According to Amelia Thorpe, British textile companies collaborate with large craft communities.
Like many business owners, Andrew Cussins, founder of Sofas & Stuff, faced a challenge. “Remember the beginning of the first quarantine,” he says. “As a furniture salesman who had a lot of brick and mortar stores closed, I was in absolute panic.”
After an unhappy morning spent trying to negotiate a rent cut with his store owners, he had even darker hours ahead. “I sat there and thought that I could do better things this afternoon than argue with landlords,” he recalls. Picking up a copy of a textile magazine edgehe began flipping through its pages. “When I looked at photos of artisan fabrics and weavers from all over the planet, it dawned on me that we could do something positive – a special collection of upholstery fabrics to showcase their wonderful skills.”
After discussions with edge Editor Polly Leonard, Sofas & Stuff has begun work on a collection of vibrantly patterned fabrics produced by seven weaving communities in Peru’s Cusco region, high in the Andes, each with its own distinctive traditions, methods and color combinations. Produced in collaboration with the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco, the hand-dyed fabric is made from alpaca and lambswool, woven on strap and horizontal looms in a labour-intensive process: it takes about eight days to produce one meter. fabrics.
“During the lockdown, the weavers who used to produce fabric for the tourism industry in Peru, which was now completely shut down, had no work, literally no work at all,” explains Mr Cassins. There can hardly be any doubt that the order for 720 meters of fabric, woven by 200 craftsmen over a period of six months, came at a crucial moment.
The textile arrived in the UK in the spring of 2022 to create the Peruvian Collection, a limited edition of around 60 custom-made chairs and footrests. “Commercially it’s not a big deal for us, but emotionally and creatively it says something about what we care about,” says Mr. Cussins. In 2024, he is planning a collection of furniture upholstered in fabric from Uzbekistan. “It is very important to show what these incredible artists from all over the world are capable of,” he adds.
Someone else who believes in the power of craftsmanship – and our collective social responsibility – is Adam Gilchrist, founder of Veedon Fleece, a handmade rug specialist. “When I started the company 28 years ago, I had to figure out a way to break the very ingrained tradition of child labor in Nepal,” he says.
His determination to end the practice meant that he had to pay the weavers what their children could earn on the loom, as well as school fees. “In the first four years, I lost most of the antiques from my house,” he recalls. But in the end, his investment paid off as word of mouth began to spread and Veedon Fleece didn’t look back. Today, the firm continues to support local Nepalese charities and contribute to ethical practices.
Felicity Marshall is the founder of ethical home products brand Daughters of Gaea, which she launched in spring 2022. “Transparent ethical values are quite rare in high-end design,” she notes. Her goal is to offer a range of fully traceable handmade products, including pillows and blankets, produced in collaboration with Tharangini Studios, a women’s block print shop in Bangalore. Manual workers (usually women) contribute more than $718 billion to our global GDP, but social and economic protection is not their norm, according to Nest, a non-profit organization that supports the responsible growth of the artisan community. “I saw this as a huge opportunity,” she says, “not only to preserve cultural traditions, but also to improve the welfare of some of these workers through fair employment.”