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Shyann Setzer ‘19: Designing What’s Next in Home Textiles from Her Hometown

Shyann Setzer stands in front of wall of fabric samples

By Sarah Stone

Even though she grew up in the Furniture Capital of The World, Shyann Setzer didn’t see herself entering that industry when she was admitted to the fashion and textile design (FTD) program at the Wilson College of Textiles. 

“Back in high school, I concentrated more on pottery, photography and other fine arts, so I thought I wanted to be in fashion design,” the Hickory, North Carolina, native says. “But when I interviewed with my FTD professors they said, ‘Actually, based on your sketchbook you would probably be a better fit for our textile design concentration.’ They were completely right because I definitely didn’t enjoy draping and pattern making.”

Still, the textile design alumna spent most of her time in college planning to work in the apparel industry until an internship with Valdese Weavers changed her mind. That led to a job offer for the 2019 graduate, who now serves as an associate designer. Now, Setzer creates home textiles for leading international brands like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn just half an hour from the small town where her dreams of working in design began. 

fabric samples hang on wall

Tell us a little bit about Valdese Weavers. Why do you enjoy working there?

Valdese Weavers is a vertically integrated company, so we have four different plants that do every part of the process from spinning fibers to weaving and finishing.

We develop fabrics for everyone from lifestyle retailers like Crate & Barrel and West Elm to classic North Carolina furniture brands like Wesley Hall and Century Furniture. 

Valdese has a very family oriented feel. I’m really close with all of my coworkers on the design team, and we do a lot of fun trips to get our creative juices flowing. Recently, we went to the Mint Museum in Charlotte to see textile designer Anna Sui’s art exhibit. 

What does it mean to be an associate designer for a residential textile company?

I’m on the residential design team and I design for every brand that we have. Art vendors will come in and we will purchase art from them as inspiration for our upcoming lines. Then, our brand managers assign artwork to each designer, so I’ll have a certain amount of designs for each brand that I work on for the line each season. We have two “seasons,” which revolve around the High Point Market.

Samples of fabrics hang on the wall

When I’m not designing for a specific line, I’m working on special project requisitions [SPRs]. That’s when customers come to us and ask for something specific. That could mean changing one of our existing line items to make it less expensive, for example, maybe changing a pattern from UV to non-UV. SPRs can also be completely unique and one of a kind.

Sometimes, I’m working on fabrics based on other constructions with an existing weave bank, and other times I’m creating a new design with my own weaves.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I love going to High Point Market and Showtime. Usually, at Showtime I’ll walk with a sales rep while they introduce our new collections to customers. It’s very gratifying to see the customer look at your designs and say, “I love that.” 

Then, when we get to go walk our customer showrooms and I see my fabric on a sofa or on a pillow, it makes me happy to see that we are actually selling it and it’s going somewhere.

fabric samples hanging on the wall at High Point Market
Valdese samples on display at High Point Market.

How did your coursework transfer to what you’re doing today?

The class I use the most is probably one Assistant Professor Janie Woodbridge teaches where we learned EAT software, the different types of weaves and how to build them.

I also feel like I use a lot of what I learned about technical processes, machinery and yarn numbering.

What did you develop for your Emerging Designers Collection, and how do you feel it contributed to success in your current position?

For my senior project, I combined many techniques: printing, whole-garment knitting, hand weaving and some Jacquard weaving. It was a fashion collection but included furniture fabrics as well.  

It was entitled “Without Restrictions” and incorporated a lot of pattern play based on a “more is more” mentality. 

Through the use of time management and balancing different types of technology, it helped me grow a lot as a designer and realize all the little details that go into making a collection.

What is your advice for current students?

Don’t get set on one path. Keep your opportunities open. I never really thought this is what my life was going to be like, but it’s definitely what I needed.