A 22-year-old Cardiff Metropolitan University Textiles graduate has high hopes for a career in pattern design after one of her floral prints has been featured on a dress by national fashion retailer, TU Clothing.
Imogen Lee, originally from Narberth in Pembrokeshire, displayed her prints at the annual New Designers graduate show in London – one of the showcase events available to her through the BA Textile Design course – and was spotted by Sainsbury’s TU.
Imogen’s original print, designed while studying at Cardiff Met, features on a dress within TU Clothing’s spring/summer 2023 collection available now and she jumped at the opportunity to see the dress in person at her local store. Her journey with Sainsbury’s hasn’t ended there, after she was recruited to join its team as an assistant print designer.
In her final year at Cardiff Met University, Imogen was given one-to-one support from the institution’s Centre for Entrepreneurship to set up her own design business, Imogen Eliza. She accessed the Flash Funding, a small grant available to any Cardiff Met student, which Imogen describes as “invaluable” and allowed her to buy vital equipment for her business like a sewing machine. She handmade a range of homeware items for her business which featured her own prints, including tea towels and oven gloves, and sold them via her Imogen Eliza Etsy store.
It was during this process she realised her business ethos to bring happiness to people through her designs and the use of colour, drawn from her own personal struggle with anxiety throughout her studies.
Imogen said: “Studying through the pandemic was really challenging and isolating at times. I spent every day designing and learning new software for hours on end, but often to the detriment of my mental health.
“Sometimes at Uni you can feel a bit lost, particularly when you’re away from home. I found it hard to transition back to learning on campus again once lockdowns were lifted, but my tutors could not have been more supportive to help me through that difficult time.”
Cardiff Met organised mental health support and counselling for Imogen through its Student Support Services which helped her to tackle some of the challenges she was facing personally while completing her studies.
Imogen’s perseverance paid off, with multiple award wins under her belt at the end of her university course including Outstanding Creative Development in Textiles from the School of Art & Design and the Start-Up Business of the Year Award from the Centre for Entrepreneurship.
Imogen continued: “I really made the most of every opportunity on offer at Cardiff Met to better myself and set myself up for success as a graduate. It would be easy to give up when you’re faced with personal challenges but the more you put yourself out there, the more your confidence can grow. You’re no weaker as a person if you have anxiety, and I hope my designs can bring joy to anyone who is struggling.”
Last year, Cardiff Met was ranked as the top university in Wales for employability by Graduate Outcomes 19/20 with 95.6% of its graduates in work or further study 15 months after leaving the university.
Steve Aicheler, Entrepreneurship Manager at Cardiff Metropolitan University said: “Imogen exemplifies the entrepreneurial students we’re so proud to support at Cardiff Met. She accessed multiple streams of support available to our students during her studies and grabbed every opportunity available to her through her course to develop her skills as a designer and young professional. She deserves continued success and we look forward to watching her career blossom.”