This week marks the launch of Component Weave, our new, innovative solution created using high-definition weaving techniques born out of our Collitex facility in Italy, a worldwide center of excellence and innovation in fabric weaving. This versatile solution is featured across a spectrum of designs, including in emerging designer Holly Fulton’s latest collection at London Fashion Week.
To hear more about this breakthrough solution, we caught up with Leah Sheely, a Component Weave designer on the Branding/Creative team at RBIS, to learn about her passion for the industry.
With the foundation of Leah’s work based on her three great loves: art, fashion, and sports, her passion for design is unstoppable. A graduate of the Communication Arts Program at Virginia Commonwealth University, Leah began her career as a toy designer where she discovered textiles, leading her to a textile design position at Levi’s. Most recently, Leah has held “guest star” design and art direction roles for performance clients including Nike, Asics, Icebreaker, The North Face, Lucy, and many more. Today, textile design is her secret weapon.
Tell us about your experience designing and developing woven solutions for RBIS.
I worked on the client side my whole career as a product designer and a textile designer with brands. Through these experiences, I’ve realized you have to work with different people in different ways. With responsibility, comes the opportunity to push techniques and develop new things so that a designer will come along to say, ‘I have the perfect project for this new technique.’ With other roles I’ve had, you already know what you can and can’t do - there’s no room to really dream beyond the numbers you’re given. At Avery Dennison RBIS, innovation is truly limitless.
What inspired you to pursue design in the performance industry?
What attracted me to the performance industry was the energy of the colors and the designs. It's a place where you can really push innovation and artwork as an application to the product. You can use amazing techniques to create a graphic story out of the product.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I have to credit the insights of the team at Avery Dennison - they were essential in giving me a foundation to get started. I monitor athletic brands and specifically keep an eye on featured designer collaborations, including the partnership with Mary Katrantzou and adidas to create innovative clothes and shoes in the designer's iconic prints. These designers create something different, with a twist on athletic products, that no one ever thought of before.
With the changing environment of fashion, how have you seen the performance industry evolve?
Today, the consumer forces the evolution. With performance, the product has to perform, and the evolution is definitely driven by competition. For instance, running shoes are being pushed to be lightweight with more ventilation, so we are constantly pushing our Component Weave to be more ventilated, stronger, lighter, and do more for our running clients. However, with our soccer (football) clients, the shoes have to be durable and protective, so it’s a completely different kind of evolution. From an aesthetic standpoint, whatever looks crazy, new and over-the-top is where the industry is going.
What design challenges, if any, are you facing?
The speed of the market is fast. Our forward-thinking clients are looking to Component Weave as the next big thing. We have to ride the wave and keep an eye on the next one at the same time. Component Weave must constantly evolve to stay in this game.
What has been most exciting about working with RBIS?
It’s like having the keys to the candy factory. I’m able to truly push the limits of fabric and techniques. It’s not my job anymore to figure out what the design is and that’s very freeing as a materials developer. The ability to develop your own materials and bend them to the will of your design is the essence of product creation. One of the coolest things about working with RBIS, the Innovation Team and this fabrication for footwear is that woven fabrics, footwear and tech are a preordained combination. There's just a unique energy you get working with this stuff. Woven footwear has been around for thousands of years - its legacy in history is motivating and inspirational.
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