Natasha Marshall is a designer and founder of Natasha Marshall Ltd – a textile design studio to the global textile, retail and fashion markets. Trained as a textile designer at Glasgow School Of Art, Natasha set up her business in 1997.
Natasha Marshall Ltd now works with mills around the world and creates collections for a number of clients based throughout the UK and Europe. These brands sell worldwide into a wide range of sectors including retail, hotel, cruise, leisure and healthcare. The Natasha Marshall team pride themselves in supplying fabrics that are both beautifully designed and coloured, as well as technically suitable for each sector.
For the last 10 years, they have designed collections purely for other major UK fabric brands, but now feel that the time is right for them to return to their passion and launch their own iconic collections. 2015 has seen the launch of four new collections fabric ranges Ikon, Alegre, Alibi and the complementary wallpaper collection Tandem.
Natasha is passionate about helping young people start up in business, is on the Princes Trust Scottish Council and a Board member of The Scottish Textile & Leather Association. She is also an active member in the Entrepreneurial Exchange.
Easyspace recently caught up with Natasha for a chat:
Q1. Natasha, tell us a little bit about your background and what led to you to starting your own business
I grew up in a very creative family and always planned to set up my own business so I could do what I loved everyday. I moved from London to Glasgow to do my degree in Textiles Design and decided to stay in Glasgow after graduating to set up my business as I loved the life I had here with the mix of design and sailing after studying for the 3 years. Work has always taken me to London, across the UK and abroad so this works well for also keeping in touch with all family and friends as well as exploring new places and inspiration alongside growing my business. Shortly after starting the business in 1997 it became a partnership with my boyfriend and now husband Neil Fullerton, who I had met at Glasgow School of Art when he was studying Graphic Design. The combined skills of a textile design and graphic design have been the ultimate mix in creating the company we run today.
My own taste in interiors is very clean and architectural and I felt that there were no fabrics and wallpapers at the time when we started, in 1997, that answered this look. Therefore I decided straight after graduating to set up my own business to create fabrics and wallpapers for the interior market with this distinct handwriting.
Q2. Tell us about your business Natasha Marshall Ltd.
Natasha Marshall Ltd is seen as one of the leading Textile design studios in the UK, creating contemporary graphic designs for fabrics and wallpaper showcasing the best of British design and manufacturing. Our aim is to add pattern and colour into the home through curtains, blinds and soft furnishings and to create a beautiful, calm and peaceful environment. Our combined expertise in textiles and graphic design saw us create iconic designs from 1997 for our in-house collections including Plectrum, Drift, Always, Blossom and Beanstalk which are still very popular today. These collections had been selling very successfully under license worldwide until 2008.
For the last 10 years, we have designed collections for other major UK and European fabric brands, but now feel that the time is right for us to return to our passion and launch our own iconic collections.
2015 has seen the launch of Natasha’s own studio collections. The Ikon Collection includes many of the most popular designs Drift, Plectrum, Always, Beanstalk, Billow and Blossom. Whilst the Alegre Collection comprises new designs. With Tandem wallpapers ranges complimenting both ranges. All Natasha Marshall Collections are all stocked in the new Glasgow Studio and we aim to provide excellent customer service, with no minimum order quantities and prompt order fulfilment whilst showcasing the best of British design and manufacturing.
The current collections of fabric and wallpaper sell online at www.natashamarshall.com and through independent retailers and interior designers across the UK. Export countries with international distributors have started to be opened up with Belgium, The Netherlands, New Zealand being the first countries. We are exhibiting at the international interiors show ‘Decorex’ in London in September 2015 to showcase the new ranges we have launched this year which will be a very exciting time for the brand.
The design studio side of the business is also busier than ever working with a wide range of brands in the interiors sector. Creating very diverse work for each client from modern through to traditional collections. The brands we work with sell worldwide into a wide number of sectors including retail, hotel, cruise, leisure and healthcare. As a team we pride ourselves in supplying fabrics that are both beautifully designed and coloured as well as technically suitable for each of these sectors. We are trend and market aware, specialising in creating patterns, taking the initial design through the development and production process working with mills around the world to the finished textile product or collection, depending on what our clients requirements are.
Everyone in the Natasha Marshall studio is passionate about design and finds the collaborations a thriving environment of ideas and creation as well as seeing first hand the growth of the studio collections.
Q3. Describe the process you go through when designing a new collection, and where do you & your team get your inspiration from?
At the start of a collection we look at the trends and create mood boards of how we see the collection developing and what themes we would like to use or our client will give us their brief. We then analyse the market it will be selling into and the price points that will need to be met.
Designs are created with inspiration being gathered from a wide range of sources – most used by us are photos we have taken out and about and the drawing starts with pens, inks, lino etc. Designs are created from scratch in most instances and for clients occasionally from archive depending on the project. We use the software AVA CAD CAM so each design is separated into layers and ready to print or weave.
We create a colour story for the range which we then take across the designs which is one of my favourite stages as this is when you see the designs come alive.
We then explore the manufacturing choices further sourcing the best weaver or printer in the world for the product. Visiting the manufacturers to work with them directly on the machines or remotely depending on what is required for the project. We visit key trade shows each year to source and meet with manufacturers including Heimtextil, Proposte, Evteks and Mood.
We then explore presentation ideas and look at how our customer will present the fabric ranges to their customers. Collating all the technical information including fire certificates. Then we are ready to create the pattern book lay-outs, artwork and liaise with the manufacturers to get the books or hangers made-up.
The best stage of the process is the photo-shoot as you then see all your ideas become an interior before your eyes, creating a interior you would love to live with! We plan and style the photo-shoots working with photographers throughout the UK and Europe in their studios or on location.
Q4. In the early days how difficult was it getting clients, selling your designs, and growing your business?
Patience is key! We exhibited at International shows from the start to raise our profile and showcase our designs to a wide audience. We found customers often wanted to see you there a few years before they really started buying from you.
Q5. How has the business grown since it started out?
We have moved from hand-printing all our fabric and wallpaper orders through to having our collections manufactured for us so they are stocked and selling across the world.
We are in the process of opening up new accounts with retail stockists and interior designers across the UK which is exciting times as we travel around the country and exhibit at International shows. This area of the business will see the team growing next year again, the hiring of new International Distributors and the negotiations for licensing of the studio designs to grow the brands’ offering.
The design studio that has been running for 10 years is well established and I look forward to seeing this work continue to attract the worlds leading brands who need ghost design work done for them, so we can continue to work on such diverse exciting projects.
Q6. Where is your business located?
Both myself and Neil are design and architecture nuts! We have designed and built both our Studio and Home in collaboration with architect friends, cameronwebster and both buildings have won prestigious architectural awards. The properties are situated in the West End of Glasgow and showcase our own fabrics and wallpapers throughout both properties. Both properties were created from derelict buildings we had found down lanes in Glasgow that had been left unloved.
Q7. Where are most of your customers based, and what type of people/businesses do you sell to?
Most of our customers are currently in the UK and Europe. We sell direct to consumer, interior retail shop owners, interior designers or architects.
Q8. How do you attract clients for your business?
We create fabrics and wallpapers that we would love to live with. We photograph these collections and promote the ranges through social media, trade shows and through our trade customers so that people looking to do up the home, hotel, cruise ship, bar or restaurant know about the brands patterns and colours.
For the Natasha Marshall brand we create contemporary graphic designs for fabrics & wallpaper and promote these and the fact that we are showcasing the best of British design & manufacturing.
Q9. How important is your website as a shop front for your business?
Vital as it is the first place people see the brand and what we stand for – A design led company who loves mixing pattern and colours in interiors.
Q10. How hands on are you regarding creating designs or do you now leave that to other members of staff?
We work as a great team in the studio and I ensure that I can be involved at lot at the key stages of every collection.
Q11. Do you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, to promote your website? How successful has it been for you? Any advice on how people can use social media to promote their website?
Having been mainly working as ghost designers for the past 10 years we have loved starting to grow our followers for our own studio ranges this year. It is a great way to share ideas, inspiration, loves and products.
I think you just have to be yourself and enjoy the whole experience and then this comes through in all areas of your business. Create a strategy so you are clear on the story you are wanting to tell along the way and how you want to promote your brand so it is consistent across all platforms. Speak to fellow business owners and go to as many networking events to learn about all the tools out there that are available and need explored. Finding out what works for others is always a great way to get their quicker and miss out as many mistakes along the way!
Q12. What’s involved with managing your business? Describe your typical day.
There is no typical day, which is a great thing about working for yourself. I can be out and about visiting customers / visiting design studio clients for client meetings / mill meetings in the office or out and about / inspiration days for new collections out and about taking photos or drawing and looking for inspiration through social media in the office e.g. pinterest / photo-shoots / working at the mills on collections constructions or colouring / working with the team in the studio on ideas / working on colour combinations and creating mood boards for new directions. Then every day working on emails for client projects, sourcing new suppliers, working with existing suppliers on current projects through to creating spreadsheets for projects, working with test houses on collection fabrics & social media.
Q13. Where does that drive to be your own boss come from? Why did you decide the life of a 9-5 employee was not for you?
I grew up in a creative family and loved seeing people doing what they loved for their day to day job or having to do it after work. I always loved cooking and art myself so my career choices were between these two areas. I decided after work experiences and an art foundation course that my route was textiles and it was during my degree that I decided to specialise in Interior Textiles.
My own taste in interiors is very clean and architectural and I felt that there were no fabrics and wallpapers at the time, in 1997, that answered this look. Therefore I decided straight after graduating to set up my own business to give this look to the interior market.
Q14. You are a member of the Entrepreneurial Exchange. How does this benefit your business, and how important do you think networking is?
I have been a member of Entrepreneurial Exchange for over 10 years and have so enjoyed my involvement which has included being a Board member. The ability it gives you to talk through business ideas and problems with fellow business owners is incredible both with fellow small SME’s and large business owners. We are a close group and everyone helps each other when it is needed which has been invaluable to me as the business has grown and developed. The yearly conference is also a wonderful day and evening to get away and think about the bigger picture while being inspired by others stories.
I am also on the Board and a member of the Scottish Textiles & Leather Association. This is another great organisation that brings together all the textile companies across Scotland to promote the best design, innovation and quality and help companies build on their strengths. This organisation also helps young people get into employment in the industry through the modern apprenticeship program.
Q15. You are also involved with the Princes Trust – what does that involve, and for the people you work with, what are the main challenges facing them when starting up a business?
I sit on the Princes Trust Scottish Council which helps young people start up in business and get into employment. This relationship started when they helped us start in business in 1997 as new graduates as the banks would not back us at this early stage. I then became an Ambassador for the charity before joining the Board, as it is wonderful the work they do to help young people grow in confidence when they most need it. This then helps each person reach their full potential through employment or owning their own business which is wonderful to see each time. It is a organisation that helps each other ignite growth.
Q16. What advice would you give to somebody thinking of starting their own business?
Plan what you want to do or sell and visit potential customers as soon as possible before investing money to insure there is a market for what you are thinking. You need to be focused and determined and see it as a journey – Learning to grow through the knocks, not getting tied up in the day to day issues and taking time to enjoy the successes as they come.
Q17. What are your plans/goals for the next 6 months?
Exhibiting at the International trade-show Decorex in September so a wider Interior audience become aware that we are back and producing our own in-house collections. Seeing the brand grow, growth on the daily orders of fabrics and wallpapers from our stocked collections and teaming up with suppliers to licence the designs onto other products for the home. Growing a strong list of stockists across the UK all selling and promoting the Natasha Marshall collections.
Enjoying seeing happy customers send in and share photos of their homes using our fabrics and wallpapers.
Thanks Natasha, from everyone at Easyspace.
If you want to find out more about Natasha Marshall, then click on the links below for more info: