Arts and crafts from far-flung destinations form an important part of our designs. From embroidered Suzani fabrics, to the natural and tactile quality of baskets and mud beads from South Africa, or the graphic designs of Ghanaian Fante Flags – these unique works of craftsmanship all have elements that inspire us. The lack of concern for naturalistic depiction has had an important influence on European Modernist art, like Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani and Klee.
A Suzani is a large, hand-embroidered textile panel; the word comes from the Persian word Suzan, which means needle. Originating from nomadic tribes in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries, Suzanis have become highly collectable and valued for their fine craftsmanship.
The primary use of a Suzani was within the yurt, as a protective wrapping panel for textiles and belongings. Suzanis had a symbolic significance, too. They were traditionally made by brides and their mothers as part of a dowry, and presented to the groom on his wedding day.
The textile is made from cotton, sometimes silk with a variety of patterns, which traditionally include the sun and moon, flowers, leaves, fruits (especially pomegranates), and occasionally fish and birds.
We have collected a variety of original Suzani textiles while on our travels. The inspiration for Room 001 at the Covent Garden Hotel was in fact a silk red Suzani, which hangs on the wall in an elegantly decorated frame. For the curvaceous headboard, we deconstructed the shapes and patterns of the Suzani and created and an abstract composition in a variety of wools.
I created my own modern day version of a Suzani fabric with Chelsea Textiles. The large scale design with repeating motifs in warm tones of pinks, reds and mauves is perfect for a contemporary or traditional setting.
Traditional African patterns have also inspired contemporary fabric designs. In the Sandra Blow room at The Soho Hotel, the bold geometrics on the sofas, chairs and cushions by Pierre Frey and Dedar, as well as the painting by Carla Kranendonk are gathered together in a striking mix of patterns and influences.
Fante Flags are graphic and pictorial displays of scenes portrayed by the Fante people and Asafo warrior groups of the coastal and forest fringes of Ghana. The flags have been a huge inspiration in our designs – we admire the craft and bold colouring. We cut out and appliqued Flying Rhinos to tell a story inspired by Ghana on this chair.