The fabric of our lives - Interior Design NZ
The fabric of our lives

The fabric of our lives

Whether it is as wall coverings, trims, towels, bed linen, rugs or furniture upholstery, textiles play an important role in our day-to-day lives—however, we have a choice to buy fabrics that place an emphasis on quality and sustainability.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

The story of our pre-history is filled with fascinating examples of how leaps forward in our knowledge and understanding have enabled us to evolve as a species and how, in many instances, the discoveries of our forebears still resonate with us today, many thousands of years later.

One such breakthrough was the cultivation and processing of flax into linen, which is believed to date back to the Babylonian civilisation, around 7000 BC. Highly prized today for its luxurious nature and superior qualities, linen was a staple fabric for much of our history, especially up until the invention of the modern cotton gin in the 18th century revolutionised cotton production.

“At Atelier Textiles, we are passionate about bringing the very best fabrics—imported from Paris, London, Milan, Venice, New York and Bangkok—to New Zealand to inspire you to create unique and bespoke interiors,” says Charlie Hotchin.

“That includes beautiful linens by de Le Cuona, one of the world’s leading producers of luxury linen and linen blend fabrics. Founded in the late-1990s by CEO Bernie de Le Cuona, they are well known for exquisitely understated linen and natural fabrics that are responsibly crafted from the world’s finest fibres and woven by specialist artisans—using both traditional and innovative techniques—into some of the most beautiful textiles imaginable.

“Atelier Textiles is proud to be able to represent de Le Cuona in New Zealand and to supply a range of fabrics from the Maverick II and newly released Studio collections.”

Part of the new Overland Collection, fabrics include Dahna (seen here in Scorched Earth) 100 per cent linen curtaining and Kalahari, a jacquard linen/wool blend seen here in Impala (rear cushion) and Honey Badger (front cushion).

de Le Cuona: a focus on quality

“I started the company 27 years ago,” says Bernie. “I am from South Africa originally and after travelling for a while, I eventually settled in the UK and thought: ‘now I have to pay the bills’. I have always been entrepreneurial and during my travels I had spent some time in both India and Belgium and was introduced to the traditional weaving techniques of Indian women and the beauty of Belgian linen—I was quite literally taken aback by it as a material; the romance of the fabric.

“I had a bit of a ‘light bulb’ moment and thought what if I took Belgian linen and traditional Indian weaving techniques and combined the two, so I began by exporting the raw materials to India where it was woven into fabric.

“The result was a beautiful fabric, however unfortunately, I had no quality control over the process at that time and so the quality of the final cloth was a bit hit and miss. I made the decision to move production to Europe utilising European craftsmen with boutique mills.”

Bernie says, at that time only printed linen cloth was available and that no one was exploring the beauty of the fibre; the different textures and weights that she was experimenting with.

“Items such as tea towels and tablecloths were readily available but no one was exploring its true potential as a designer fabric—it was just me touting my goods to designers. And then, suddenly, linen began to become fashionable for clothing, which had never really happened before due to its propensity to crease, and people began to look at it in a whole new light.

“Since then, we also started looking at other materials to incorporate with linen—wool, silk, bamboo. We were also the first to produce stonewash linen; using actual stones. No one had done that before.”

Since those humble beginnings, Bernie has grown the business into a globally renowned brand with around 400 SKUs showcasing the versatility and richness of linen.

“Almost 90 per cent of the collection is linen or linen-based. There is such beauty to linen, it offers so many different guises from sheer elegance through to bold and heavy.”

For the Studio Collection, available from Atelier Textiles, de Le Cuona worked with Ed Watson, Principal Dancer with the Royal Ballet to launch the collection during lock down.

de Le Cuona: working with artisans

“With the Studio Collection, I was driven to do something more elegant; elegance and raw linen—I love putting the two together. Studio, which we launched during the first lock down, is quite a small collection for de Le Cuona but it features all of the hallmarks.

“At the time that we launched the collection, it was a scary time for businesses and for people in general, no one knew what the outcome was going to be from this virus, we had to work remotely with our mills and the collection ended up being launched via Zoom.

“Having never had to ‘digitally’ launch a collection before, we settled on the idea to produce a film that would launch the collection. People in the arts were out of work, so we approached the Royal Ballet and were very fortunate to end up working with Principal Dancer Ed Watson. That was the start of the relationship between de Le Cuona and the ballet and that was how the Studio Collection was born and it has since gone on to be very successful.”

Bernie says the beauty of working with artisans who operate small mills is that they are open to exploring linen and combinations of materials to create fabrics that expand the potential of what can be produced.

“The beauty of working with linen is that there is always something new; always a surprise. Always more you can do. Year to year to year, the goal is to expand our offering. We have no stand-alone collections; some fabrics have been a part of the range for 20 years. With the next collection we’re going back to nature; inspired by Africa. With this new collection we will be pushing the boat out with a range of ‘new neutrals’.”

The Maverick II Collection, available from Atelier Textiles, features a range of heavy-weight linens including Cape and Hoxton, which are particularly suited to upholstery applications.

de Le Cuona: a commitment to sustainability

“Coming from South Africa, where people reuse everything—in Zambia, for example, you’ll never see single-use plastic bags—it was instilled in me to not throw things away but rather to reuse and repurpose.

“Likewise, it was important for de Le Cuona to have a high level of transparency. In the beginning it was very difficult to trace back the origins of the fibre; now, I know the farmers who grow the flax—from the field to the factory we can track the journey of most of the raw materials we use.

“We do use plastic to safeguard the fabrics when we’re sending them out and as yet, we have not been able to find a suitable replacement but we are always looking. If you really understand what sustainable means you’ll know it’s very expensive to commit to having a fully sustainable business.

“We are committed to working with other organisations dedicated to setting the standards for sustainable business. For example, our new bedding collection is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified.”

Bernie says she is also focussed on the future of the company in the coming months.

“The ‘business’ of the business is also important, which is why we opened new showrooms in New York and Europe and why we have been looking at being represented by the right people around the world, such as Atelier Textiles.

“I think by the end of January 2022, we would have grown the collection by 36 per cent—I never wanted it to be huge but I did think it was too limited. We’ll be employing a sustainability officer and looking at increasing the quality and detailing of the product offering.

“We are first and foremost a luxury brand but I wonder if we, as a society, need to find a replacement word for luxury; it seems that it is too easily bandied around these days. What is luxury? You first have to start with quality; craft; sustainability and innovation. Luxury is not a fad, it should be timeless and is definitely not fast fashion.”

Learn more about the range of linen and linen-blend fabrics available for your next interior design project.

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