Japanese influence helps graduates create silk design business

Meiji Designs Meiji designers Ruth Gibbs (left) and Natalie Herbert

Thu, 01 Oct 2015 12:13:00 BST

‌Meiji Designs, run by young entrepreneurs Ruth Gibbs and Natalie Herbert, has already featured in Vogue and presented to a member of the Royal Family

Meiji Designs

GRADUATE fashion entrepreneurs, Ruth Gibbs and Natalie Herbert, are on the road to success with their growing business and brand Meiji Designs.

Based in York, the company specialises in making one-of-a-kind hand-dyed and hand-printed silk blend scarves and pocket squares and has recently obtained its own studio space, allowing the designers to expand. 

The extra space has now led to the pair being able to attract online consumers by launching their new website, which includes e-commerce and an online bespoke service, allowing customers to design their own unique pieces from the comfort of their own home.

Their designs are inspired by Japanese techniques, of which Ruth and Natalie want to keep the native and traditional dyeing and printing processes alive.

Both aged 25, the duo met at the University and graduated in 2013, with degrees in Fashion Design with Marketing and Costume Design with Textiles.  After graduation, they decided to relocate to York, Natalie’s hometown, to build the brand.

Meiji Designs The company has since appeared in Vogue, GQ and Elle, with an interview most recently in the renowned fashion and lifestyle magazine House of Coco.  The designers also had the opportunity to present the University's Chancellor, HRH The Duke of York, KG, (pictured left with the Meiji designers) with a gift when he toured at The Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Centre housed at the University.

“We gave him a matching scarf and pocket square set and told him he could give the scarf to one of his daughters,” said Ruth.  “It was a great opportunity to meet him and we felt privileged to be able to give him a gift that we had made,” she said.

The business was started up with help from the University’s Enterprise Team, who assist enterprising students and recent graduates, like Ruth and Natalie, to develop their business ideas through one-to-one meetings with their business advisors, a series of business skills events and where appropriate, access to proof of concept funding.

While Natalie and Ruth are both still working in separate full-time jobs at the moment, they hope that the growth of company will continue and in the future reach a global consumer base.

“We would like to have a wider product range and build a Meiji Designs empire,” said Natalie, “and in turn, create lots of jobs for some beautifully creative people in the Yorkshire area,” she added.

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