Let’s Talk Pattern Design With Shadé Akanbi

04.26.23 | By
Let’s Talk Pattern Design With Shadé Akanbi

“My personal world, from childhood to present day, has always been multicultural and my passion for creating a global fusion lifestyle and brand has only been nurtured by my love and appreciation for art and design,” said Brooklyn-based freelance pattern designer Shadé Akanbi. Also the Creative Director and Designer behind Printed Pattern People, Akanbi translates traditional ethnic patterns and textiles into her own modern interpretations for everyday wear.

brown-skinned woman with long hair wearing bright, patterned clothing while sitting on a blue bench

Shadé Akanbi

“I have always been creative and I think my general upbringing naturally set me up to become an artist,” she said. “Everything from the way my mom dressed my sister and I when we were little to my dad cooking Nigerian food every day (we ate both American and Nigerian food daily). Traveling up and down California until I took my first plane ride ever as a freshman in high school to Nigeria to meet the rest of my family. Everything I have ever seen, heard, touched, tasted, and felt has had an impact and influence in some shape or form on who I am as an artist and designer today.”

flatlay of colorful sketches and patterns

graphic collage of pattern work and resulting products and apparel


As for Akanbi’s process, “Usually when I’m examining traditional textiles, there’s always a motif or some detail that will catch my eye. That detail is what I’ll extract and use as inspiration for my new pattern. From there I can build a design around that traditional shape/motif using fresh colors, additional details, etc,” she shared. “Depending on what season I’m in, I make anywhere from one to six prints a day, inspired by a variety of sources. Sometimes it’s based on my own collected inspirations, sometimes from my clients’ ideas and sometimes a blending of both.”

graphic collage of pattern work and resulting apparel


graphic collage of patterned apparel


Akanbi also collaborates with several brands at a time, while also cultivating an ever-growing global textile collection of prints, patterns, and colors. As far as her initial collaborative project, “At the top of 2020, Anthropologie was the first brand to feature my artwork in an accessories and sleepwear collaboration. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure to work with Intermix, Zuri, S’well, Chasing Paper, Netflix, Target, and this latest collab that’s out now with Bounty Paper Towels,” she said.

roll of paper towels featuring a red, yellow, and teal abstract shape pattern

Bounty Paper Towels’ Inclusive Artists Project

The partnership with Bounty Paper Towels is part of the brand’s Inclusive Artists Project initiative. As part of it, Akanbi will be featured on the packaging and her exclusive artwork will be on the paper towels in the Bounty Prints collection. “What’s been great about my most recent Bounty collaboration has been seeing my art come to life on a classic household item that I grew up with – it’s been kind of surreal in that aspect.”

graphic collage of patterned wallpaper

Chasing Paper

graphic collage of pattern work and resulting products


Akanbi isn’t ready to stop reaching for the stars just yet, at least according to the list of brands she’d love to work with given the opportunity. “I’m an avid traveler, so I would love to work with airlines and boutique hotel brands like Delta, Jetblue, Kimpton, and Hyatt. I’m also a bit of a sneaker collector, so of course Nike, Adidas, Puma, Vans (I could go on) are all on the list. I played basketball all the way through the collegiate level and am a huge NBA/WNBA fan, and working with my favorite teams would be an absolute dream. I just want to work with brands that I have strong personal connections with, that also serve as unique vessels to showcase different mediums of art.”

site page for a scarf with illustrated red lips

Diane Von Furstenberg

graphic collage of pattern work and resulting apparel


To learn more about Shadé Akanbi, visit

To download Akanbi’s Designer Desktop (above) from March 2022, click here.

Kelly Beall is Director of Branded Content at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based writer and designer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, from Fashion Plates to MoMA and far beyond. When not searching out the visual arts, she's likely sharing her favorite finds with others. Kelly can also be found tracking down new music, teaching herself to play the ukulele, or on the couch with her three pets – Bebe, Rainey, and Remy. Find her @designcrush on social.