Travelling to London has kept my interest partly because their designers, artists and craftsmen are so well supported and encouraged by the local councils that they appear to be able to innovate and create more. So for me, it’s not just yarn tourism… it’s the search for signs of future growth and the pushing forward of an entire textile and craft industry. I’m looking for something more than just the mechanical workings of a traditional hand loom or traditional fair isle designs updated in contemporary colours. I don’t know what it is, but I’m looking.
On the way, I get distracted by shiny, pretty things and some of the most vibrantly coloured, interesting and luxurious woven items I have found in London are designed by [Wallace+Sewell](http://wallacesewell.com/), a pair of weavers who graduated from the Royal College of Art almost twenty years ago.
Located at the corner of Amwell and Lloyd Baker Streets just south of the Angel tube stop, the shop is seriously tiny, but stacked from floor to ceiling with silk, cashmere and wool blankets and scarves. Last time I visited, they had a “pillow” event, so the centre of the shop was piled high with pillows made from their woven designs in all different colours and textures. This time, I think the silk organza scarves were new… and these plasticized fabrics too. This was some of the most intriguing work I saw… very contemporary and very topical. Selvedges from handwoven fabric was compressed with vinyl plastic in order to create a new “fabric” which was then made into handbags.
I love love loved these. Scraps of woven silk fabric laid in quite a thick chunk of plastic making some really interesting bracelets, earrings and brooches. Just some very inventive ways of using up the little bits of extra fabric.
And of course, perfectly sheer and delicately coloured woven silk organza scarves. Not entirely innovative, but still beautiful to see and touch.
Where else in the world is really, truely _new_ textile design and innovation happening? And I don’t mean textile art. I mean functional textile design for use in fashion or interiors. Emphasis on _functional_. Where do we stop just making pretty things and start making things that improve people’s lives in tangible ways? For a while now, I have been following the work and research being done at Central St. Martin’s in their [MA Design for Textile Futures](http://textilefutures.co.uk/exchange/bin/view/TextileFutures/WebHome), mainly because I was interested in possibly studying there (but can you say “hello, life long student loan debt”?), but also because there is no program like it anywhere. Where else do students create interactive wallpaper, light-reactive window shades, and “architectural textiles for localised urban food production and environmental monitoring”. I don’t even know what that means. But when you pair [creative and innovative textile designers with Nobel prize-winning scientists…](http://textilefutures.co.uk/exchange/bin/view/TextileFutures/NobelTextiles) well, we can just be optimistic that our future lives will be benefitted by their new discoveries.