Designer Q&A: Duncan Neil, Creative Director at Earthed

BCFA member Evans Textiles’s sister company William Clark has started a new venture, an Irish linen producer – Earthed. Duncan Neil, Creative Director at Earthed bw

We spoke with Duncan Neil, Creative Director at Earthed by William Clark, who has over 12 years of UK textile experience and is the driving force behind the nature-inspired luxury linen brand. Earthed is a bespoke Irish linen producer that has been created as a new venture for William Clark, which has over 300 years of heritage in the linen industry.


So Duncan, can you tell me a little about yourself and how you got where you are today?

Textiles became my passion while studying at art college; I fell in love with printing when I exposed my first silk screen.

Since graduating in 2004 I have worked in a range of roles including menswear print design, university research, as a freelance designer as well as in digital furnishing production. Through these roles I learnt where I wanted to go as a designer and the products I wanted to create.

While managing a high speed digital unit in Lancashire catering to the furnishing market, the concept of Earthed was born. Having witnessed a decline in the textile industry while in Lancashire – then peppered with abandoned textile mills – and the struggle for small brands to start up, I developed a passion to help grow the textile industry in the UK.

The concept for Earthed was to create a brand designing and producing fabrics in-house. I fell in love with Northern Ireland while working at the Ulster University and wanted to start the new venture there. Fate then introduced me to the MD at William Clark and there was strong synergy between Earthed and the direction they were heading. I joined William Clark in spring 2016.Lupinius_Headboard (002) webEarthed seems to be a real combination of traditional and contemporary techniques. Can you tell us about your contrasting processes?

Having worked with many well-established furnishing brands for 5 years I know how popular fabrics woven in England and Scotland are, both to brands and their consumers.

It struck me that as famous as Irish linen is globally, it has never really featured heavily as an interior fabric. Our base fabrics are woven locally and the quality of the linen speaks for itself.

William Clark has nearly 300 years of finishing experience; combining that skill with a modern print process is a privilege. We have just begun to scratch the surface of how this finishing expertise can add to the digital process.Earthed - Faded Grandeur - Latobius (002) webWhich fabric was it that caught the eyes of the best fabric judges at 2017’s BDNY? Why do you think it was chosen for this award?

Our Faded Grandeur design in the Latobius colourway (pictured above) won best fabric at BDNY. Based upon the colours of the sky during an Irish summer sunset, this creates a real sense of optimism that tends to draw people in.

The rough textures and cracks that were inspired by the walls of our former outbuildings combined with shifting colour contrasts across the design are what we feel digital print should be all about; high colour counts and details that would be impossible, difficult or expensive to produce by silk screen.

Our aesthetic is rather unique, particularly in the U.S where digital print in furnishings is not as widely used as in Europe, so the judges were seeing something completely different.

Where do you start when designing a new fabric?

We are always inspired by the natural world and how we interact or view it, that is always the starting point for a new collection.

I tend to immerse myself in a subject for a few weeks, filling the studio with cuttings, photographs and drawings before taking the research into CAD. For spring 2018 we are going photographic with an object of inspiration I have been hoping to produce a collection around for years, so we are particularly excited about the coming season.Helico_Ardtara (002) webWhat has Earthed got on offer that’s new?

Earthed fully embraces the traditional and modern production processes which helps to define the style of the brand.

Currently we produce 85% of our fabrics digitally so we bring designs to the market that celebrate this process. Other than weaving the cloth we do all the production in-house, from singeing and bleaching through to printing and finishing. This gives us a quality product as the designs lend themselves to the process – we’re not using digital as a cheaper, more economic means of production.

We recently acquired a 20m screen printing table which we hope to have operational early 2018. This will give us the in-house ability to combine traditional and digital printing techniques, adding texture and depth to our products on top of the flatter process of digital printing.

Click here for more information about Earthed by William Clark 


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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