What is your earliest memory of design? When did you first know that you wanted to become a fabric/wallpaper designer?
Jules: My first memory of design is of a house that stood out to me as being totally different from the English-country-house aesthetic that my family liked. It belonged to our American neighbours and the bedroom I slept over in had chocolate brown grasscloth with vibrant strié florals. The parents’ bedroom was lettuce green with white trellis and white rattan as well as a deep pile carpet, and the entrance hall had glazed leopards peering out from jungle greenery. I used to love visiting!
Nancy: My father was a professor of photography and my mother was an interiors photographer so growing up, my house was always full of creatives, shoots and props! I never considered a career that wasn’t in design.
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a fabric designer? Did this start from prior experience as an Interior Designer?
Nancy: I studied textiles and print design at Nottingham University and after my degree, I went straight to Lake Como where I worked designing prints for the fashion industry. I've worked in trend predictions and fashion analysis and when I came back to the UK, I set up my own print studio; that was 20 years ago now and I supply leading fashion companies globally from Japan to New York. Working with Juliet was a new journey in terms of my design. I've looked at print differently, how it sits in static pieces rather than moving bodies and how it changes as it flows over curtains or around the curves of a chair. For me, it's been a really interesting process to refine and develop prints for the interiors, but always with an eye on the colours and aesthetics of current fashion.
Jules: I am not a fabric designer, but I am obsessed with colour and how patterns interplay. I focus and work on what inspires our print stories, colour palettes and scale of prints. I studied history and philosophy and then interior design with the KLC before doing a Masters in the history of interiors. For me, the history of print design, popular patterns and motifs and cultural colour stories is ever-present and so influential when we are looking at how we're going to design our prints.
Where do you find the inspiration for your designs? What would you say are the main influences on your work?
Our main influences come from where we live and where we come from. We are so lucky to live in an area of outstanding beauty, surrounded by valleys ringed in beech-woods strewn with wild spring garlic and bluebells. It’s incredibly beautiful and we find nature to be a constant source of inspiration. By ‘where we come from’, I mean our history as a small island trading nation, our fascination with the East and the desire for Chinoiserie, ikats and the silk route, block prints and chintz from Indian – and the way that these were traded over thousands of miles for hundreds of years and still look fresh in English country houses today. We look at all of these things and then give them a kaleidoscopic fashion twist to make them feel 21st century.
Where is the most surprising place that you’ve found inspiration for your designs?
Trees! We spend a lot of time looking at trees, bugs and wildflowers.
What’s your creative process? Take us through the development of a design from idea conception to the final product.
We produce books, slideshows really, which we call ‘Colour Forward’. In these, we look at all the colours that are inspiring us, the multiple colourways that those colours can be reflected in and interiors, paint colours, things in nature, historic design schemes and even paintings that reflect these colours. We then look at how we’re going to incorporate those colours into existing prints or new prints that we feel would extend the collection in a meaningful way.
Image above: Fabric swatches in Hills fabric design
What types of materials and production processes do you prefer to use and why?
All of our prints can be printed across three different fabric bases and we use a digital printer. Because some of our prints are incredibly complex, we use discharge printers so that we can get the full-colour saturation that we need for our really bright colours and to ensure that these will maintain colourfastness.
What is something that most people don’t understand or appreciate about textile design that you wish they did?
Oh that's easy! The pattern repeat. Getting a pattern that will flow seemingly effortlessly and endlessly is all about a perfect pattern repeat, so that no colour jumps out more than another but that there's enough variation in colour and movement in the print to maintain visual interest and to keep the eye moving happily over your final product. Often I don't realise how clever Nancy's pattern repeats are until we see a pair of curtains hanging, or an upholstered piece. In a small sample, you can't quite appreciate how difficult and how clever a pattern repeat is.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to experiment with adding more colour and pattern to their interiors with fabric/wallpaper but is scared of making the wrong choice?
If you only use one print it's going to jump out. It's best to use a combination of at least three prints in different scales that complement each other; so a small stripe, maybe a soft, open floral and then a texture: now your room’s become interesting! Pick something you really love to anchor the scheme and evolve it from there, then it will be a room that's truly yours.
Is there a particular design in your collection that’s your favourite and if so, why?
We think it has to be Ziggy. It's very recognisably Parker and Jules and it won us the award of the best new design at Decorex when we launched it as a wallpaper. The judges’ words stay with us: That it's a print that's perfect in a modern or a traditional interior and that this is something difficult to achieve.
How has the fabric and textile industry evolved since you became a part of it and what do you see and hope for the future of it?
In terms of evolution and the future, we think all of us are feeling the environmental challenge and we are becoming increasingly focused as a business on sustainability. Within that, we are looking at all sampling processes and printing locally and on a to-order basis, to maintain this as a priority.