Darcie Olley

Textiles Surface Designer

Darcie Olley has just graduated from Colchester School of Art, specializing 3 years in surface textiles design.  I first saw Darcie’s beautiful illustrations at New Designers, held at the prestigious Business Design Center, Islington, where students showcase her final work. She won the Nicole Abbott award, which was sponsored and selected by British fashion icon, Paul Smith where she had the opportunity to work at his print design studio on a placement.

Through her eyes, Darcie talks about her career direction,  her thoughts on sustainability, as she will be the next generation of designers and helpful tips to help inspiring textiles designers, who may not be able to afford the University fees.

What made you want to become a textiles designer?

From a young age I had always enjoyed being creative, and as I worked my way through school and college, realized I would like to be able to make a living from designing and making. At college I spent two years studying art and design, exploring working with a range of disciplines. Even whilst at university, I was studying a combination of fashion and textile design, which meant I got to experience working in different areas and gained lots of practical skills. Eventually, I realized that it was textile design and illustration that I wanted to focus on, as I love drawing and exploring colour and pattern.

Can you tell us what inspires you and your work?

I like being able to tell a story through my designs, often combining many different snippets of cultural, historic and fictional influences to create outcomes. I am greatly inspired by the beauty and diversity of nature, with animals and plants being my primary source of inspiration, I  create designs which bring amusement and joy to people is what drives me to do what I do.

Can you tell us where are the most common places you tend to find inspiration?

inspiration often comes to me in unexpected places. I believe that brilliant colour combinations and patterns can be found absolutely everywhere, in nature, architecture, film, television, and books. It’s about not just looking but ‘seeing’. Pinterest and Instagram are great places to find lots of imagery instantly, but in order to create something authentic, I think much more inspiration can be found in museums and exhibitions. There are so many amazing museums in London such as the V&A, the Natural History Museum and the Fashion and Textile Museum, to name a few, but I think that smaller, local museums shouldn’t be disregarded (almost every town has their own). While researching for my final project the Ipswich Museum was a great source of inspiration for me and I found lots of unusual and quirky artifacts there.

What area would you like to pursue in textiles design?

I’d like to apply my drawings to a range of different areas, such as children’s storybook illustration is something I have always wanted to do. I  think my designs resonate well with younger audiences.

Can you tell us about the exciting competition you won at university?

During my final year, I was fortunate enough to take part in and win the Nicole Abbott Award, subsequently, I had to opportunity to meet and present my portfolio to the iconic designer, Paul Smith, and complete a placement in the company’s print department. It was an amazing opportunity to receive valuable advice from the designer, as well as experience working in a busy fashion house. Throughout the placement as well as having a go at designing some Paul Smith style prints, I got to speak to everyone on the print team individually and learn about their specific job roles.

How did you find the experience at New Designers? (For those who may not be familiar, it’s held at the Business Design Centre, Islington and it where you show chase your final collection, meet industry expert, job opportunity and a selection of award are given out).

I found New Designers to be a really beneficial experience, and I got to make lots of interesting contacts who were able to give me welcomed feedback on my final collection. More than anything, I would say it’s a great opportunity to celebrate all the hard work you and your fellow graduate designers have just completed, any placement and job opportunities that come from it for anyone are a bonus.



Have you got any advice to present your portfolio?

As students going into the industry we are always told we need to have a smart and professional portfolio, which is true, but in my opinion it is equally as important to let your style and personality shine through your portfolio. I think many students are so worried about having a sleek-looking portfolio, that they forget to include original ideas, sketches, and drawings. In my experience so far, employers always want to see your sketchbooks and original ideas too so they have a feel for your work. Another great way to show your portfolio online is https://wordpress.com/ which I found very useful and easy way to showcase my work worldwide for potential employment.

Have you heard of any apprenticeship programs available for textiles design or those who may not be as to afford the university fees?

I’m not aware of any apprenticeship programs, but there are lots of textile design internship opportunities out there. Many of these aren’t interested in what qualifications you have but your portfolio. Fashionworkie.com is a good website to find fashion and textile internship opportunities.

As you will be the next generation of designers and sustainability being core on everyone agenda, Where do you feel you can make a difference no matter how small?
By creating authentic and original designs, hopefully, they will last the test of time, and be able to hold their own in the current and damaging climate of fast and throwaway design?

Are there any final tips you can give someone who may not be able to afford to go to university who is inspired to pursue a career as a textiles designer?

I would say that going to university isn’t essential, as there are lots of resources out there to teach yourself the skills that you would learn. I think the important thing is to make yourself aware of what is current, and upcoming trends. Although you might have a unique design style, it’s important when designing to keep your audience in mind and work out who it is you are designing for. I would advise you to keep organized and disciplined, as being able to work to a deadline is vital.