Meet Millie – our Junior Designer, who has been with us at Isabella Oliver for 4 years. As the creative mind behind our printed styles, we asked Millie about her design inspirations, the printing process and what she loves most about her job

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Tell us about your role. What are your main responsibilities?

Oh, there’s loads of things, but obviously the print design is my main role. Day to day it consists of sketching, researching, designing, setting up tech packs, putting mood boards together, liaising with the factories, fabric sourcing – lots of different tasks. I’m mainly responsible for creating all of the prints and designing the tops and knitwear categories.

Once you design a print, how does it then get made into a fabric?

So, there are a number of different ways that the designs can be printed on to the fabrics. If it’s a simple print with a few colours, we tend to use cylinder printing, where you can dye the fabric to be a base colour and then print polka dots or whatever the design may be on top with either reactive or discharge methods, depending on how dark the ground colour is. If it’s more detailed then we’d use digital print, which is where all of the design is printed on to a plain white fabric out of, essentially, a very large computerised printer. The digital process is cleaner as it uses less chemicals and energy, and a lot of our prints are more detailed this season so we tend to use this method more.

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How did you get into fashion design?

Art and design has always been a part of my life so I knew I would seek a career in this industry, whether it was through illustration, design or photography. I completed an Art Foundation course and whilst I was there experimenting with fashion and photography, I took my tutors advice that they thought I was expressing myself more through my design work, so that’s then what I pursued at university in Manchester.

Did you always want to do print design?

The degree I studied at university was fashion design which didn’t have much focus on printing techniques, so that part of the job came when I started working. The head designer asked me to do some simple star and polka dot prints and I realised that the process came quite easily to me. I started to teach myself to design more complicated artworks and now that I have the skills, it has grown into an integral part of our collections.

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What does a typical day look like for you?

I always start by checking my emails, to see if there are any issues from our factories in Portugal or the printers. Then parcels normally arrive and I will receive some strike offs to approve, they send swatches of the prints for me to analyse the colours and the scale to check whether it matches what I requested. Normally it’s never perfect the first time so I send back my comments. If we’re doing a cylinder print then we have to get swatches in 3 different shades of the same colour dyed base to make sure we achieve the right match. At first, when I started I thought they all just look exactly the same, but now I have a trained eye for distinguishing the subtle changes in colour. After that I’ll probably do some sketching, designing, and a lot of CAD (computer aided design) drawings. Then once a week we have fit meetings.

Where do you look for inspiration?

We go out to the shops, mostly vintage shops and look at the prints, and we also look at all the catwalks for what trends are coming out. Each season there’s always a definitive thing, like this season it’s animal print again and 70’s motifs. We also go to exhibitions and we take inspiration from artist’s colour palettes and painting style or geometric shapes from more abstract works. Natalie will also give me creative direction. She’ll often give me a starting point like, florals or geometric and then I will go off and design some pieces.

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What’s the best thing about working at Isabella Oliver?

I think everyone here would say the same thing, but it is the people. The team I work with are amazing, it’s so nice to work with so many creative people and to be able to delve into other departments. Having the opportunity to speak to lots of people about your work is very helpful and you have such a wide audience to ask opinions from. Everyone is so supportive and friendly, we are like a family. It’s wonderful working in a small company that allows you to be involved in many extra projects and learn from a lot of very talented people.

What was your inspiration behind this season’s main prints?

Well, the leopard print is still a massive trend this season, everyone is wearing it, it’s still in all of the shops, you see it everywhere. So, we definitely considered that when we were creating these styles, as we always try to create prints that are timeless and classic and will span the seasons. We’re not overly experimental with the prints as we still need designs to stand the test of time, so animal print is always a winner there. The chain print has a seventies inspired feel to it which is also quite timeless, as vintage styles come around time and time again. We’ve kept a quite neutral and classic palette with the colours this season as we try to make the prints appealing to all.
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