November 28, 2016
Do you ever see a print or pattern that just plain makes you happy? That dark floral on a maxi dress for fall, the classic tartan on a button down that will be a hit at holiday parties — sometimes the perfect print just makes you feel good, especially when you're wearing it. And that's what the design team at Old Navy wants to do.
We met a few of the talented team members behind the designs to talk hand-painted prints, tamales, shopping and how some of the prettiest patterns come to be.
What do you do here at Old Navy? What is your title?
I am the Sr. Director of Print, Pattern and Color for the brand for women's, men's, kids and baby at Old Navy.
What does that mean?
Kristina: My role is to guide the brand in print and color, so I create the color palettes for the seasons. I also work closely with the brand's SVP of Design and with a lovely team of talented artists who work on the print and pattern teams. Every print, plaid, stripe, or color you see on an OId Navy clothing item was created by our team!
Jen: I'm on the women's team. So my teammates and I create the prints for all of the women's apparel categories.
Kristina: Jen is being very modest! She's our in-house artist for all of our signature prints. She's a painter, so she gets inspiration from all over and then comes up with our signature prints from scratch. We recently celebrated Jen's talents at a brand PR event in NYC showcasing some of her hand-painted prints from our Fall 2016 collection. We have an incredible team.
Do you collaborate across categories — across men's, women's….?
Kristina: Absolutely. Our SVP of design, Sarah Holme, is all about creating synergy throughout our product.. The thing that makes us stand out as a brand is our focus on family. This season, we have the same plaid pattern that can be found in men's, women's and kids clothing. Our customer really loves that “mommy-and-me moment.” It's about threading the family wardrobe together with print and color as a key element, while still keeping the pieces unique.
Where does your inspiration come from for a pattern you might come up with?
Jen: It kind of comes from everywhere. We are constantly looking at tears — runway and street — with our concept team. We also look to vintage pieces and find inspiration in patterns we love. For Fall, one of our concepts was called “The Great Outdoors,” so it became more about berries and wild flower patterns — finding ways to work nature into the season to evoke that outdoorsy feeling while still feeling fun and feminine.
Do you start with the concept first?
For fall, the concept really came organically. Feminine meets utility — and then our concept team put a beautiful twist on it with the outdoors piece. And then Jen drew these incredible flowers. So, again, we get our inspiration from various places but then Jen pulls from a more authentic place and makes it more personal. And that's really what I love — that the team (as Jen says) gets inspired by everything.
(to Jen) I feel like you bought a lot of flowers…
Jen: We wanted to heat press flowers but it didn't work out so well…
Kristina: We almost burned down the building! We bought a heat presser and got called by the building safety team, so…
What do you want customers to feel when you are designing? What guides you in that sense?
Kristina: We had this concept called “The Wanderer,” which was based in boho. The idea was that boho is resurging so we really wanted to have these beautiful romantic, feminine pieces. It was a fun departure from our usual designs, which are sometimes geared more on the preppy side. Our team loved the challenge of developing new boho prints while maintaining the essence of the Old Navy customer, adding pops of color and making sure the product feels happy.
With women's wear, you have to take your personal opinion out of it to make sure you're fitting the culture of our customers — that's what we're constantly doing — getting inspired, going to Old Navy, and seeing the people who shop there. That's actually one of my favorite things to do because sometimes you can find yourself in a bubble, and what we always try to do is get back to what is really wearable for her.
When it comes to pattern and textile design, what is it that you are most passionate about? What elements of what you do speaks to you?
I would say, half of it is that we have a really great team and a fantastic work environment. And the other half is getting to be creative and make beautiful things — that's really at the core of it. It's being creative and mindful of all the practical limitations at the same time, and trying to come up with creative solutions that are beautiful, but also fill a need.
Kristina: What really gets me motivated is being inspired by other creative people. The fact that we are able to work for a big brand that is so loved, and get to see so many people wearing our designs — to me, that's amazing. I once had a connecting flight in Texas on my way back from Paris, and when I landed, I saw three people wearing Old Navy — there was just something so amazing about traveling for two weeks in Europe and coming back home seeing people wearing your designs. That's just so cool!
Jen: I don't think it ever gets old seeing people wear stuff that you've worked on. Every time we're at a wedding in the summer I'm like, “She's wearing our dress!”
Let's jump into holiday — what do you love about the holidays?
Jen: I love everything that is cheesy and traditional about the holidays especially because growing up my family wasn't really into celebrating it. We never even had a tree! So now that I'm older, my husband and I always like to have a real tree for Christmas and make a big thing about decorating it and doing all the funny Christmas things that I never did growing up. It's a lot of fun.
Kristina: I have a big family, so for us it's all about celebrating family and spending time together. I love being able to make memories with my son now. I love putting on that Yule log TV channel! It's all about really getting into the spirit.
What's your approach to gifting during the holidays?
Kristina: As I get older, I've been much more into more personalized stuff. Trying to figure out more personalized gifts for people that I put together myself, and I think that is like my biggest challenge. I always want to go with gift certificates! But my son is the first person I shop for.
Jen: I'm really bad about the gift giving and always leave shopping to the last minute. Even when I try to plan ahead, I can never follow through! I'll say to myself, “I'm going to hand paint all my Christmas cards this year!” and then I blink and it's the week before Christmas and they're definitely not going out on time.
What are your holiday traditions?
Jen: We are constantly adding new things. Making new traditions every year. It was so bare bones for me to start with…we started with a tree and now we're collecting ornaments. And every year we add something more. Now we make our own cider, too.
Do you have a certain aesthetic that guides you in your ornament collecting?
Jen: I don't have a specific aesthetic — I just buy what I like! Especially when we go on trips. We bought random ornaments in Sweden when we were there — and it was May — but we saw these wooden horses and I was like, “Oh we need to get these!”
Kristina: We always go to my mom's house to decorate the tree — she has the same ceramic ornaments from forever ago. My dad is Mexican so we make tamales a few days before Christmas using my grandmother's recipe — it's a full day of hard labor but it's amazing. My family is also really into Black Friday shopping so they love going to Old Navy. It's a sport!