Michelle Fifis Interview

I’m really excited to be sharing this interview with Michelle Fifis from Pattern Observer. Michelle is a fashion textile designer and has worked with manufacturer’s such as Lucy Activewear, Jantzen Swimwear, P&B Textiles and has also been featured on Stylesight.com, Elle Decor, Nordstrom’s Blog and Print Magazine. Here’s Michelle in her own words..

Can you introduce yourself to our readers and share how you first started working as a Textile Designer? When did you recognize that you would pursue design? Have you had a formal training in textile design or any design related education?


My path has been a bit of a winding road. I actually majored in fashion design at Stephens College and discovered the world of textile design through an internship with the fashion and textile designer Zandra Rhodes. I’ll never forget what it was like when I showed up for my first day of the internship. There were all these artists hand-painting silks in her beautiful, whimsical style and an entire world opened up for me at that point. I fell in love with textile design and I remember going back to my professors, devastated that I had majored in the wrong thing. My teachers were wonderful, however, and they assured me that we could work with what I wanted. I ended up hand-painting and screen-printing all of the fabrics used in my senior collection.

It was a blast and a wonderful bridge to this new career. After that, I went on to work as an in-house designer for Jantzen Swimwear, then I moved onto Columbia Sportswear where I was a Sr. Graphic Designer in charge of womenswear prints and patterns, and then in 2010 I left to start my freelance business.

Michelle Fifis from Pattern Observer


How do you keep ahead of trends and do you find it easy? Do you attend exhibitions and shows? Do you use a trend forecasting company or is it a service that you offer yourself? Do you follow any other influential designers or blogs?

Trend research and forecasting comes fairly naturally to me and I believe this is because I am a natural observer. I love observing nature, human interaction, and social trends. I love looking at runway shows, I love seeing what celebrities are wearing, and I love seeing what the “kids” are wearing. All of this is a part of the process.

I currently have access to WGSN as an educator, but I actually use my own trend research for most of the work with my clients because they are usually coming to us for something very custom and tailored to fit their brand and signature style. I find that I absorb the information and feel more in touch with a trend when I go through the process of researching the trend rather than just looking at a quick trend report. I primarily research trends through the runway reports on vogue.com.

Michelle is giving away a free copy of her new book so read to the end and find out how to enter!

As designers we all work in our own way. Can you share your workflow with us? Do you like to work digitally? What’s your preferred medium?

I start almost every project off the computer by sketching and painting solitary motifs. I would love to be able to work directly in Illustrator or Photoshop because I think it would speed up my process, but I find that my work looks rather drab and boring when I start it in this way. I need to get my hands dirty to make it work.



After that, I scan the motifs and build the layouts in Illustrator or Photoshop.

Michelle Fifis Workspace

I always wait to put my work into repeat until after it is purchased and a repeat is requested by the client or the layout is approved by the client. It’s important that we are 100% sure that it is going to production. In the end, waiting to build out the repeat saves me time and my clients’ money, which they really appreciate.

You run a successful online business, Pattern Observer, do you still design yourself outside of this? How does that work? Do you have a particular project you’re proud of?

As my mentorship business has grown it has been extremely difficult to find the time to balance both businesses, but I know that it is important to my creative soul to keep designing. Over the past year my role has shifted into that of a Creative Director within the Pattern Observer studio. I approve the monthly trend focus for the studio, develop our royalty free pattern collection for our studio members, and then critique and help to refine the work that our studio designers are producing.

Pattern Observer Fashion Textiles

We have worked on some fun projects this year, but I am most proud of the work that we have done with artists and designers who want to apply their signature style to patterns, but don’t have time to learn how to create professional layouts and repeats. I love the collaborative aspect of these projects and bringing their style to life through print and pattern. It’s very fulfilling.

Animal love and Seuss Patterns

Criss Cross

Moving onto your company; Pattern Observer, it was originally created by you as a way of keeping track of emerging trends in fashion, since then there’s been a lot of changes. How has Pattern Observer evolved over the years and what do you offer your readers and students?

I began blogging about my work and trends in 2010. After a few months of blogging I started getting more and more emails from aspiring designers who wanted to learn more about my work and how they could start working as a textile designer. The amount of emails became so overwhelming that it just made sense to package the solutions and information into a course so they could get the most benefit and I could help as many people as I could while taking time into consideration. That’s when I was bitten by the teaching bug!

Teaching has become a strong passion of mine. I love developing courses and new opportunities for designers to learn how to bring their vision to life. We now offer self-study courses, eBooks, intensive workshops, and our membership community, the Textile Design Lab.

You’ve just released a book “Designing Textiles for the Fashion Industry”, which I’ve had the pleasure of reading pre-launch. Can you tell us all about it?

Designing Textiles for the Fashion Industry is the book that I had wanted to write for many years. I love designing patterns for the fashion industry. The energy and excitement of new trends and all things fashion inspires me. In this eBook I share everything from the lifecycle of a pattern to keys to designing for this market to what buyers are looking for when planning new collections, and so much more.

Designing Textiles for the Fashion Industry - Pattern Observer

The book is a great introduction to the industry and we are rolling out a series of creative workshops over the next year that focus on the various markets within this industry.

Michelle is giving away a free copy of her new book so read to the end and find out how to enter!

What are your plans for the future?

Right now I am focusing heavily on the Pattern Observer studio. We are growing very slowly and organically at this point and as we grow we are inviting designers from our Textile Design Lab community to join the studio. I see our studio becoming a “teaching studio” where long time members of the Textile Design Lab can have the opportunity to sell their work and get real world experience. I am so excited about this new area of our business!

What a great insight into Michelle’s working life as a textile designer! Be sure to check out Pattern Observers website and see how they can help you grow your textile business.

Book Giveaway + Bonus Bikini Mock-up!

e-book and mock-up giveaway

As promised, here’s the details for the e-book giveaway. Michelle released her e-book “Designing Textiles for the Fashion Industry” just this week and she’s giving away a copy to one of our readers! PLUS as a special bonus I’m adding my bikini mock-up for you to place your patterns straight into Photoshop. The perfect combo.

How to enter:

      • Simply enter in the box below.
      • You have 6 options to enter, choose one or more, it’s up to you.
      • Next to each option you’ll see how many extra entries you earn if you complete the task.
      • You also have the option to retweet every day for more entries, so keep coming back to retweet.
      • Giveaway ends May 10th.
      • Winner will be drawn at random and notified by email.

Pattern Observer’s – Designing Textiles For The Fashion Industry e-book – Giveaway!

All that remains to be said is good luck on the giveaway and come back tomorrow to view the SURTEX and BLUEPRINT line-up of beautiful flyers!

Also, why not sign-up to the newsletter below and receive FREE access to the library for pattern designers + artists. See you soon..





Disclosure: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any product or service from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you real information and quality products. Zara Martina is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
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