Alumni Spotlight

Building a Career in Print Textile Design

Marjan Gartland ’12 and Janet Lee ’11

Marjan Gartland and Janet Lee have a passion for print design. Their determination and hard work has led them to start their own business, LintPrint, a design collaboration specializing in digitally printed textiles. They create locally crafted, one-of-a-kind, specialty printed fabrics for everyday use. Digitally printing their fabric gives them the ability to control the quality of their product while being environmentally conscious.

Gartland and Lee both graduated from Philadelphia University with a Master of Science in Print Textile Design. Prior to starting the program at PhilaU, Gartland and Lee were on very different paths.

Gartland earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from George Mason University. She was an anthropologist for a few years, as well as a graphic designer. Gartland always had a love for fabrics and knew she wanted to do something in design.

Lee received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Washington and a Master of Fine Arts in Textiles from the University of London. Lee became a teacher; however, she decided that she did not want to teach art for the rest of her life. She longed for a job that would allow her to be creative.

Gartland and Lee met at PhilaU. Neither one wanted a simple art degree. Gartland said the textile design program provides the perfect combination of art and technology. She states it is hard to find a program that focuses on both. Lee decided to move from Seattle to attend PhilaU because, like Gartland, she liked the curriculum and was impressed by the facility. One of the many things students in the textiles program learn is dye chemistry and how to use software, explains Lee. These skills are fundamental in the print design industry.

“When I work with other designers, I can tell they did not attend PhilaU because they don’t have an understanding of production, how things are made and how dyes work. In order to be a good designer, you need to know how things are going to look in the final stages. You might be painting great things but you’ll never get them to look that way if you don’t understand how it’s being produced,” said Gartland. The program at PhilaU is very specialized and teaches you the skills you need to succeed in the industry.

According to Gartland and Lee, PhilaU has provided them with many opportunities. Lee said PhilaU alumni are everywhere and are willing to help in any way. They both got their internships through networking with alumni. Marissa Maximo ’02, an alumna working at Urban Outfitters, really valued the program at the University and held a specific competition for the textile design students. The Urban Outfitters Print Design winner would have the opportunity to intern at the company; Gartland won the competition. Urban Outfitters produced a dress with the print she designed, which was featured at New York Fashion’s Night Out last fall. The company also included her on their blog, which Gartland said was great exposure for LintPrint.

The relationships formed at PhilaU have been invaluable to Gartland and Lee. Mark Sunderland ’84, M’06, Manager of Academic Operations, and Tom Fung, Adjunct Professor, in the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce, have been instrumental in helping Gartland and Lee launch their careers. Gartland and Lee started an incubator program at PhilaU which allows them to print their designs. The next step for them is to find investors. They are working on writing a business plan so that they can approach investors and get the equipment needed to produce larger scale projects. Faculty and alumni have helped them get their business plan ready.

LintPrint is being approached by various clients who want custom designs. Recently, it produced a custom-made chuppah or canopy for a wedding and another client requested curtains created for his home as well as his office, which is located at an old firehouse. These are the kinds of projects Gartland and Lee want for LintPrint. For now, the curtain project must be placed on hold. “Our demand is going up but the school can’t meet the demand we have on these projects,” said Gartland. “That’s not how the school printers run.”

Getting themselves ready for this next step is challenging. Approaching investors with their business plan is important for Gartland and Lee because they want to get the equipment, be their own print studio and bring manufacturing back to the United States. They are confident they will find investors who share their vision. Both Gartland and Lee believe they are on the cutting edge of technology and textiles. “’Textile’ is such an old word. When people think of textiles, they usually think of Persian carpets and Indian dying techniques,” said Gartland. “The technology we’re using, which most people don’t know about, is what differentiates us from other designers.”

The designers are currently working on their spring/summer 2013 collection. “We are really excited to work with bamboo twill,” said Lee. They love working with natural fibers such as cotton, silk and linen. The upcoming collection will consist of these natural fibers.

Gartland and Lee enjoy working together, along with their business partner and friend, Addie Pendleton. They strongly recommend that students and alumni use the resources and people available at the University. “Throw your ideas out there because people are listening and are willing to help,” said Gartland. Lee states that some people have the perception that once they get to college the institution is supposed to hand them a career, which is clearly not the case. “You need to pave your own way,” said Lee. “The school can facilitate what you want and help you towards achieving your goals. We are living proof of that.”

Visit their website to view the collections and to learn more.