“I’ve been very kindly asked by SSEAMS to give an insight into my design journey, looking over 17 years working within the clothing industry. When I’m asked what I do for a living, I always give my answer as, “I’m somewhere between a Fashion and Graphic Designer”. It changes day to day if I’m one or the other, but perhaps it’s also this refusal to concentrate on one niche or speciality that has led me onto working with a variety of different and interesting projects along the way.”
After graduating in 1998 with a BA in Fine Art from the University of Derby, I worked as a gallery assistant and continued my fine art practice for a couple of years until I became interested in graphic design.
I retrained in the early 2000’s, and in 2004 joined Manchester based fashion brand Ringspun clothing. In my 12 years with the company, I had travelled to Hong Kong and China for factory visits, become lead designer on a couple of smaller labels, and was in charge of hiring and managing a team of interns and junior designers. Most importantly, the role gave me a rounded knowledge of the fashion industry.
We were expected to design every category of the range, work on tech packs, the sampling and approval processes, but also provide marketing and sales material such as organising photo shoots, range presentations and sit in on sales meetings with buyers. This eclectic approach was invaluable to learning my craft, as the ranges were designed so quickly and with such variety in style, that my graphic ‘handwriting’ never became stuck into one particular style, spanning typographic, illustrative, photo manipulation and pattern design based disciplines.
In 2016, I took the decision to go freelance. I was looking for more variety in the work I was producing as well as refocusing on a healthier work-life balance.
My first big project was with Moon Climbing, a Sheffield based equipment and clothing company headed up by legendary rock climber Ben Moon. The brief was to create a range of graphic t-shirts and sweats based on slogans and technical terms Ben uses for the brand, but to also recolour tried and tested core products they run year after year. I continue to work with Moon, and although designing the clothing side of the business is what I spent most of the time working on, Ben has also asked me to produce graphics for chalk bags, crash mats and promotional material.
After working on high street fashion for so long, it was great to work on apparel that would be worn as part of an activity or sport. The work for Moon very much tells the world that the wearer is a climber, continuing the tribal tradition of t-shirt graphics.
Another outdoors-based client I work for is mountain climbing and hiking outfitters Rab. The brands heritage began in Sheffield, but are now located in Derbyshire near the Peak District. The brief with Rab is similar to how I work with Moon – designing graphics for t-shirts, vests, sweats and accessories. Rab are perhaps my most widely known client in the public eye, and I still get a buzz from seeing one of my pieces being worn out and about.
At the end of 2019, I connected with Pearson Cycling, a London based brand who are recognised as the world’s oldest cycling business. My work with Pearson involves designing graphics for products such as base layers, jerseys, and other cycling apparel, but I’ve also had the opportunity to design a number of bike frames, which has been a totally new product area for me. Having a very minimal knowledge of the cycling industry, and of cycling in general, the team at Pearson have been so accommodating and helpful bringing me up to speed (no pun intended).
It’s fantastic to work with brands that are so passionate about what they do, but also have a fascinating history and heritage behind them.
If I’m asked for advice by other designers who are thinking of becoming freelance, I always say one of the most reliable ways of attracting new clients is via word of mouth. The adage of “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is certainly true within the industry, and I’d encourage designers to involve themselves within online networks, including the usual social media sites and professional platforms such as Linkedin. I’ve found that most senior designers are more than happy to advise, mentor and perhaps provide work to freelancers starting out.
I’d like to sincerely thank the following people for their inspiration, continued support and recommendations: Tim Fish, Chris Vandrill, Ben Moon, Will Pearson, Mike Mchugh, Liam Woodruff, Amit Solanki, Gemma Flatt and Alastair Sweet.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.