©Hannah Sommer

©Hannah Sommer



Memunatu is a fashion textiles student currently studying at Central Saint Martins in London, UK. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Memunatu Barrie, I am 19 years old. I am a student studying Textiles Design at Central St Martins. I am a Sierra Leonian born and I was raised for the majority of my childhood in the Netherlands and moved to London 10 years ago.

What got your interested in textile making?

I’ve always loved the arts. As a child I loved to draw. People would always say to me ‘You’re such a good drawer, you’re so good at drawing'  so I kept doing it. I also used to play with dolls and Barbies growing up. I used to take off the doll’s clothing and make my own using various materials, scrap bits of fabric and balloons for swimwear that kind of thing it used to annoy my mum but I kept doing it anyways. At school we would have design and technology with a rotation. One week I would do wood work , the next it was making puppets, painting and one week we would have crafting where we would use fabrics. I don’t remember what exactly we used to make or do with the fabrics but I do remember that I used to pinch bits to take home to make cloths for my dolls. I kept an interest in the idea of fashion design so at school picked up the closest available course to fashion design, which was textiles design. I enjoyed Textiles so much that I continued with it at college (sixth form), then went on to study on the Fashion and Textiles pathway Foundation at CSM and now I’m in my first year of BA Textiles Design here. It was a natural progression for me and I absolutely love Textiles. More specifically Fashion Textiles!

Who have been your biggest influences?

No one in particular influences me or my work. I am inspired by many and enjoy the work of designers such as Duro Oluwo, Ellie Saab, Stockholder and many many more. I could name one . I don’t have any ‘idols' per say.

How does your textile work explore your identity?

My textiles work explores my identity in the sense that it kind of reveals aspects of my identity which I in person may not . My work is generally bold and colorful and when I work with print generally quite busy ,maybe even chaotic. I feel that in person I may not come across in this way as I feel we all filter ourselves and parts of our identity in order to become socially acceptable or appropriate. I do feel that my work in this sense explores my identity. Apart from that Ive also explored the idea of what forms ones identity previously in my works. Taking an approach much like Oluwo looking at how my heritage, childhood being raised in the Netherlands and settling in London has shaped my idea of my own identity.

What are the differences in art and culture that you’ve seen having lived in Sierra Leone, the Netherlands, and the UK?

I’ve never visited Sierra Leone unfortunately let alone lived there so I can’t really speak much on the Art culture there. All I can say is that I’ve never really come across any art from there until recently, but it depends on what you consider to be art I suppose. Both my grandfathers are from a tribe in Sierra Leone called the Fulah also known as the Fulani and my Grandmothers from a tribe called the Timini. Portraits of the Fulani peoples hairstyles and culture have recently been circulating the web and media and become a popular topic so I guess from this aspect that Sierra Leone is slowly becoming more recognized in terms of Art amongst more well known countries in the west of Africa such as Nigeria. I moved out of the Netherlands say 10 years ago and at the age of 9 wasn’t really visiting any galleries. The art we did look at at school was classical, Van Gogh that kind of thing. I also come from a very small town in the Netherlands called Zwolle. There wasn’t really much going on back then in terms of art . I don’t know about now.

©Hannah Sommer

©Hannah Sommer

How do you use color to express your work?

Color, particularly bold and bright colors is something I often use in my work. I think of the mood I am trying to emote through my work and select colors which I believe can convey these.

What challenges and stereotypes do you face as a woman in the creative field?

I feel that the Textiles industry in terms of designers is female dominated. Some might see Textiles design as something which is only female or feminine I think that’s an issue. In terms of stereotypes I guess some might say I am fulfilling it. You know a “female doing something feminine". I don’t know if I answered the question, but I hope you get what I’m trying to say.

What materials do you enjoy working with?

I enjoy working with found materials, apart from that I enjoy working with anything which isn’t very intricate and small. I like working with big chunky yarns, textured fabrics that kind of thing.

What is your design process?

Design for me always starts with an idea. It could be anything random . If I still like the idea the next day... I write it down . I would then do a little bit of research and create something visual out of it, most likely a collage. I start to draw, do some more research then begin to focus on textures / colors or anything inspiring from my research and then I begin to create tactile responses to my research an just experiment with scale, shape, texture, color until I am pleased with whatever comes out of the process.

What projects/ goals are your currently working towards?

I’m not working on anything specifically right now. I’ve just started on my BA so everything right now is about developing technical skills before we (students/aspiring designers) can get into really designing. I will be working on something soon though, and through that work I would really like to explore the idea of culture, identity, experiences and social issues and interactions more.