How vomit and spilt tea got me into the world’s leading textile printing design studio (and how you can DIY your own designer prints)!

First the back story that led to this serendipitous turn of events.

It was the end of last summer and we were heading to Munich Fabric Start, an international fashion fabric-trade fair in Munich, Germany. We were combining our fair visit with the start of our family holiday because we planned to head south anyway and wanted to reduce our time on the road.

Autobahn heading south
German Autobahn

The intention was to leave before the start of morning rush hour. The autobahn towards Munich is notorious for congestion and we hoped that if we left early enough, our two young children would continue sleeping in the car, and we’d be able to cover some miles before they woke up.

You know what they say though, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men’ and ‘never work with children or animals’ and we were dealing with both!

Our low maintenance pooch!
Our low maintenance pooch!

Our dog was no trouble, she sat obediently in her little travel box ready to go. It was the kids who threw the proverbial spanner in the works. It wasn’t their fault, I never should have told them we were going on a trip. They were raring to go and wide awake at the crack of dawn and busy sabotaging our attempts to get ready! We ended up leaving late, instantly derailing our schedule and then as soon as we hit the road, we were gridlocked in the morning traffic.

Stuck on the hot tarmac, in the glare of the summer sun, it didn’t take long for the kids to overheat and before we could shout ‘sick bag’, both had simultaneously projectile vomited all over the car! It was well over an hour before we made it out to a service station for a clean-up, by which time the kids were screaming and our nerves were frazzled.

austria scenery

The traffic congestion continued all the way to Munich, with toilet visits, snack stops and dog-exercising breaks consuming the rest of the day. Finally, just as were reaching our destination and our arduous journey was almost over, I dozed off, exhausted from it all in the passenger seat and spilt the hot of cup of tea I was holding all over my lap!

On arrival, I grabbed the first clean self-made thing I could find from my luggage and changed in the back of the car in the trade-fair car park. At this point, it was a race against the clock as I sprinted like a maniac into the halls with just an hour to go before the trade-fair ended, not exactly the calm, collected and professional entrance I’d hoped for!

me in munich fabric start

Panicking that I wouldn’t be able to find my fabric partners in time in the sprawling labyrinth of  booths, I mistakenly hurtled through the wrong company door. Before I’d even realised my mistake, I was stood motionless, mesmerised by the wonders before me! I’d inadvertently stumbled into fabric-lovers heaven! I was surrounded by rows and rows of the most exquisitely printed Italian designer silks you’ve ever seen!

Italy's top designer silks!
Italy’s top designer silks!

Serendipity! Sometimes the universe throws you a curve ball when you least expect it!

Fortunately the Italians are a friendly sort and after a little small talk about beautiful fabrics and the joys of parenting, I wound up being invited to visit their design studio.

Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como, Italy

Situated a stone’s throw from the shores of beautiful Lake Como in northern Italy, Avantgard has been a pioneer in fabric printing for over thirty years! Since it was founded as a design studio in 1975 by Fabrizio Navarra, these printing masters have been serving the top Italian fashion designers and leading the world’s fashion trends with their unrivalled expertise in textile design.

Avantgard printing designer, Como, Italy
Avantgard design studio, Grandate, Italy

Their secret formula for success and world domination in their industry:-

– Proximity to the famed city of Como, one of the oldest textile centres in the world with a high concentration of textile designers and a tradition of working with silk;

Leopard printed silk
Leopard printed silk

– Exclusivity! With Avantgard, it’s possible to create and print a unique, one-off design on just one metre of fabric! Of course it’ll cost you a pretty penny, but these guys are about quality over quantity!

Exclusive printed textiles ready for delivery to Italy's top fashion designers such as Prada, Gucci and Roberto Cavalli, to name just a few!
Exclusive printed textiles ready for delivery to Italy’s top fashion designers such as Prada, Gucci and Roberto Cavalli, to name just a few!

– A wealth of archival designs to draw inspiration from! Avantgard started as a design studio where designs were hand-drawn on paper and textile prints were made from hand engraved screens. Over the years, the company has built up an invaluable and irreplaceable library of designs to refer back to and build on in the future;

Avantgard hand-drawn design archive
Avantgard hand-drawn design archive

– Printed fabric samples can be provided on demand, saving time and money thanks to investments in cutting edge technology and the company’s eagerness to stay ahead of the pack and meet all their customer’s textile design needs.

Digital textile printing at Avantgard
Digital textile printing at Avantgard

The company has evolved into a technically superior operation where computer generated designs are directly transferred onto fabrics by specialised printing machines that perfectly regulate coloured dyes on natural fabrics such as cotton and silk.

Digitally printed silk fabric
Digitally printed silk fabric

Oliver Dietrichs, sales manager and my guide for this tour, demystified the Italian concept of Pronto Moda for me. The general gist is: Avantgard prepares a small selection of designs for the big names in fashion such as Prada, Roberto Cavalli and Gucci to choose from. The fashion designers then select their favoured designs and get worldwide exclusivity on them, meaning the design is taken out of Avantgard’s main design collection and saved for the sole use of the fashion house. These exclusive designs are then showcased to the world in the New York and Paris fashion shows.

Everybody wants copies of the top designer prints
Everybody wants copies of the top designer prints

Immediately after the fashion shows, Avantgard sells copies of the designs with modifications to other companies because everybody wants copies of the top designer’s prints. It’s the nature of the fashion business. Computers aid the process of producing variations on the designer’s theme by enabling Avantgard’s in-house designers to manipulate images and tweak the original designs to make the copies.

Unfortunately, the services of Avantgard are beyond the reach of average wardrobe-DIYers like me! The company mainly deals with agencies – business to business only!

Textile printing
Textile printing

If you’re hankering after exclusive designer prints, hope isn’t completely lost though. DIY textile printing will be within the reach of the rest of us if the fund raising efforts of the entrepreneurial By Hand London girls gain enough traction. They’re planning to buy their own computerised textile printing machine. So go over now to By Hand London and show some love for the sewing community by donating some cash – every little bit helps – then we’ll all be able to try our hand at fabric designing!!

UPDATE: The By Hand London girls have reached their Kickstarter campaign target and will be getting the textile printer!


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8 thoughts on “How vomit and spilt tea got me into the world’s leading textile printing design studio (and how you can DIY your own designer prints)!

    1. Thank you, I’m so happy to read that! What’re you studying? You should sign up for the newsletter – I share info on there that I don’t put in the blog.

  1. Oh, wow, more serendipity. I found your blog through Ralph Pink’s Facebook page, and have been enjoying it thoroughly. But this post…. When I saw the picture of the town on Lake Como my mind went back to my trip there in 1987, with my college. We visited the same textile factory!
    Thank you for the reminder, that was such a wonderful time for me, but so long ago I had almost forgotten.

    1. Thank you so much S.B. and thanks for visiting my site! I’m always amazed when life’s wheels start colliding like that! I’m so happy that this tale brought back happy memories for you. I love Lake Como and have many happy memories from there myself! I’m curious to know what your college study led you to. Are you now working in textiles?

      1. I did for many years, but outsourcing to third world countries made my skills redundant, and my growing awareness of overconsumption was making it hard to continue. I now teach hobbyists, who seem to be far more interested in learning traditional skills, and only make what they need. Although we all overconsume fabric 😉

        1. You’re right, we do all overconsume! It sounds like you’ve found a good niche now where you can pass on your expertise and skills and feel better about what you’re doing. I’ve been researching European textile companies that haven’t outsourced and are surviving and thriving – this really interests me.

  2. Hey there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to
    check it out. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers!
    Fantastic blog and fantastic design.

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