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Meet the talented graduate Kieran Flaherty, we met at the New Designers exhibition, London as he graduated from Glasgow School of Art, with a BA(Hons) studying Textiles.

Kierans work stands out…it holds an inherent balance of geometric form and colour…and importantly his collection embodies his passion for textiles and a deep curiosity to learn more about the technologies and fabrics utilised by an industry that must become more sustainable. Kierans collection focussed on Sportswear and Outerwear, both huge markets set for economic growth in the next 5 years. His graduate collection showcases just a fraction of his talents and we look forward to catching up with him again when he completes his MA.

What inspired you to choose a career in Textiles?

I have always had an interest in fashion and textiles, however, I never believed that a career within the field would be something that was realistically achievable for me. Thinking this, I applied to study Chinese and linguistics at Edinburgh University feeling that this would be a more secure way to get jobs and have a successful career. Unfortunately, I was unable to achieve the grades required to gain entry to the course and thus spent 5 years working full time in a restaurant before I finally decided to pursue textiles. The time I spent working in the restaurant allowed me the opportunity to really think about what would make me happy in terms of a career and I knew then that I had to actively try to pursue my interests.

Why did you choose Glasgow School of Art?

The focus of the BA(Hons) Textile Design programme, as well as the Glasgow School of Art, is to create highly specialized design practitioners – each with their own unique, individual design signature and identity. As an applicant, this core value of the school was very appealing as it aligns itself with my own values as a designer, encouraging autonomy and the pursuit of your own interests within the fashion and textiles field. In addition, the Glasgow School of Art is ranked amongst some of the top Art schools in the world and the idea of being affiliated with an institution with such a reputation was incredibly attractive.  

Your graduate collection featured many beautiful prints, tell us what inspired them?

My graduate collection was inspired by the gradual industrialisation of the textile industry. Throughout my drawing and design process, I wanted to explore the capabilities of contemporary digital manufacturing and fabrication technology and their ability to translate traditional drawing techniques such as pinhole photography and collage. As such, I worked with a variety of different equipment such as vacuum formers, laser cutters and 3d printers – trying to capture what I had created in the drawing stage of my project using these newer techniques.

How did you create them?

My prints are a combination of traditional hand drawing techniques and CAD digital drawing.

Tell us about the fabrics and the print process?

With the intention of creating a cohesive collection which could be applied to areas of outer and sportswear, my collection has been printed on a variety of different synthetic materials used within this market. I have included materials such as neoprene and airtex to show the flexibility of my designs and how I envision them being utilised. Due to the synthetic properties of my materials, I have used digital sublimation printing techniques to retain the high quality of colour provided by my digital work.  

Has sustainability become an important factor in education?

Yes! As part of my final year project, I was expected to submit a responsible design manifesto as part of my project proposal which would outline the ways in which I was actively trying to reduce waste generated by my practice. Although every specialism has their faults, print and printed textiles can be particularly harmful due to the nature of how the fabrics are produced – with repeated washing of fabrics, screens in the case of hand printed designs, and waste generated from the use of pigments and other dye materials. To combat this, my collection was made entirely without the use of water and therefore the waste that would have been produced using these techniques was eliminated.

What was the highlight of New Designers?

New Designers was an incredible opportunity for me to make connections with other emerging designers and discuss my work with people who are already in the industry. It was amazing talking to other students and getting new inspiration from how they approached their design process and their own journeys to New Designers. In addition, I was shortlisted for the Epson Textile Visionary award for my work with digital print. It was very validating to be recognised within such a large pool of talent for the time and work I had put into developing my collection and aesthetic. 

How can the Industry better support emerging Designers? 

In my opinion, there are not enough opportunities within the industry for internships which provide a minimum or living wage. Experiencing the industry and having the opportunity to work with some of the companies that inspired you to pursue a career within textiles in the first place is, for the majority of graduating designers, impossible to achieve. During my third year at university, I was able to intern for the interior design company Timorous Beasties. Being based in Glasgow this was a perfect fit as I could stay at home and commute to their studio every day. However, speaking with other interns as well as my peers at university, I can understand why interning is not be financially possible for a lot of people. This is an area in which I feel more support could be provided by established companies and designers and help those of us just starting our careers.

What’s next for Kieran Flaherty?

I have recently accepted a place at the Glasgow School of Art to continue my studies as part of the Fashion and Textiles Masters programme beginning in September of this year. I am excited to begin the next stage of my studies as the Master's programme will allow me to apply the knowledge I have developed as part of my undergraduate course and apply it within a fashion context. This will be fundamental in my development as a designer as well as aiding me in developing the skills necessary for pursuing my chosen career within fashion.