Profile - Abigail Bomford

Abigail Bomford is the new creative director of Camira, a specialist in producing fabrics for contract projects, from offices, school, transportation and hospitals.

Words by Emily Martin

Abigail Bomford is a name not necessarily known to many, but her design work may well be featuring in your home. Last May she joined British fabric company Camira, a manufacturer of commercial and contract textiles, as its new creative director. But that was after spending 11 years previously working at Asda Walmart Group, where she had launched the George Home brand and saw the group become one of the UK’s largest homeware retailers.

A graduate with a degree in product design she has worked as both an interiors and product designer in the commercial and retail sectors. I met up with her to talk about her new role at Camira, what she hopes to achieve with the company and her love for textiles.

Camira textiles, as featured in its Transport Design Directions guide, launched in October 2017Camira textiles, as featured in its Transport Design Directions guide, launched in October 2017

‘From day dot I was brought up with craft kits and making,’ she says and recalls a childhood filled with gallery visits and drawing. ‘I still get a making kit from my parents as a Christmas present every year.’ Bomford credits her parents for her creative influences; both are keen painters and built the family home in Buckinghamshire.

Growing up near Gerrards Cross, Bomford now lives in Leeds after also having lived in the South East and London. She developed a particular interest in furniture design and incorporated the use of fabrics into her work.

‘Making things that people needed particularly appealed to me,’ she explains. ‘It was also a route where I could make a career out of creativity because it was commonly held thought that it couldn’t be done.’

She describes her career path as ‘organic’ and first entered the workplace as an interior designer with Ferro Design. ‘I wanted to take charge with how the whole scheme came together and not just one component,’ she says. ‘And it was actually the first time I worked with Camira: I was specifying fabrics in hospitality projects.’

Bomford then went to work for lighting manufacturer Helix Lighting where, she says, she gained much experience in the detail of product design. There she worked with big name clients that included John Lewis, Laura Ashley and Habitat, before in 2006 going to work for Asda Walmart Group, based in Leeds.

‘At the time it was looking for a 3D designer and was designing a series of home furniture and accessories. I wanted to work in retail because I wanted to be in charge of the outcome, leading the decision and leading on what happens to the products when sold on to consumers.’

Bohemian Collection: part of Bomford’s design work while working for George at AsdaBohemian Collection: Part of Bomford’s design work while working for George at Asda

In time promoted to head of creative for Asda’s George Home brand Bomford had a talent for blending longer-term creative foresight with bringing the right products to market. After 11 years in what she describes as a ‘huge learning curve’, and experiencing the challenges of the 2008 recession, Bomford decided it was time to move on. ‘I was at the point where I needed a new challenge and to challenge myself,’ she says. ‘There was a lot more that I could do so I had to make that decision: do I go, or do I not? The opportunity came up to work at Camira, which enabled me to take the things I had learned and join the board. It was simply a fantastic opportunity.’

Bomford brings her colour and trend background to Camira and, although less than 10 months into her new role, has great ambitions for the business. ‘I want to see an increased [visual] innovation in the finish, look and style of the product, and bringing that to the forefront and driving that forward,’ she explains.

Bomford has spent her time so far at Camira working on an ‘internal brand evolution’; Made by Camira is Camira’s first example of a creative brand-led campaign where the company has recognised and celebrated its expertise and people. ‘It’s about listening to our customers and what they want from the brand and company, as well as listening to what they say about us,’ she says. ‘It’s also about identifying our opportunities, and we’ve brought all this to life in a new brand identity book, as well as in a film that talks about us.’

With the new brand book, called Making the Difference, Camira celebrates the makers, the designers and the manufacturers, to showcase the Made by Camira stamp as a mark of trust. Opting for the phase ‘brand evolution’, rather than ‘brand relaunch’, Bomford says it’s working with the company’s DNA and creating core pillars for the business to drive the brand forward, with the campaign leading the company’s 2018 marketing strategy.

‘Taking the Camira strapline “style with substance” I’d like to work with more of the style aspect of the brand, which can be through collaborations, but also looking at the substance of what we do, including our sustainability message, which is so important to the company. And growing tha brings more depth to what we do,’ says Bomford.

A global company, but deeply rooted as a British company, Camira is described by Bomford as ‘modest’. ‘We’re good, we’re really good’, she says. ‘And we need to deliver that story to our customers. There’s so much heritage in the brand, it’s a prestigious company, and I hope to bring some of its personality to life.’

Bomford has already flown around the world to meet some of the company’s 700 workers, including colour specialists, graphic designers, product designers, construction specialists, and even scientists. She says the level of expertise working to produce textiles is something on ‘another level’.

‘Textiles are like personality covers; the colours of them make a difference to everything and are integral to every room you go in – and can either make or destroy a room! Everything I’ve ever done has always had textiles in it: if it’s interior design it’s texture, if it’s lighting design it’s material and shade fabrics.

‘Being at Camira is a great opportunity to just be able to focus on it more. There’s so much heritage linked to textiles; when you visit different countries there is a history and story to tell about textiles, a bit like architecture, and that’s why I really love it.’

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