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Katherine Townsend

Katherine Townsend


Nottingham School of Art & Design

Staff Group(s)
Fashion, knitwear and textile design


Dr Katherine Townsend is a researcher, educator, practitioner and Professor in Fashion and Textile Practice in the Fashion, Textiles and Knitwear department in the School of Art and Design. She is a PhD supervisor who contributes to postgraduate and undergraduate teaching and is a research mentor to other academics. She leads the School of Art and Design Research Lecture programme and is a member of the School Research Committee and REF Advisory Group.

Dr Townsend leads the Digital Craft and Embodied Knowledge research group whose focus is on the development of craft based methodological frameworks for investigating and extending the scope and language of designing and making. She is a member of the Clothing Sustainability and Advanced Textiles groups, and has contributed to funding proposals, projects and reports. She has devised and supervised numerous PhD studentships aligned to the aims of all three groups.

Her role also includes leading and participating in collaborative research projects. Increasingly these are focused on enhancing the well-being of individuals in overlooked demographics, requiring holistic approaches to making/ technology, as explored in the co-edited anthology, Crafting Anatomies; Archives, Dialogues, Fabrications (2020).

Career overview

After a first degree in Textile Design, she worked as a freelance designer and visiting lecturer, then co-founded the fashion label Cocky’s Shed; supplying independents worldwide, diffusion lines for high street brands and selling through its unit in Hyper Hyper, London. The experience raised questions about, mass fashion production, some of which she explored in her practice-based PhD (1998-2003) Transforming Shape: a simultaneous approach to the body, cloth and print for garment and textile design (synthesising manual and CAD methods). Funded by NTU and sponsored by Lectra Systems (Fr), Stork Digital Printing (N) and Body Aspect (UK), the study influenced her postdoctoral research, teaching, and roles as Course Leader for BA (Hons) Textile Design (2004-2007) and Principal Lecturer in MA Fashion, Textiles and Knitwear (2007-2015).

In 2009 Dr Townsend co-founded the journal of Craft Research(Intellect UK),which she continues to edit across two issues per year, featuring makers from 25 countries across all continents. She has led various School-funded textile research enquires and curated exhibitions, notably Metallic Sound (2010) which featured the innovative textiles of Kinor Jiang and master weaver and Nuno co-founder, Junichi Arai; Closely Held Secrets (2010)which interrogated the hidden, skilled exchange between technical experts and artists including artist Grayson Perry, and Crafting Anatomies (2015) which brought together the work of over 40 international practitioners working across art, design and bio/science.

Her work has been published in Crafting Textiles in the Digital Age (2016); Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear (2015 [2008]); Lace, Here Now (2013), Digital Visions in Fashion and Textiles: Made in Code (2012),Textile Design Research and Practice (2014 & 2018), The Design Journal (2004 & 2014); Textile: the journal of cloth and culture (2011 & 2019) and Russian Fashion Theory (2014) and Textile Design: Principles, advances and applications (2011), which she co-edited.

Research areas

Dr Townsend’s research is chiefly affiliated to the area of Design in the Fashion and Textile Research Centre, but also interfaces with Heritage and Advanced contexts. Selected outcomes weresubmitted to REF 2008, RAE 2014 and are due to be returned for REF 2021.

Recent projects include Emotional Fit: developing an inclusive fashion methodology a co-creative engagement with a group of older women from Nottingham, drawing upon an activating their lived experiences of wearing and making clothes. The resulting participatory design methodology was adapted in Emmanuel House X NTU an upcycled clothing waste initiative between a homeless charity and BA Fashion Design students.

The Electric Corset and Other Future Histories in association with Lace, Costume and Textile Collection, Newstead Abbey explored the creative potential of historical archives to inform the design of wearables. She collaborated with Nottingham City Museums and Galleries, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Manchester Metropolitan University and the National Archives as Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded Nottingham lace: capturing and representing knowledge in people, machines and documents.

A research paper, Crafting the Composite Garment by Dr Anna Piper and Dr Townsend, elicited an invitation from the Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Clothing and Textiles, to undertake research into sustaining artisanal textile practices in Guatemala. Since 2017, Dr Townsend has acted as Principal Investigator on this social/ design innovation enquiry, supported by the Ixchel Museum, NTU and the Global Challenges Research Fund, UKRI.

Dr Anna Piper and Dr Townsend elicited an invitation from the Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Clothing and Textiles, to undertake research into sustaining artisanal textile practices in Guatemala. Since 2017, Dr Townsend has acted as Principal Investigator on this social/ design innovation enquiry, supported by the Ixchel Museum, NTU and the Global Challenges Research Fund, UKRI.

Dr Townsend has been Director of Studies for PhD studies in: zero-waste, woven garment design (Piper 2019); metamerism (Egger 2017); crafted textiles and wellbeing (Pittman 2016) 3D knit (Taylor 2015), and as second supervisor for studies in men’s fashion and ageing (Sadkowska 2016) gestural printed patterns (Paramanik 2013).

PhD Supervision (ongoing)

  • DoS: Matholo Kgatuke, ‘Woven illuminated E-textiles’, NTU studentship (2019-2022)
  • DoS: Leanne Tonkin, ‘(Re) designing conservation: capturing designer intent in the archiving of contemporary fashion incorporating new materials and technologies’, NTU studentship (2017-2020)
  • 2nd Supervisor: Rachael Wickenden, ‘A study of E-textile applications for interior spaces’, Midlands3Cities PhD studentship, (2017-2020)
  • 2nd Supervisor: Lisa Shawgi, ‘Supporting people with Reynaud’s with knitted textile design developments’, Midlands3Cities PhD studentship (2016-2022)
  • 2nd Supervisor: Sarah Walker, ‘Facilitating participatory design for smart textile teams’, NTU studentship (2014-21)
  • 3rd Supervisor: Sally Cooke, ‘Home clothes construction in the context of sustainable fashion’, Midlands4 Cities PhD studentship (2019-2023)
  • 3rd Supervisor: Emily Rickard, ‘KnitWell: exploring the transformative power of creative knitting as a new model of craft therapy’, Midlands4Cities PhD studentship (2019-2023)

External activity

  • Co-editor Craft Research(Intellect UK)
  • Member Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion(2019-); Sustainability SIG / Design Research Society (2019/16-); Stitching Together
  • Peer reviewer (conferences) BICCS: Craft in Action; The Art of Research; Cumulus, Design Research Society; EKSIG; IFFTI
  • Peer reviewer (journals) Artifact; Arts and Communities; Costume; International Journal of Fashion and Technology; Journal of Research Practice; Textile Design Research and Practice
  • Invited speaker (since 2004) Sustainable Fashion Research Agenda Conference 2019, Carlsberg Business School and Design School Kolding, Copenhagen, Denmark; 50th Anniversary of Estonian Academy of Arts 2016, Tallinn
  • External examiner for PhD (x 11): Aalto University; Royal College of Art (x 2); Chelsea School of Art (x 2); London College of Fashion (x 2); University of Huddersfield; Glasgow School of Art; Loughborough University; Northumbria University
  • External examiner for MFA Fashion; Textiles; Performance Costume, Edinburgh College of Art (2018-)
  • External validator for MRes Research Methods, UAL.

Sponsors and collaborators

  • Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Clothing and Textiles; Prosperity and Projects, British Embassy, Guatemala
  • Mercado Global; Meso Goods; Maker2Market, Guatemala and New York
  • Nottingham City Galleries and Museums’ Lace, Costume and Textile Collection, Newstead Abbey
  • Emmanuel House

Press expertise

  • craft practice
  • fashion and textiles
  • design for well-being
  • clothing use and longevity
  • collaborative, participatory research

Course(s) I teach on

  • Fashion Design student showcase work
    Undergraduate | Full-time | 2023

  • MA Fashion and Textile Design
    Postgraduate taught | Part-time (day) | 2023