Emma J Shipley – Inspiration to work hard and dream big!

by Holly Taylor-Parnell
First-year BA (Hons) Textile Design student

Emma Shipley, a graduate of 2008 returned today as a guest lecturer, to speak to us (students from the School of Fashion and Textiles) about her successful career as a luxury print designer.


With a truly unique drawing style, Emma has become one of BCU’s inspirational success stories, but she tells a packed lecture theatre how it hasn’t always been plain sailing, and whilst she has accumulated a vast number of awards for her design work, the effort she put in to achieve this has been phenomenal!

Whilst studying for her degree, Emma also took the opportunity to complete internships with Burberry, Harrods and Tom Cody print studio.

She recommends taking the time to gain work placements and internships as a valuable experience, giving an insight into the fast pace required for the design world and also building up industry experience.

Emma was one of the students from our School put forward for New Designers, with her forward-thinking degree show collection, featuring designs for the London Olympics GB team, which led to an internship with Whiston and Wright, where Emma was given a genuine insight into designing in industry, and also longer term employment.

She reflects on the struggle of applying to the Royal College of Art to study for an MA in Textiles. After an interview that Emma said didn’t go quite to plan, she was initially rejected, (hard to believe), but was then later accepted, albeit at very short notice, to gain her MA.  Emma then went on to exhibit at Texprint, showcasing her signature style in London, Paris,  and Hong Kong.

Emma’s aspiration was to create her own brand, with her painstakingly hand drawn designs at the heart of it. Browns Boutique picked up her collection of silk scarves, which launched in store in 2012. This encouraged Emma to apply to London Fashion Week, a brave move, but one that paid off. She laughs as she tells us how orders were being placed for scarves that she previously didn’t have the funds to produce, and marvels that clients didn’t mind paying a deposit and waiting for them.



Winning the Premier Classe ‘Who’s Next Prize’ and exhibiting at Paris Fashion Week, followed by the WGSN Emerging Brand Award as well as a long list of other incredible accomplishments has secured Emma a place amongst some of the most desirable print designers, with her scarves being sold in stores such as Liberty of London, Fortnum and Mason and Le’ Bon Marche.

Her success is truly awe-inspiring. But it’s not just down to good fortune! Emma is clearly very dedicated, she tells us that entering competitions is a crucial step to building up a name and putting your work ‘out-there’.

Winning awards often comes with the opportunity to exhibit round the world, cash prizes and grants help towards building up a company, and you can never have too many industry contacts!

This talk has been invaluable, a true insight into how hard work does pay off and great opportunities present themselves to those dedicated enough to seek them. Emma is a remarkable young woman, and I’m sure that every student sat in the lecture theatre left feeling incredibly inspired.

For those of us in the throes of our final projects, it was a much-needed boost; to work hard and to dream big!

Find out more about BA (Hons) Textile Design at Birmingham City University.