For our Black History Month edition, artist and print designer Chloe Prentice created a full-page homage to her favourite Black figures in the media, from actress Lupita Nyong’o to model and activist Munroe Bergdof. Chloe’s piece attracted the attention of Bergdof, as well as Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, who was also pictured. We caught up to discuss the influence of Leeds on her practice, her approach to designing and social change in the industry.
You current work as a print designer for Next, can you tell us a bit about your background in design?
Sure. So yes, I work as a print designer for Childrenswear at Next, I’ve pretty much been there since graduating from uni back in 2016. I studied Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern at LCA (now Leeds Arts Uni). I absolutely loved illustration and screen printing as my main practise at uni, then my love of illustration kept growing.
How did Leeds shape your approach to design?
It shaped it an awful lot in truth. I came from an art foundation course back in Birmingham, where I’d been focusing on both fabric and fashion design as well as print and pattern. My real love of screen print started there, coming to Leeds was amazing for pushing me to keep drawing and creating print in different ways.
The great thing about the course was the variety of industries we were ‘aiming’ to design for, from Childrenswear to Women’s, Men’s and Home. The Childrenswear side in particular really made me think about how to ‘tell a story’ through print, which was lovely.
What other influences did you find in the city?
Quite a lot of my projects always seemed to involved buildings of some kind haha, the architecture in Leeds is absolutely amazing. Even places such as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – I would love taking trips out there with my aunt and getting inspiration. You can find it in so many places.
What was the process behind your feature for us?
Simple illustration and CAD work, something I’ve definitely developed during my time at Next. My day-to-day is mostly more naive and younger print and illustration, so it was lovely to work on a feature that was aimed at students/adults.
I used a lovely thin pen for the delicate line of the faces etc., scanned it in and then worked into them with colour on the computer.
You focused on six inspiring Black figures from Stormzy to Ava DuVernay- why did you choose these people in particular?
The figures I chose all have or are making an impact in their own fields. Whether that be in music, sport or activism, they are pushing boundaries and making, or have made, a lot of ‘Firsts’ and that’s really exciting.
The Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year prompted lots of big companies to make changes and bring more Black people to the forefront. Is this a change you’ve felt in the art and design world?
It’s hard to say. In terms of the design/fashion world, I think there is more recognition and celebration of people from Black backgrounds. We are seeing BAME editions of magazines or certain editorials celebrating Black cover stars, but it would be nice to see this carried on and for this to become more of the ‘norm’, opposed to these individuals being highlighted because they are a one-time ‘special’. But I do think it’s going in the right direction for sure.
That sounds promising, but yeah- it seems there’s still a lot of work to be done. Who’s inspiring you at the moment?
Candice Brathwaite is someone i’ve been following for a little while now. My best friend recommended her, but not having kids myself, there’s so much you can take from her positivity and outlook at the moment. Also, Helen Dealtry, an amazing painter and illustrator I came across in the first lockdown and it really got me back into more traditional painting. I love her work.
I’m also loving Marcus Rashford and what he’s doing for children across the UK at the moment. A massive football fan myself, it’s amazing to see what he’s doing off the pitch! Such a huge fan of his!
Finally, what’s in the pipeline for you?
So, at the moment I’m working with my colleagues to promote the way we work and give a little insight into our day-to-day. I’ve hopefully got some fun projects coming up on social soon where I’ll be creating bits and pieces around my practice and how we see our prints become garments in store. Outside of work, I’m massively back into making my own clothes, so this is something I’m loving at the moment and will just keep exploring with fashion styles and print for myself.
All images by Chloe Prentice.