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Emma Higham

Senior print design manager, accessories and kidswear, Cath Kidston

What does your job involve?

I follow the creative process from initial concepts and design ideas through to the final approval of fabrics and products. Each season, I start by discussing themes, colours and print ideas with Cath Kidston [founder and creative director] and the rest of the design team. I source vintage inspiration, design new prints, brief suppliers with artwork needed for the design, and work closely with suppliers to develop fabrics. Finally, I approve all the designs for production.

What skills do you need?

You need a passion for print and design, a keen eye for colour and detail and strong drawing skills. You need to be organised, able to work to deadlines and as part of a team, and have good communication skills.

What do you like and dislike about your job?

I like the variety. Since I started at the company I’ve worked across so many different areas – from fabric and wallpaper to tin and china and print, with designs ranging from florals to dinosaurs. I like working for a dynamic, fast-growing company and really enjoy travelling to the Far East and around Europe visiting suppliers. I get twitchy when I have to spend a lot of time in meetings that aren’t creative, so I try to keep those to a minimum.

How did you get to where you are today?

Polly Jones [former senior colourist at Laura Ashley] gave me my first break in the industry. Two years later I applied for a textile design position at Cath Kidston and the rest is history. I’ve been fortunate to work with talented people along the way.

From the foreman at the print mill we used to work with in Northern Ireland who taught me so much about the technical side of printing, to our old graphic designer Sam who taught me about CMYK printing. And of course Cath Kidston has been an incredibly inspiring creative director and mentor.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

I’m such a geek about the technical side of printing and get a real buzz from it. So the first time I visited an industrial print mill and saw hundreds and hundreds of metres of one of my designs being printed was a very proud moment.

What is your ambition?

To head up a design team.

How do you intend to get there?

By developing my management skills. It is one thing to realise your own ideas, but quite another to effectively communicate those ideas to another designer who can then explore their own creativity while staying on brand.

What three words sum you up?

Passionate, determined, reflective.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

I’m not the most talented designer in the world, but I’ve always made the most of opportunities. Learn as much as you can from the people around you and work hard. Reflect on your own work and constantly develop and improve it. The worst thing you can do as a designer is get complacent. Build good relationships with colleagues and suppliers. You are only as good as the team around you. 

CV

2011 Senior print design manager, accessories and kidswear, Cath Kidston

2006 Senior print designer, home and kidswear, Cath Kidston

2003 Print designer, Cath Kidston

2001 Junior print designer, Laura Ashley

1999 Printed Textiles BA, Winchester School of Art

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