TEXTILE designer Emily Carney, who goes by the name Emily Laura Design, has worked in New York, Australia and London, but now she’s happy to be at Newcastle’s Toffee Factory. She talks to Sarah Millington

The Northern Echo:

AS mistaken identities go, this one seems almost inevitable. I call Emily Carney’s number expecting to hear a southern accent – instead, it’s unmistakably Geordie.

It turns out the Emily Laura I think I’m interviewing, a young textile designer from Gloucestershire, is, in fact, a completely different person.

The problem is that both Emily Lauras do the same thing and have virtually identical business names – Emily Laura Design and Emily Laura Designs. Emily Laura (the right one) laughs at my confusion. “I should probably change my company name,” admits the 30-year-old, from Whitley Bay.

As a printed textile designer, Emily works for the fashion and interiors industries, producing artworks that could end up on anything from a swimming costume to a roll of wallpaper. She creates everything from scratch, painting or drawing to a brief then transferring the image to a computer using Photoshop. She works through agencies to sell her designs and sometimes doesn’t know where they end up.

“Most fashion houses have a print team, but they also buy designs in,” says Emily. “I could do eight designs and they would all go to completely different companies and when they buy the design, they buy the copyright. Sometimes it’s a complete shock when I see someone famous wearing one of my prints. Sometimes I think I have an idea of what the print will go onto but then the person who buys it will do something different. It’s really strange when you see someone wearing your print.”

Though – due to copyright – she can’t go into detail, some of her prints have been sold to Topshop and Zara. She’s also worked for the Australian swimwear company, Wanderlust, and she accepts commissions – she’s currently working on a jungle-themed wallpaper. Her favourite subjects are botanical florals and animals, and she feels her strengths are watercolour and detailed linear drawing. In the notoriously fickle fashion industry, she has to be adaptable.

“I do everything – paisleys, tropical, bohemian, geometrical designs,” she says. “Trends are always changing, and I always try and do colour research and make sure my colours are on-trend. For the fashion industry, there has to be variety.”

Always creative, Emily really came into her own when she embarked on an art foundation course at Newcastle College. She did textiles as a specialism and fell in love with it. “We did textiles at GCSE, but that was pretty much a lot of sewing,” she says. “I didn’t know much about printed textiles. I decided I wanted to do a textiles degree at Loughborough University, so I did my degree there and specialised in printed textiles.”

As part of her studies, Emily was offered the chance to do a year of internships. She jumped at it – and ended up in the studios of world-famous designers. “I did a placement with Diane von Furstenburg, in New York, and I also worked with Nicole Farhi, in London, and then Tom Cody Design, in London,” she says. “It was an amazing experience. Diane von Furstenburg really inspired me because they’re really known for their prints. Nicole Farhi do prints but it was more about the shape and the fabrics. They’re just getting to know prints really, so I was doing quite a lot of embellishments there. At Tom Cody, all they do is prints and they have in-house designers.”

After graduating with first class honours, Emily was chosen for the New Designers exhibition, in London, and among the contacts she made was one that led to a job. “I ended up working in London for Eye Dazzler, a studio based in New York,” she says. “I worked for them for a year, then I got headhunted for another role with Whiston and Wright design studio. I worked for them for two years and learned loads, then I decided I wanted to move to Australia.”

With her impressive credentials, Emily landed a job with leading Australian design studio, Karolina York. She worked her way up from a midweight to a head designer, setting briefs, training new staff, managing interns and helping the owner to set trends. Armed with another two years’ worth of knowledge, she decided to set up on her own – and where better than back home in Newcastle?

“I started in my grandparents’ study, then I came across the Toffee Factory and, because I was used to working in a creative environment surrounded by other creatives, I automatically loved it,” says Emily. “It’s in the creative part of Newcastle (Ouseburn Valley) and you have to have a creative business to have a space there. I’ve been working here for nearly a year now and I’ve collaborated with some of the companies here. I’ve met quite a few people in the industry, so it’s been really good.”

By making connections with those more savvy about fashion – “my specialism is print,” Emily admits – she hopes eventually to launch her own brand. Diane von Furstenburg need have no fear, however. “I think I’d like to create something quite bespoke – one-offs, not mass production,” she says. “If it could be ethical as well, that would be great. It’s about doing what I enjoy. I love what I do and I’m happy with what I’m doing.”