The world, it seems, has fallen in love with British furnishing fabrics and wallpapers. Export sales were booming even before Brexit sent the pound tumbling, with brands such as Osborne & Little selling more abroad than at home in more than 100 countries worldwide.
Designers Guild has just opened a chic new Paris showroom, after 30 years in the city. “The French are incredibly important to us. They adore colour and are very confident, so we are natural partners,” says Tricia Guild, London’s colour queen.
Our big decor labels are launching their new spring designs on Thursday in 90 venues clustered on either side of the Seine at Paris Déco Off, the French capital’s huge design show, where they happily hang out with their mainly French, Italian and US counterparts.
The four-day show is open to everyone, and huge lamp shades decorate the narrow streets. Gorgeous new fabrics, wallpapers and trimmings, plus some lighting and rugs, will arrive in London by the end of the month — and some are already here.
Our talent is in demand
Global tastes for British decoration vary hugely. American decorators love our stuff, in particular our elegant weaves. Spain and Portugal like bold coloured wallpapers, while Russians like damask and metallic effects.
The UK’s bubbling spring of design talent is envied everywhere. It wells up from our excellent art schools, which fiercely foster individual expression and originality. Every brand has an expanding in-house design studio — this is what brings the world knocking at our decor door.
Each collection has its unique inspiration. Designs are perfected over several months using a range of artistic techniques such as pencil, charcoal and ink drawing, watercolours and acrylic/oil paints, resist-dyeing, block printing and more, not to mention sophisticated computer software.
Digital experiments and old crafts
Daring experiments with pigments, fibres, threads, looms and digital printers are underpinned by the old crafts of stitching and embroidery, weaving braids and handmaking silken tassels and fringes.
British brands have impeccable design cred, with great expertise and ancient archives. Many collections are explicitly British, with sources such as the Savoy Theatre, used by Osborne & Little, period London homes, from Little Greene using records dating back to 1773, and even board games, referenced by silk specialists James Hare.
“Authenticity is our trump card,” says Fiona Holmes, new director of a clutch of top decor labels including Sanderson, Morris & Co, Zoffany, Anthology, Scion and Harlequin. “Made in Britain is a hallmark of quality, internationally respected - our group makes over 95 per cent of our prints and wallcoverings in our own factories.”