Loughborough University and Milliken reinforce their powerful partnership

Reading time: 5 mins

For the second year running Milliken partnered with Loughborough University on a project to design carpet tile concepts using Milliken’s proprietary Millitron® patterning technology for theoretical commercial environments. The project, developed closely with the University, forms an important part of the students’ final degree. But in 2020 – the year of the global pandemic – the students and staff faced unique challenges.

Kit Neale, Programme Director, Textile Design at Loughborough University explains: “The first lockdown was a staggering sledgehammer on all our lives and that was no different for our students who reverted to remote learning and digital submissions. The students were tremendous in their earnest efforts to continue and produced some extraordinary outcomes. The Milliken team were still able to provide support and feedback. They assessed incredibly diverse portfolios to deliver the winners through a virtual Zoom announcement event. It was a joyous moment in testing times and we're incredibly grateful for Milliken tackling the challenge with us head-on.”

LB1        LB2

The aim of the initiative is to encourage students to explore the broad contexts and applications of textiles, considering social responsibilities, sustainability, and advanced technologies. Milliken Design Manager Kerry Cottam explains: “Working with Loughborough University enables us to look to the future and see the emerging talent. Milliken offers students the opportunity to learn about different techniques; how to work on a different surface and the potential of Milliken’s patented Millitron® patterning technology. We spoke to the students individually (virtually this year) and sent feedback; they were so professional, confident and enthusiastic. For me it’s about keeping our eyes in the world and giving something back, especially in this climate. We loved looking at the students’ work – they are the future.”

LB3Students at the brief presentation in the Milliken showroom before lockdown

Kit Neale expands: “It's an exciting and inspiring partnership, opening students' eyes to commercial design trends and technologies. It challenges our students to create imaginative, innovative, and intelligently designed textiles for ambitious interior settings that Milliken's in-house design teams work in. Students join our program because we proudly boast strong industry connections and access to influential design brands across various disciplines, including fashion and interiors. This project is a valuable opportunity for our students to develop new design approaches using traditional methods as well as emerging technologies through a live brief. Milliken's design team introduces the project and students get the opportunity to gain feedback throughout the development stages, as well as the exciting chance to have their designs turned into a real product exhibited in the London Showroom. I believe it to be fundamental for corporations and universities to work together in partnership in various ways, including project led initiatives like this. Universities are key economic players in shaping the future of the design industries as we support and train students to be future leaders and creative thinkers.”

This year’s winner is Annabelle Loweth, a visually impaired hand weaver and textile designer based in London. Her most recent work focuses on juxtaposing natural features with architectural environments. Having been born with a severe visual impairment, Annabelle has the opportunity to observe the world from a unique and distinct perspective. She focusses on the more defining details: textures and close structures of media that others may overlook. Annabelle’s project ‘Organic Architect’ is a juxtaposition between architectural structures and the natural environment. The second prize went to Dani Nash, a London based textiles and print designer whose main inspirations are drawn from London’s skate and streetwear culture. The third place winner Morgane Dumas grew up in a small village on the Cornish coast, where she observed both the power and vulnerability of nature up close.

Loughborough University’s Kit Neale concludes: “It's vital that businesses like Milliken, work together with the Higher Education sector for the advancement of our fields. Our industries are facing momentous challenges, economically and environmentally, particularly when considering the Covid-19 pandemic recovery. Relationships such as ours foster innovative ideas through shared experiences and exchange of knowledge while also enhancing opportunities for students to build a professional practice. This project goes beyond the aesthetics of textile design to truly consider how textiles connect humans as we examine the complicated relationship of materials with how we interact with our environments. We're grateful for Milliken's dedication and hard work to support our students. The cash incentive in the awards our students receive is, of course, tremendous for them to invest in their studies. Still, more than this is the experience and opportunity to have work created and showcased in the London showroom is magnificent, and builds their professional confidence.”