; I found it so boring that I ended up bringing out my science textbook! So that was the end of that.

So what made you decide to go for design?
It was something that I fell into, I didn't know that I had the skill to be a designer but a friend of mine at school had a detention in art class. I was waiting for her and because I was bored, I just got a pen and paper and some paint and started playing, drawing random things. I'd never felt so connected to creativity and I enjoyed everything that I was doing; so I picked it as a GCSE option and that's where my journey began. 

After university did you get a job in your field?
No, I have actually never worked for a textile company before. I've done some internships - one that comes to mind is a placement I had with Marian Rudy, who is based in Bethnal Green, just to get an insight into how the industry works. After university I went to Ghana for two months to do some research and I worked for a textile company there, which was all experience to help me understand the craft behind everything I do. I always knew I wanted to be my own boss and a leader, as I know within myself that I have a lot to give to the world.

How easy was it for you to get your internships?
It was quite easy as my CV ticked all of the right boxes. I had done creative subjects at GCSE, then in college I did a BTEC national in fashion and textiles, then also at University. So I had never really done anything else other than design.

How did you find the BTEC?
It was a 2 year college course, and for me it was more beneficial than doing A-Levels because I knew what I wanted career-wise; to take other unrelated subjects would have been a waste of time for me. So I did it to perfect my skills and it was during this time that I actually started textile-making as we didn't cover this in GCSEs.

What is your favourite part of what you do?
I feel like I'm creating my own world, bringing what I have in my mind to life. You're creating something that no-one else could because its coming from you. So it's the uniqueness of the designing process that I like.

Is there anything that you don't like?
As a start-up you spread yourself quite thin, so you're not just creating your designs you also have to sell it and do everything else involved with running the business including the social media etc. This can be quite draining and stressful, as you want to concentrate on the designs and creating but you have to give a lot of your time to the business aspects.

Is there anything about being a designer you thought would be one way but turned out to be another?
Definitely! My business plan has changed a lot; originally my plan was to create unique luxury textiles for bridal wear and that was always the dream. As I have gone into designing and positioning myself in the market I have fallen into things completely different. My ideas and the influence of my designs have been the same but what it has ended up being for has changed.
Some of Rebecca's fabric designs from her Autumn / Winter 2017 collection.
What tips would you give to anyone who is in school now and is interested in becoming a designer?
One tip I would give is that if you are in school and you want to become a designer then network; I started networking when I was 15. When I was younger there was an organisation called Connexions and they used to run sessions with a lot of different activities during the summer; so if there are summer programs in your local community then throw yourself at those opportunities - I would get involved in anything relating to creativity. When I was 18 there was a project called Set Fashion Free which focused on African textiles and setting it free to become something that we can wear today. I did that when I was 18 and now I'm 23, so it was a while ago but the memory is something that I hold on to and it helps me keep my momentum going forward. In short, if you want to be a designer, focus on your dream and try and surround yourself with as many related things as possible. Also, if you have a career-focus already, don't think it's a bad thing to do a BTEC instead of A-Levels like everyone else.

What were your best and worst subjects in school?
The three I liked and gave my all to were English, Business Studies, and Art and Design. The subject that I couldn't stand and still to today doesn't make sense to me is Science.

What was your least favourite aspect of school in general?
For me the most challenging thing was being my own person. When you are young you have a tendency to fall into groups and friends; this can stop you from having your own identity because you just do what everyone else is doing to fit in. At the school I went to, everyone always had their own batch, and if you didn't have your own group or batch you weren't seen as anything. It's really about being able to stand alone and pursue what you want to do without thinking "oh this person is going to laugh at me because I am going to the library". So yeah, the most challenging part was standing alone and being my own person.

And the best aspect of school?
When I got to Year 10, my teacher who saw the amount of passion and dedication I was already showing for design brought in a teacher who was one of his friends to support me with one of the projects that I was doing. Little did I know then but she does print-designing which is what I do now, but above that, she's the print-designer for Calvin Klein. I didn't even know she was involved in textiles at the time because GCSE Art and Design didn't cover that, but making that connection was the best part for me because we are still in contact now.

What was the biggest thing that you took from your school experience?
Becoming independent and knowing what I want and being able to pursue it with the support of my teachers. This helped me cement what I wanted to do and I was confident because I had the support from the teachers going in.

Do you have any advice or tips about getting through school?
A lot of people used to say I was a slow learner and that I might not be able to do well in school. I was marked down as being dyslexic so I was always in the bottom set and wasn't the brightest. But what helped me build up my confidence was that I never stopped believing in myself. Things were hard and teachers often predicted low grades for me but I knew what I was aiming for. Being organised and keeping my circle small also helped me a lot. So the tips I have for people is be organised and keep your circle small.

Any parting remarks?
The best thing about being an entrepreneur is that you are able to write down your vision on paper and this gives you the ability to create your own legacy.

About the author:
Yusuf is one of the directors of South London Tutors, an organisation that provides affordable tuition to young people in the local community and offers services to help them with careers. Check out our website to for more information about what we do and the tutor services we offer.

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