Case study

a future

A dream of one day running her own interiors business is what motivates Jessica Boateng. Discovering her African heritage through textiles and a bursary to support diversity in the industry are helping her build the skills to take her there.

Expressing herself

Jessica’s long-term goal is to develop her own business as a printed textiles designer specialising in interiors. “I’ve always loved colours and patterns,” she explains. “They’re a way for me to express aspects of my personal and cultural identity.”

She isn’t in a rush to set up her business straight away though – she’s aware that building experience is vital: “I’m still young and I’m still learning, so the best way for me to develop is to work in the industry first and build my knowledge and confidence before I set up my own business.”

Jessica's story

Jessica using tongs to stir dyeing fabric in a steel dish on a stove

View Jessica's story video transcript

Seizing opportunities

Jessica’s time at Derby has been shorter than for most students – she started as a second-year direct-entry Fashion and Textiles student, having completed her foundation degree at college. “It was daunting at the start,” she remembers. “I was joining a class who already knew each other. But I kept reminding myself why I came to university in the first place – to find who I am as a person, something that I’m passionate about, and grab as many opportunities as possible.”

She’s certainly done that. From the Christian Union to yoga classes and social sport, she’s seized opportunities to try new things.

Jessica Boateng looks through a book of colourful designs

Virtual experience

And the pandemic didn’t stop her gaining that crucial experience: “I did an internship remotely with Debbie Bryan, who owns a small art and design business. The placement was trend forecasting using WGSN, a trend forecasting website, to compile a report to support the business’s growth. I learned a lot from Debbie.”

Jessica’s final year dissertation gave her the chance to combine her passion for patterns and colours with an exploration of African culture. She carried out detailed research into the roles played by African textiles, and some of the preconceptions around them. Jessica explains: “For example, some African wax print textiles didn’t originate in Africa at all – they were imported from the Netherlands and Indonesia. Kente cloth, which is mainly associated with the Ewe and Asante tribes, was used as a symbol of Ghanaian independence in 1957, and also of African-American identity.”

Jessica Boateng selecting screens for printing

Design for Diversity

Jessica, who is from Nottingham, is also creating designs as part of a Blackpop+x bursary that she has been awarded. Blackpop is a Derbyshire-based interior design label and created the bursary to support the Design for Diversity pledge, to encourage black, Asian and minority ethnic people to enter the industry. Under the scheme, Jessica has received a year’s mentoring and training and has been creating designs for a product that will launch at Wirksworth Arts Festival in Derbyshire and at London Design Week in September 2021.

“Instead of making one design, I ended up making three separate ones for the same product. This was based on everything that I’ve learned from them and because I was having too much fun with the design development. The best part was, I was still able to bring in my love of colours and patterns and cultural identity through my Blackpop inspired designs.”

Jessica Boateng headshot

I hope that my experience will inspire more Black and Asian students with a passion for working in the industry to get involved and be part of expanding diversity in the industry.

Jessica Boateng
Fashion and Textiles student


Looking to the future, Jessica admits to feeling “nervous but excited” about what lies ahead. “I have changed dramatically since my first day at university. My transformation would not have been possible without the support of my tutors and peers. Now, I am excited to get my work out there and take those first steps towards my dream career.”

Kedleston Road, Derby Campus entrance

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