Sustainable textile designer benefits from Smart Citizens Programme
South West-based textile designer Jess Strain has combined sustainable fashion with digital design and fabrication skills in her new startup, Ovrbloom, with the support of Plymouth College of Art’s Smart Citizens Programme. Since taking part in the programme, Jess has received a Bronze Creative Conscience Textiles Award and the Young Innovators Grant from Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust, supporting the development of her business.
Jess, who was born in Ivybridge, Devon, set her sights on the world of fashion from a young age. Her passion grew as she attended Plymouth College of Art’s Saturday Arts Club between the ages of 12 and 15, before Jess pursued an art foundation course and graduated with a First Class Honours in Textiles: Innovation and Design from Loughborough University. The seed for Ovrbloom was first planted in Jess’ final year of university, when she began researching the impact of fabric and textiles on people and the planet.
Jess said: “I knew as soon as I’d graduated that I wanted to create a business that made a real impact on the world of fashion. Becoming ever more aware of the climate crisis has only heightened the industry’s awareness of the need for disruptive textile design. This is where the idea for my business, Ovrbloom, spawned.”
Ovrbloom is a sustainable accessory brand creating textile accessories and soft furnishings which are naturally dyed and created using waste material. Ovrbloom looks to disrupt the fashion industry with transparent reporting about the manufacturing process for every single product.
Looking to develop skills in 3D design and fabrication, Jess first discovered the Smart Citizens Programme at Plymouth College of Art whilst working as an artist-in-residence at Totnes Art and Design Foundation Course. Jess signed up to the Smart Citizens’ free ‘Design and Make’ training, hosted by Fab Lab Plymouth, where she learned how to produce 3D models using the CAD software, Autodesk Fusion 360, and gained hands-on experience with 3D printers and laser cutters. Using these new skills, Jess designed and 3D-printed a paper press to imprint Ovrbloom’s logo onto product labels, and laser cut her own logo cards.
The Smart Citizens Programme is designed to support local people to develop their skills in digital design and fabrication, and grow their careers and businesses. Their latest free training includes the Autodesk Fusion 360 Certified User Training, supporting participants to develop key CAD skills and gain an industry-recognised accreditation in digital design to progress their careers. They are also hosting a free Tech & Business Bootcamp. Through five days of workshops and mentoring delivered by industry experts, participants will learn key technology, prototyping, and enterprise skills to kickstart their business ideas and make their ideas a reality. Learn more about the Smart Citizens Programme and register for their free training through the Fab Lab Plymouth website.
Jess said: “I absolutely would recommend the Smart Citizens Programme to everyone; I think it’s a great programme for anyone from hobbyists to freelancers and entrepreneurs. The level of tuition is absolutely incredible and I had such a great time learning new skills that will enhance my branding and business.”
Since joining the Smart Citizens Programme, Jess has gone on to win numerous awards. In summer 2021 she was awarded a Bronze Creative Conscience Textiles Award in recognition of her alternative super-fast fashion kimono, which was made from crepe paper. She has also been awarded the Young Innovators Grant from Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust for Ovrbloom.
Excited by the development of her business, Jess said: “The Young Innovators Award has allowed me to take up a studio space in the Bristol Textile Quarter, whilst receiving 1-1 business mentoring which is holding me accountable and allowing me to work quickly towards my business goals of getting my products into manufacture.
“With Ovrbloom, I will create report cards detailing the product supply chain; the aim is to open up a conversation around transparency in the fashion industry and equip my customers with the tools to ask who made their clothes and where in the world they came from. The overarching aim is that consumers will begin to demand more of the high street giants and there will be more honesty and ethics around fashion manufacture.
“I am in the process of my first product iteration and I’m aiming to launch my product along with a supply chain transparency report card before summer.”
The Smart Citizens Programme has been supported by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who fund the Cultural Development Fund, which is administered by Arts Council England.