• US@UO: Textile Design with Sarafina Creeley

    We visit the home of UO textile designer Sarafina Creeley and learn more about what inspires her and how she gets work done.
    Photos by Jessica Flynn

    Hi Sarafina! Tell us a little bit about yourself – what's your job title at UO? When did you first start here?
    I’m Sarafina, I’m a textile designer on the Women’s Home team. I’m originally from Minnetonka, Mn but left when I was 18 for art school (RISD) and then put in 10 years in NYC. I came to philly 5 years ago to freelance, which lead me to URBN and to a full time position here! I live in Fishtown with my husband Will and our son Jasper who turns 2 soon.

    When did you first get interested in design?
    I’ve aways been interested in art, painting, creating, designing, I took as many art classes as I could in high school. I actually studied graphic design at Rhode Island School of Design, but even there I was an “illustrative designer” more intrested in illustrating books I hand bound and letterpressed than designing a logo! My senior thesis actually predicted where I would end up, designing and making some books that explored literature and surface design. After school I worked at some magazines doing traditional print design but I really missed drawing so I started doing t shirt graphics on the side. I had lots of friends that worked in fashion and one reached out to me with a job at a skateboard company so I made the leap and switched careers. Since then I went from designing t shirt graphics and learning about the garment industry, to finally my true passion, print textile design.

    How did you first get started at Urban Outfitters?
    I moved to Philadelphia with my husband to freelance after putting in 10 years in NYC. One of the places I freelanced at was Urban Outfitters on the Womens print team. They needed help on the Home side as they decided to grow the department so I switched to freelance there and it was a natural fit so I joined as a full-time employee almost 3 years ago.

    When you first started here, how was your job different from what you're doing now? Can you explain your career path at UO?
    Well when I started here I was freelance, so you basically are there to help make the full-time staff’s ideas come to life. You work on cool stuff but it’s other people’s ideas. When I went full time, I get to be the one coming up with the idea, my work feels wholly mine. As far as the kind of work, every season we are creating better product, with better materials and finishes and every season we are pushed to be more creative and innovative with what we do. And I work with so many talented people that are always showing me new skills, new artists, new ideas so that I’m always growing and expanding as a designer.

    What's a typical day in the life like for you? 
    I have a little boy so he takes up a lot of my time! I wake up at 5:30 to get myself ready and then my son Jasper. We share breakfast together before leaving for the day which right now includes long talks about his favorite things (bananas, water, cars, Snoopy). Then I drop him off at day care and head down to the yard. Then at work every day is truly different, sometimes the whole day is taken up with painting just one thing, other days I’m researching new ideas, or doing the technical files we send to factories, or going off site to vintage shop or to gallery shows to be inspired. It’s the best thing about my job, its always very busy and very different every day! At the end of the day I pick up Jasper and take him home to feed him and get a little snuggle time before he goes to bed. Then I spend the rest of the evening cleaning up and getting things ready for myself and Jasper ready for tomorrow. The glamorous life of a parent!

    Tell us a little bit about your design process – how does something go from idea to finished product?
    First we get a presentation and book from our concept team that is our bible for the season on the look and feel of how it should be. It will inspire us to create designs or to research other things to inspire us. We constantly reference it throughout the process to make sure we look cohesive. The buying team gives us a line plan so that we know how many things we need to design into and then it’s and intense period of creating. I often start by hand, either painting or drawing elements or even a sketch for layout. Then I scan it in and manipulate it in Photoshop, make color ways, and get things ready to present to the Buying team our designs for the season. After that meeting we receive feedback and add or change things and then send things off to be made. Then it’s time to start the next season. We are also constantly working on things from the season before while working on the current season. Reviewing and changing the samples we get back. Making last minute adds to fill out the collection. My brain has to be in several places all at once.

    Do you happen to know what your bestselling UO design has been?
    I’ve done a lot of intricate, complex designs that have done well but one of my simplest is probably the best seller, The Wonky Grid duvet. We were interested in a clean modern grand bed but I wanted to do something slightly off, to make it more unique and give it a touch of human hand and not so clean. So I drew a grid that quietly skews and tweaks with a line that’s slightly rough, It’s subtle but I think it has more life to it than if I had drawn a plain grid!

    What kind of things are you inspired by currently?
    For BTS [Back To School] we did a lot of artist collabs, which was awesome because I am definitely inspired by other makers and artists. One of them, Graham Keegan, came to visit us in the office and his dye work and lifestyle is so inspiring! He grows and makes many of the plants he dyes with and even gave me some indigo seeds to plant my own! Other artists I’ve been obsessed with lately are Martin Sharp (the '60s artist who did Cream’s Disraeli Gears), Gentle Thrills, the brooklyn store Desert Island Comics, Brain Chippendale’s screen prints, and ALWAYS the great Zandra Rhodes.

    What's one of your favorite things about working for UO/doing the job that you do here?
    So many things! That I’m encouraged to be an artist, to create original work that is challenging and interesting, that I work with so many other talented creative people that inspire me, that I work on something different everyday so I never have a boring day at work.

    Do you have a favorite design so far? If so, can you tell us about it?
    My favorite ones are always the ones I just finished! But there were some designs that always hold special memories. The Effie, Bandhani, and Sofia block beds were the designs I did 9 months pregnant, literally a couple weeks before I gave birth to my son! They will always be tied into my memories of the anticipation and excitement I was feeling (and how tired!).

    Finally, what's coming up for you? Anything you're looking forward to designing? Any big ideas you'd like to flesh out?
    There are so many rad things coming out for Holiday '16! I have a bed that is inspired by celestial moon charts and vintage piano scarves. It’s intricate but with some space and a fun hint of shine! We are about to start designing BTS '17. I always love the start of a new season, a fresh blank state and a whole new concept to design into. It’s the time we get to really focus on painting, drawing and creating!

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