the weekend starts here...mirella bruno

Today I'm talking to Mirella Bruno who I first met very many years ago when we were teenagers at art school... 

patternbooth: What are you working on currently?

mirella:  I have been freelance fashion print designing for the last 12 years. I am currently working towards finding new markets to design for, as well as developing ideas for personal future products. I would love to move towards more social design causes. My next project is the branding for a super food company and packaging design for a new raw chocolate. I can not wait to get stuck into that. I love my food. 

The dust has just about settled for me, having uprooted 18 months ago from the U.K leaving behind family and friends and my beloved London to settle in the Rhone Alps with the love of my life. An extreme change of environments one urban, one wild, luckily I'm a fan of dualities.


patternbooth: Tell us a bit about how your design journey started

mirella:  After school I went straight to Art College. Exciting times as it meant leaving home at 16 years of age. I took a General Art and Design course which covered many disciplines, including illustration, painting, graphic design and art history. It fired a real passion in me for eclectic learning and experimentation. Eventually I decided to specialise in photography and textile design.

My Dad gave me my first camera at this time; it was an Olympus SLR OM 10. I have not stopped taking photos ever since, except nowadays I take digital photographs, it's as important as a sketchbook for me.

Following Art College I was accepted onto the B.A (hons) degree Fashion Knitwear Design course at Nottingham Trent University. It was a fusion of fashion and fabric design. I like to call it ‘from sheep to shop’. This gave me a very solid technical foundation. I learnt all the necessary techniques involved in processing, manufacturing and designing. Starting with the raw material and ending with a viable and desirable product. Nottingham in the late 80’s early 90’s was exciting; I met a whole heap of wonderful creative friends and exceptional musicians. It was the apex of the free party scene, expressive and open times in the U.K. pre criminal justice bill era. This was a unique social cultural snapshot in history. I feel very happy and blessed for the experience.

Early on I was fully embracing I.T. and continued throughout my degree. This was long before Adobe Creative Suite. I am pretty much self-taught and still learning. So again a happy fusion of old and new; hand crafted and digitally technical.

patternbooth: After leaving college, what was your first design job like?

mierella: I landed my first fashion print design role quite by chance in early 2001. It was lucky as I was the very first new designer they had ever taken on. I worked alongside John Boac; screen printer extraordinaire and a talented graphic designer, Paul Nicholson who designed the Aphex Twin logo… enough said. It was a fantastic synergy of creativity, research and development, you could literally design something upstairs and go downstairs and get it printed, magic! It was a great from the ground up first experience. I will always be grateful to the team at it is the people you meet along the way that shape and inspire you the most.


patternbooth: Your prints are often quite whimsical, what is your design influence?

mirella:  My design influence is eclectic and universal but it can be distilled to music, art, nature and food. A visit to my page gives you a flavour. 

I have always had an inquisitive nature and I have a lot of admiration for other designers, artists and musicians; I am always researching for brain food. There is always an inherent thought process behind each design. Inspiration could be something I heard, I read, I saw, something un-said, something that resonates. It is good to play and explore; happy accidents create the best surprises. I love my Sicilian heritage and British upbringing, I thrive in culturally diverse environments. It is really important to find your own personal aesthetic. Bruno Munari’s book ‘Design as Art’ strikes a chord. His wit, inventiveness and kaleidoscopic career inspire me. His idea of design as a bridge between art and life is a key philosophy. 

patternbooth:  Can you sum up what it is like being a freelancer in the world of fashion print?

mirella:  In essence freelancing in the fashion industry is exciting and hard work. You meet some wonderful people. The positives outweigh the negatives. It requires tenacity and lots of flexibility, as you always have to bend towards the client’s desires. You do have to be technically strong because you only have yourself to rely on. It is all about building relations and finding that perfect balance between your aesthetic and satisfying the client brief. You need to be organized and disciplined and wear many hats, but in the end working alongside a dedicated team realizing a final product is ace.

And when you see someone wearing one of your designs it is a great buzz.

patternbooth:  What are the best and worst decisions you've made in your work?

mirella:  Some of the best decisions I have made are when I have independently acquired freelance roles through personal contact and inquiry, as you can be so much more selective with who you work for.

Some of the worst decisions I have made are accepting roles via agents that are completely wrong for me, being non creative and overly commercial. On a positive note it does tend to be in the bigger corporations that you meet the most interesting design talent because they can afford it.


patternbooth: Where do you want to be in 5 years time?

mirella:  I have spent many years designing for different clients. I would still love to be doing that and getting my designs out there. It would also be great to translate my surface designs in areas other than fashion; for example in interiors or the art market. I hope to continue being happy and loving what I do.  

I'd like to keep the creativity flowing by designing and producing my own bespoke, sustainable and unique products. Taking the jump to becoming a designer-maker.  Just to keep on doing really.

It would be ace to have a big beautiful studio/workshop, with a gallery, lots of dogs and a café downstairs a real creative, productive and happy community hub. If it makes people happy that’s a good job done. They say you should dream until your dreams come true and definitely do what you love and love what you do.


patternbooth: who is your ideal client?

mirella:  My ideal client is one that allows me creative freedom and trusts me to get a good job done. The ones who are super-cool and laid-back with a clear vision and impeccable music taste are more fun to work with. I like clients who are happy to push the envelope and are looking for a unique product rather than obsessing too much about current trends. I am really grateful to everyone who has hired me as they have all helped my professional training grow. 


patternbooth:  How has your style evolved?

mirella:  That’s quite a hard one to sum up in a sentence, but I do think if you keep true to yourself an essence of who you are runs through each design. I recently collated a chronological snapshot of my designs from the start to the present and they don’t look too outrageous; they do sit happily with one another. 

You are always continually evolving, gaining new skills and experience. It is an ever-shifting organic process. I think when I start producing my own product, my own style will start to evolve more. I think what does connect them all is my use of colour and eclectic source compiling a bit like my music mixes really. I do have a very strong desire to creatively express my dual nationality more so. So watch this space for future Sicilian/British mash-ups.

patternbooth: What advice would you give someone just starting out?

mirella:  I would strongly advise, grabbing any experience you can get through a placement, internship, apprenticeship or a competition, the more commercial experience you can bag the more your confidence will grow. 

Build up a fantastic portfolio, be aware of future trends and design accordingly. Certainly fashion your designs according to the client you are hoping to impress. There are lots of fantastic agencies out there to register with but for recent graduates I would recommend Alex Brownless who is co-founder of Arts Thread the worlds leading creative graduate network. I feel that it can’t be stressed enough how positive it is to approach companies personally and directly. The emphasis is on exposure so you must get yourself out there networking and creating.

Do your research. Be inspired and just keep at it. If you love what you are doing hopefully others might too. Believe and follow your dreams. Be passionate and don’t give up.

If you want to see more of Mirella's work then head on over to her site.