Why and how did you begin designing textiles?
My father worked in the garment district for companies selling fabrics, so that was always around me. After high school, I spent time in specialized art schools. I was painting and into the decorative pattern movement happening at the Holly Solomon gallery as well as art to wear, which was big at the time. I started creating painted fabrics and then on a trip to India, I saw what was next – embroidered shawls. I thought they would be a great vehicle for my design, my paintings, my voice. I began doing embroidered textiles in India and have been since. I’m still influenced by India’s spirit and what’s going on there. The artisans I work with now are the artisans I worked with in 1989. I’ve kept relationships – with artisans and families and people. That’s part of the reason I do what I do. There’s a great love and connection there rather than just a factory.
Has the idea of connection inspired your extensive work collaborating with other brands?
Yes, for sure. One thing I always tell people is: when we do this, we’re also helping the artisans and their families. The work that I do with these people is really going directly to them and to their families and to keeping a tradition alive. Doing collaboration even in my own work is just more work for them, which is wonderful.
Which materials and techniques do you prefer?
When I create, I usually use either a sketch, a watercolor, or a pen-and-ink. I then choose the application – type of embroidery, colors, stitch-work. I primarily work with chainstitch. I love the straight simplicity of it, the feel that it creates, the texture. That’s my medium of choice in terms of how I interpret my work.
How does your personal style influence or differ from your work?
It’s similar. I like to live not in a minimalist house but with a composition in mind. I like a white space with neutrals and pops of color. With my designs, I’m always thinking about that: what’s going to be the pop of color? the neutral in there? There’s always cream to give it a pop. Most of my designs have cream. Without it, they feel flat. I live in a post-modern, Scandinavian feel. My design has that feeling, too.
Is there a product you prefer creating?
Well, I started with scarves. They were in Christian Lacroix shows and Ungaro and sold at Maria Luisa and Kashiyama. I have a sentimental connection with Paris, because that’s where I started with the scarves. I transitioned into pillows, because home became a big market. I love creating the pillows with artisans and seeing what they come up with and how they interpret their stitch-work. I enjoy doing rugs in Nepal. They’re made in a hand-knotted process. I’ve recently done a license with Garnet Hill. I’ve taken a lot of my designs and applied them to products that I’ve never really done before like sheets, towels, shower curtains, poufs, and containers. The great thing about working with a company like Garnet Hill is that they’re mass-market. Often, when you work with a large company, you can make things at an amazing price, because they have the quantity and the relationships to do so.
What do you find most interesting in your collaboration with Kilometre?
Alexandra and I have known each other for over twenty years. She’s my world explorer friend. I’m always like “Now where is Alexandra? Never a dull moment in the life of Alexandra.” I learned so much from all of these places that she makes her tunics. I chose places that I was inspired to make a beautiful pillow design for. Those were the most interesting parts – learning about all of these places and working together.
How and why did you choose the destinations?
I was inspired by her drawings for each destination. I went with ones that I connected to. My voice in design is simplified down – very bold and graphic and interesting compositions. I chose the ones that I gravitated to in terms of the drawings.
Why pillows for Kilometre?
Because Alexandra was doing ready-to-wear and I’m a home designer, we decided that I would bring Kilometre to the home. I enjoyed doing Hudson with its linear leaf drawing. With Hudson, I felt a connection to designs that I’ve done before, so I designed these solid, undulating shapes that form the leaves. It’s one of my favorites in the collection. But I would say I discovered Namibia. It was interesting to find out about the diamond mines, and I like that one, too.
How does your travel influence your design?
Everything influences what I create. It comes from the visuals – the day-to-day, the travel.
What is your favorite place to travel to?
India. For the color, the culture, the spirit of the people. There’s a great sense of humor there. Kashmir is beautiful – like the upstate New York or Hudson Valley of India. Jaipur, the pink city, is magical. There are so many different spirits – different but the same in a way.
What is your next destination?
Mérida, I think. I haven’t been to Spain yet, but I like the feeling of a Spanish town – flea markets, craft markets, beautiful colors. It’s exotic in that people from around the world settled there. New York ex-pats mix with locals.
You’re based out of NYC. Do you have any hidden gems? Secret spots?
Indochine. I just had a fun dinner there after my opening. The thing about Indochine is it’s been there for almost 35 years but hasn’t changed. People still love it, and new people love it. I love when that happens. It’s a hit with every age.
Indochine, 430 Lafayette St, New York