The story so far
I was born and raised in the North West of England where I currently have the Textile Candy shop, in a little seaside town called Morecambe. I went to University in Manchester to study Textile Design then began the arduous task of finding my first design job- to this day I remember how hard that was. Endless journeys by train to London interviewing at what felt like hundreds of companies none of which reimbursed my travel costs. So, mainly to be able to afford interview travel expenses, I started working night shifts at a local textiles factory as a ‘quality inspection assistant’ - my job mainly involved identifying screen production faults on the fabric and colouring in the mistakes, literally with colouring pencils. Many of the printed fabrics were from prestigious companies like Ralph Lauren Home, Libertys and House of Hackney- this job truly ignited my love for print & pattern while reiterating that factory life in the winter months was not for me. I used to set off on my moped at 6pm in 5 layers of knitwear with my little pink helmet, work until 4am then scoot back home. So often I would finish to find my engine had actually frozen leading to 4am tears and a phone call to my dad for help.
Anyway, during the months spent working at the factory, I started Textile Candy as a fashion print & pattern trend blog. I loved predicting new trends and seeing them come to fruition and it really helped me keep a foothold in the fashion world for when I went to interviews.
I finally got my first job in London as a design assistant at a small high street fashion supplier based on Commercial rd in East London. I loved being in the city but quickly realised I was going to need a higher salary to stay there. Cue my second job as a Junior Printer designer for a knitwear supplier. Spending days creating trend boards, drawing and painting designs and then getting dressed up to present the new collections at meetings was exactly how I’d imagined my professional life. The feeling you get when you see your first print designs being sold in stores is incomparable to anything I’ve ever felt, it gives you a sense of pride which motivates you to create more. I had designs in M&S, Tu at Sainsburys, F+F at Tesco, George at ASDA, Littlewoods, Dunnes and Dorothy Perkins. It felt great to be able to take my mum into the supermarkets and say ‘I designed that’.
After a few years of living in London I decided it was time for a change, one thing to know about me is that I love change, chaos is my comfort zone. I tend to apply for jobs in seemingly random locations; Stockholm, Kuwait, Beijing, South Africa, France etc and see which doors open. In 2015 a door opened which led me to Germany, Dusseldorf in fact. After only a few months living in Germany some restructuring within the company led me to volunteer for an internal transfer to Belgium- another move, this time to Brussels where I met some of my lifelong friends. I couldn’t have loved expat life more but after a few years I felt that familiar stirring feeling again. I decided that the only way for me to lead the life I imagined was to start my own business and become my own employer. I’d had enough of the fast fashion industry and not knowing where the clothes I was designing were being made or who was making them. I felt uneasy with the disconnect between my morals and my work life. I decided to leave Brussels and fast fashion to do ‘something good’ although I was pretty unsure what that would entail. I love textiles and had always wanted to visit Africa but I had no intention of becoming one of those ‘gap yah’ voluntourists. Instead I decided to type 'textiles'…'Africa'….'volunteer' into google search and book a flight to the first place that came up. I’m THAT person. So off I went for 2 and a half months in Ghana.
You know when people talk about the pivotal points in their life? Well my first visit to Ghana was one of these moments. I felt like I’d found my spirit home, I’m aware that sounds like a bohemian cliche but there’s so much colour, pattern, vibrancy and life in Ghana and I felt an immediate familiarity and connection to the place. I learnt all about traditional glass bead making and batik wax printing and spent weekends at the beach carving wooden masks and drinking from coconuts, it was divine. To say I didn’t want to return to the UK was an understatement…so I didn’t…instead I accepted a work contract with a French fast fashion company based in Basel working as a Senior Print designer. I know I said just a few sentences ago that I was leaving the fast fashion industry to start my own business right…. Well I wimped out. I had a huge crisis of confidence, realised I knew nothing about how to start a business, withdrew to my fast fashion comfort zone and moved to Switzerland.
After my experience of ethical, slow fashion in Ghana, going back into fast fashion caused an internal struggle for me. I had a 3 month probation period, it took me 3 months to ‘give it a go’ and then I worked a 3 month notice period. It wasn’t all bad though, as a country Switzerland is really beautiful with some of the most amazing buildings and landscapes I’ve ever seen. I can remember taking a solo trip to Lucerne when I first moved there and feeling so relaxed and at peace but, despite the scenery, moving to Basel firmly reiterated that my decision to leave fast fashion was the right one.
So what next? We’re nearly up to the present I promise!
I gave up my beautiful apartment in Switzerland, relocated back to the UK and started looking for a studio space to work from. I moved back in with my parents- Something I never thought I’d be doing at the age of 28. One day my lovely, supportive mama sent me a Facebook link to a shop that was available to rent at just £35/week, so much cheaper than all the studios I’d been looking at… so I took it…. just like that I was suddenly a shop owner… a shop owner with no stock to sell! Turns out that being a shop owner means you have to constantly improvise. I made friends with local makers and collaborated with local seamstresses to slowly begin filling my shop without having to buy anything up front. Fast forward a year and I moved into my bigger shop space where I’ve been ever since.
I’ve recently decided to commit to selecting wholesale stock and now have a collection of 15 makers in store and online, all creating wonderful ethically made, cruelty free products to compete with the mass manufactured items on the High st.
Monday-Thursday I work as a Wallpaper Designer for a luxury wallcoverings company in Manchester and at the weekends I drive back to Morecambe to open the shop.
I’m pretty sure I’ve covered everything that got me to this stage but if you have any questions I’d love to answer them! Just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!
Thanks for reading this monologue, I hope it’s helped you get to know me and the makings of the Textile Candy brand a little more!