Skinny laMinx

Heather Moore of surface & textile design company Skinny laMinx chatted to Afrikaans morning show, Dagbreek, last week. Check it this cute little clip where she shares some of the Skinny laMinx story.

BTW – CityMob is having a Skinny laMinx 12-day flash sale. You can buy some awesome Skinny scatter cushions at an absolute steal… it’s selling like hotcakes! See the sale: here.

Décor Dictionary: Moire

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Moire: is a fabric with a wavy, rippled appearance traditionally produced mainly from silk however wool, cotton and rayon can also be used. The most common technique for making moire fabric is calendering, where the material is folded, moistened and passed under ribbed rollers at high temperatures and pressures. This watered effect can also be imitated using either weaves or colour printing methods but will lack the shine and dimension of true moire. Interestingly, the term moire is used to describe the cloth and moiré the pattern.

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Li Edelkoort Talks Textiles

“In these almost impossible to live in times,” says Edelkoort with feeling, “we need to be cuddled.” As a trend forecaster, she believes that in the near future we will see the overwhelming revival of textiles in our interiors, and that we will literally crave their tactility, sense of narration and colour.  “The only problem, she points out, is that we are closing our mills at a rate of knots, and universities are fast replacing looms with computers. The result? We are slowly forgetting how fabrics are made and where they come from. Yet, the appeal of textiles is universal and timeless,” says Edelkoort, “making them also very sustainable.”

The future, she says, “will see the overwhelming revival of textiles in our interiors, covering floors, walls and furniture in an expansive and personal manner. These textiles will speak loud and clear, and become the fabrics of life, narrating stories, designing patterns, promoting well-being and reviving the act of creative weaving.”

The Dynamic Design Team

I can’t remember exactly when it was that the fabrics of the Design Team first came to my attention, but it was many years ago. I just remember being very impressed by the fact that it was very different to any other local designers I had seen before. Their style and patterns had a strong local influence and flavour. I remember seeing Proteas, head and shoulder medalions of African ladies, birds on branches – all  illustrated so differently to the general run of the mill fabric patterns that we were being exposed to. To me anyway, it was the introduction of a completely new genre of fabrics. (I have no doubt that my good friend James Russell, could correct me on this score, since he has this amazing historical knowledge of fabric… coupled with the fact that he is their agent here in Cape Town.

Through the past years, I have managed to attend most of their new range launches here in Cape Town. Each new range delights more than the previous. Each new range just adds further depth to their collection and each new range has them running ahead of the competition.

And speaking of competition… these are my thoughts and opinions on what the two fabulous ladies from the Design Team, Lise Butler and Amanda Haupt have done for the local fabric industry: The Upside – they were among the very first textile designers (surface designers as they are known as well) that illustrated pattern differently. But like a most trail blazers, they have craved a path for others to follow in. By them braving the frontier and penetrating the fabric market as they have, other talented surface designers could take courage and endeavour to follow suite. The Design Team has shown other creatives that Local is indeed Lekker. That it is possible to get out there, not only to make your talented products visible, but that it could turn into a good business venture as well.

The Downside – in doing this, the field became more competitive. But true to form, they have an awesome philosoply towards competition. To quote them: “We have a ‘no negativity policy’ and we rather wear the copycats out by staying one step ahead with new designs.”

So, competition only has them taking their design to the next level. What I hear is this: competition aids our business maturity, bring it on. And their newest range of fabrics attests to this fact. It was first launched and released at Decorex 2012, together with a very special feature – a video showing their historical background and business growth. The new range, called Barcelona-Paris-Istanbul, is strongly influenced by the duo’s recent visits to these cities. The designs are a beautiful visual representation of the “feel” and ambiance of the cities – more figurative than literal… don’t expect Eiffel Tower sketches or tiny bullfighters…

But I wanted to scratch a bit deeper down, below the skin and try to catch more of their heart beat. I wanted to get to know what made them tick as a Design Duo originally, as well as today. Lisa opened up to The Design Tabloid. I invite you to catch it below and enjoy their story…

Q: I am interested to know, and feel readers should as well, what it is that inspired you to take the bull by the horns and do textile design that was just so different at the time you started? 

A: We really had and still do have a passion for creating beautiful things and we were blessed with very supportive parents and lecturers at the time. Ignorance is truly bliss when you are so young! We had nothing to loose and one thing we have never been is scared! Both Amanda and I had produced work during our studies that were recognized in industry related competitions or projects and I think that this gave us the confidence to believe in ourselves. We are both work horses and still put in 10 hour working days even though they are now split up at times fitting in our children’s schedules! We just have this attitude of not being scared to tackle anything, if you have put everything into it and you have planned well it has a very good chance of succeeding and if not, you will have learnt something from it!

Q: What inspired you both? 

A: To set up a business from scratch and build it into a recognized brand means that you have to “live” it, and I think it is just something that some people have in them and others don’t. Many designers have incredible creativity but lack organizational and entrepreneurial skills – we have an unbelievable partnership that balances each other and offers a support system that has seen us through the many tough times.

Q: What motivated you to be so authentic? 

A: We believe that you need to be honest and unpretentious, so it was easy, we had to do something that was close to us and that we could find some sort of connection with. Only after ten years of having the business did we start traveling overseas, up until then we used magazines to keep in touch with global trends and we always aspire towards designing fabrics that can compete anywhere in the world but is still authentic to our own frame of reference.

Q: How did you manage to finance your venture initially? 

A: Many think that we had a secret source of set up capital! Not at all, we both had waitressing jobs while we studied and this financed our initial raw materials. We lived with our parents for many years to keep our own expenses to a minimum and didn’t take salaries for a very long time. The technikon helped us to pay for the first stand we did at Decorex as it was such good marketing for the textile department and the training they offered. Our moms helped us sew the finished items and we mostly printed and cut everything ourselves for the first few years. Once we had built up enough cash flow, we moved away from the technikon facility we shared with the students and rented a small factory space. Growth was significant and so were the costs! We each took a R50 000 personal loan to finance the next move to a larger factory and 12 years later this has still been the only capital injection we have had! We have built up incredible relationships with some of our clients and many have been willing to help us with advance payments if really needed!

Q: What did you see happening in the South Africa interiors / textile industry that lead you to swim upstream?

A: Everyone was trying so hard to keep up and mimic what was happening globally that they missed the hunger for local inspired textiles that had an international appeal and was not ethnic but more contemporary.

Q: How was your product received initially? What did it take from the two of you in terms of sticking with your plans? 

A: We had an overwhelming response but the trick was figuring out which products would really be viable and then to set up the production line to support it. We are still fine tuning! One of our biggest “assets” has been the ability to analyze what we do and to make changes where we had to, as wells an openness to learn.

I am pretty sure that you will agree with me when I say that Lise and Amanda as the Design Team inspire us to authentic design; to persevere through tough times; to be clever, resourceful entrepreneurs and to be Proudly South African creatives.

Check out Design Team’s website: here for more of their GORGEOUS  fabrics or find them on Facebook: here and on Twitter: here.

James Russell on the History of Toile de Jouy

By James Russell

“Saucy!” thought I, as I looked closer at the etched picture that had caught my eye whilst paging through a sample book of Toile de Jouy fabrics. At first glance it was a blue on white monochromatic Pastoral scene of “country folk” frolicking amongst ‘vignettes’ of farm buildings, sheep herding, farming, hunting and the like, but on closer inspection I noticed that one of the young farmers had his hand down the cleavage and was cupping the breast of a maiden, whilst another young lad had his arm up the voluminous skirts of a shepherdess.

Some farming imagery on this lovely ochre and indigo toile fabric.

Modern marketers will tell you that “sex sells” and I’m sure this was as true in the 1700 & 1800’s as it is today. It is also said “that the Devil is in the detail” and I suppose it is ‘the detail’ that first intrigued me about Toile de Jouy. Looking closer at some of the pictorial designs I became interested in the stories behind them. I’m by no means a history buff, but I do have a curious mind that questions.

Les Traveaux de la Manufacture which depicts the actual process of making toile fabrics.

As Europe started trading with India, cotton became a popular fibre for making cloth, so much so that the domestic wool and silk industries in both France & England started to suffer. In 1686 France placed a ban on both domestic & imported cotton fabrics, a ban that was only lifted after 70 years in 1856. After all this time, cotton must have seemed like a brand new commodity to the people of the day! Incidentally, the British also placed a ban on imported chintz (a basic cotton cloth) from 1701, and in 1720 to 1774 on all cotton fabrics, mainly due to cheaper Indian imports (so what’s new?)

On the left: Robinson Crusoe Toile and the right: Le Ballon de Gonesse

Like any entrepreneur, a young German engraver & colourist called Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf and his younger brother, saw the gap and “went for it” setting up a printing press in Jouy-en-Josas, a small village on the banks of the river Bievre, 16.4km south west of Paris. The initial designs, usually of flowers and fruits, were copied from books of engraved prints carved into small wood printing blocks. (One supposes that the laws on copyright were not as strict as they are today.) The clean waters of the (soon to be polluted) river were essential for the mordant printing methods used by the brothers. When they started the factory, the only piece of “furniture” they possessed was the printing press which they used to sleep on at night.

One of Harlequin Fabrics' bold toile ranges.

The initial printing methods used a mordant, a substance used to set dyes on fabrics. Once printed with the mordant, the fabric was then dyed using various vegetable dyes. The fabric was then soaked in an acid such as stale cow’s urine or vinegar that acted as a fixative locking the dye to the printed mordant area of the cloth. It was then washed in the river to remove the loose dye, and dried on pontoons on the river to let the sunlight work as a bleaching agent on the non-dye fixed areas. This process was repeated a number of times until the background colour returned to white or cream and the print stood out.

Contemporary toile wallpapers. The scenes speak of the traditional, the colourways shouts "contemporary".

There is a story, possibly an “urban legend” that Oberkampf sent his brother to Manchester to study (and steal) ideas from the Manchester mills. He is said to have written out his findings on pieces of cloth using a mordant solution which was invisible to the naked eye, but when dyed and treated using their printing method, revealed all. Having established that copyright was not sacrosanct, I’m not above believing in a little industrial espionage was amiss.

A contemporary toile in striking colours.

Using only the best quality cotton fabrics and with his Germanic adherence to detail, demand for the printed cloth (toile) from Jouy (de Jouy) grew rapidly and by 1774, only 14 year later, the company was employing 900 workmen. Over 30,000 wood blocks were utilized in the printing of the fabrics until in 1770 Oberkampf introduced the etched copperplate roller technique of printing fabrics. From then until the factory closed in 1843 some 700 copperplate designs were used. For nearly 80 years the designs from Jouy recorded in pictorial form a kind of journalism that depicted everything from historical happenings, travel (popularizing Indienne, Japonaise and Chinoiserie designs that proposed to picture people & everyday life in those far away lands), fashion trends that reflected the fascination with Egypt, inventions such as the flying balloon, politics, the Court & Royalty, architecture, the classics, modern literature and the arts.

Toile de Jouy Inspired Sneakers

By 1810 Oberkampf had made “toile” a household word/name not only in France, but throughout Europe and America as well. In today’s marketing terms this could possibly be seen as one of, if not the first time, that a “brand name” became synonymous with the product, much like we might say Hoover, Durex or Kleenex today. Many of the designs such as “Les Monuments d’Egypte”, “Les Traveaux de la Manufacture” (which depicts the manufacture and printing process of toile de Jouy), “Le Ballon de Gonesse” (depicting the first balloon flight from Paris to Gonesse) and the Robinson Crusoe Toile are considered classic toile de Jouy designs and were bought over by other French fabric companies when the company closed. Many of these classic designs are still in production today.

On the left a contemporary toile with an urban street scene as subject matter. Right, you have this funky scatter cushion from designlemonade.com - a traditional toile with a contemporary print.

Although there were a number of other companies producing printed cotton fabrics in France, England and later America, none were as popular as Oberkampf’s company. The Napoleonic Wars and the self sufficiency of the American fabric industry contributed to its demise, yet still today companies producing “toile de Jouy” style fabrics continue the tradition of naming each “toile” such as “Glasgow Toile” by Timorous Beasties or the modern version of the “Ballon de Gonesse”. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the balloon flight, the children of Gonesse high school painted a mural of the famous toile as a mural on their school wall. Patrick Frey, then head of Pierre Frey fabrics was so taken with the mural that he bought the rights to the wall and had it converted into a toile.

Here is an awesome local toile design by talented Capetownian, Wendren Setzer (aka The WREN Design). The design is called Darling Toile du Jouy! Love it!

Originally designed as dress fabrics and later used for interior décor, toiles have become perennial, and are now used on anything from wallpapers, ceramics and gum boots to beanbags, directors chairs, lampshades and ‘takkies’. So next time you see a toile being used and are tempted to dismiss it, to take it for granted, to overlook the detail by consigning it to the category of “pretty picture fabric”, look a little closer for the Devil is in the detail along with sex, drugs and rock & roll too!

  

  

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