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Interior designers and textile companies come together in an exciting new alliance as Heather Dixon reports
Two Yorkshire-based interior designers have forged links with some of the countys oldest textile mills to develop new ranges of luxurious soft furnishings for the home. Its already a rewarding partnership, one that holds promise more widely for Yorkshires textile industry.
Award-winning interior designer Carolyn Parker, based near York, has worked for more than 20 years with clients all over the world but her relationship with one of Yorkshires longest-established mills, Joshua Ellis & Co in Batley, is, she says, one of the most exciting developments in her career to date.
Textiles have always been my passion, she says. I had already been buying cashmere from Joshua Ellis for six or seven years and every time I went to the mill I was like a child in a sweet shop. Then, last year, we started to collaborate on the development of a bespoke collection of luxurious cashmere throws, inspired by the colours of the Yorkshire countryside.
The throws are now sold in Harrods and at the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, where Jason de Souza is also distributing Carolyns newly developed archive capsule collection of soft furnishing fabrics, which were manufactured at the mill.
Working hand in hand with a Yorkshire mill to produce bespoke textiles for my interior designs is incredibly exciting, says Carolyn. It makes a lot of sense to work together to create interiors textiles which are 100 per cent made in Yorkshire.
For designer Sally Green, the local mills have played a huge part in her newly-launched business, Tweed Lounge, which produces high quality cushions based on urban and country Yorkshire lifestyles. Sally grew up in and around the historic Little London area of Rawdon, West Yorkshire and her mother still lives in one of the weavers cottages, but it was Sallys background in textiles which eventually directed her towards her new business.
I spent 20 years working in the clothing industry, sourcing and buying fabrics to import from the Far East, says Sally. I have always loved interiors and worked on private commissions and projects in my spare time. I didnt take it any further until I hit 40 last year and probably had something of a mid-life crisis.
Sally, a single parent, developed her concept in the attic of her home in Rawdon. She had started working part time for a company that uses high quality British and European cloth.
A lot of people think the Yorkshire textile industry has disappeared but thats not the case at all, she says. Our heritage in the industry means we have a wealth of experience in weaving, finishing and dyeing and the design, colours and quality of the cloth produced right here, on our doorstep, is amazing.
It was a logical step, given my interest in interior design, to look at ways of using the textiles for soft furnishings.
Sally spent eight months developing a range of tweed cushions, enhanced with wool and leather that reflect all aspects of Yorkshire life with a contemporary edge. The range, including an edgy pin-stripe-inspired design called Park Square, hacking jacket-style Ripley and country-style Wharfedale, is now available through the Craft Gallery in Leeds and on-line through tweedlounge.com.uk.
There are a lot of soft furnishings out there which all look the same, adds Sally. I want to design products which are tactile, textural, beautifully made and of high quality but, most importantly, products which are designed and manufactured in Yorkshire.
Both Sally and Carolyn believe the alliance between regionally-based interior designers and the countys textile industry will help to support Yorkshires reputation as one of the greatest textile manufacturing
centers in the world and its a view enthusiastically endorsed by Richard Riley of Joshua Ellis & Co.
The company was established in 1767 and produces luxurious fabrics including cashmere, lambswool, vicuna, angora and camelhair for top fashion houses throughout the world.
When the Yorkshire woollen industry took a major battering, those who survived the shake-up were the niche suppliers, says Richard. A few years ago we started to look at opportunities within the interiors market but it wasnt until we started working more closely with Carolyn and combined our skills that we were able to create the colours and products appropriate for interior design. The past year has been exciting for all of us.
The move towards greater collaboration between designers and mills has also been welcomed by Geraldine Clark, president of the Bradford Textile Society.
The industry is slowly beginning to understand the importance of working closely with interior designers in more creative ways, she says. We have paid lip service to it but never really used it at grass roots level.
The mills have had a very difficult time and many have gone out of business, but some companies have looked at other ways of making a living and, in the past five or six years, the niche market has really come to the fore. A lot of mills are discovering that they are making an incredible product that can be used in bespoke ways, and by working with Yorkshire-based interior designers they are developing a new identity.
The print version of this article appeared in the July 2012 issue of Yorkshire Life
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