Programme: Textiles - BA (Hons)

Year: 2016

Since graduating last year, Textiles alumnus Matthew Barber was awarded the Burberry Design Scholarship allowing him to continue his practice at London's Royal College of Art (RCA) alongside an internship in the design team at Burberry. Matthew shares his regrets of not collaborating more and gives advice to new students and graduates alike.

Tell us about your time at ECA

Coming from an illustration background, I'm still not 100% sure why I chose to study Textiles at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA). I had previously completed an HND in Illustration at Newcastle College and had a keen interest in fashion. However, I didn't want to commit to pattern cutting and sewing and wanted to study a subject that, in my opinion, had a little more freedom in terms of drawing creatively and getting my hands dirty.

Something I found challenging while studying was that I wasn't lucky enough to have parents that could completely fund me, which meant I worked up to 34 hours a week on top of studying. I had a number of jobs while at ECA including working for Primark, Starbucks and Harvey Nichols. Luckily, each job I took on seemed to be better than the last.

"ECA taught me to think independently, fully develop, and realise a concept. It also taught me a breadth of world-leading technical skills within my practice."

Matthew Barber, 2016 - Textiles graduate

The technical staff at Edinburgh were outstanding, particularly Sally Buxton. Sally was the printed textile technical support and truly a close friend of mine throughout my four years at ECA. Both my strong technical knowledge and general passion for the subject came from Sally - I found her exciting, knowledgeable and engaging. I will forever look back on my time at ECA as a positive experience where I got to meet other like-minded individuals who I am lucky enough to still call my friends today.

Tell us about your experiences since leaving

Luckily, when I left Edinburgh I had already received my offer to study at the Royal College of Art (RCA), to continue my research and practice to a postgraduate level. I have just finished my first year at the Royal and I am currently interning at Burberry within the runway textiles team.

ECA taught me to always trust yourself, and if other people don't get it, then you might be onto something! It also taught me how to think independently, fully develop, and realise a concept and a breadth of technical skills within my practice that I believe are world-leading. Since leaving ECA, my biggest achievement has been that I was awarded the Burberry Design Scholarship to study my masters at the RCA. This scholarship allowed me to move to London, paid my two years tuition to the RCA and included an internship in the textiles design team at Burberry.

What's next? Well I'm about to start my second and final year at the Royal. My aim is to continue to push and develop my technical skills within the printed textiles discipline, to continue to grow and learn as a textile designer, and to develop a range of concept fabrics for my final collection. My final collection will take direct inspiration from my time in Scotland. Entitled 'Dark Dunes', the collection stemmed from an adventure around the Scottish Highlands, taking direct colour inspiration from my organic photographs and abstracting the stunning landscapes.



Alumni wisdom

I believe that I would give the same advice to someone who is about to start studying as I would to a student that is about to leave their final year - always believe in yourself, and work hard. If you do one without the other, you are not going to get where you want to be anytime fast.

It's going to be hard work, believe me it really is, but keep at it. Your aesthetic is going to constantly change, so listen to everyone and learn. 

Oh, and bloody collaborate! That’s something I wish I had done more of when I was at undergraduate level. The industry is all about sharing ideas so get off your high horse and get involved in as much collaborative work as you possibly can!

Do you have a story to share? Email us on ecaalumni@ed.ac.uk to tell us what you have been doing since graduation.


Are you interested in studying Textiles - BA (Hons) at Edinburgh College of Art?

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