Allison Block, Design Director of Travers, joins us to discuss the new Garden Club collection – a bright and botanical series of fabric just in time for spring.
Raymond Schneider: When did you first start to develop this new collection?
Allison Block: The earliest development stages for Garden Club began back in November 2020. This collection kick-off was a bit earlier than years past to ensure an on-time collection launch, factoring in supply chain and other production possible delays!
Raymond: What was the overall timeline from conception to achieving the final design?
Allison: All in all, it took a little over a year from conception to launch! The total timeline to finalize all of the patterns, qualities and colors in the collection took about 7 months, and then another 6 months to procure, shoot, sample and distribute the collection to our global markets.
Raymond: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea(s) come from?
Allison: As we entered year two of the pandemic, I wanted to continue to build on the idea of bringing the outside in. The designs in the collection offer escapism, with patterns and textures reminiscent of the diversity found in nature. I focused on botanical elements and natural materials influenced by the outdoors, collaborating with artists and drawing inspiration from the Travers archive. The collection is motivated by the dream of a beautifully cultivated garden composed of plants and flowers that have been gathered from near and far. I wanted to blur the lines between home and garden.
Raymond: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
Allison: Each collection that I’ve designed for Travers has started with a trip to our archive. It is here where the discovery of a fantastic old document can become the starting point for something new. And once this foundation is set, I can begin to build out the collection. To design what I call a lifestyle collection, I think about how the fabrics can be applied to every room in the house. You need a variety of original designs, printing techniques and weaving processes that together form a layered and cohesive assortment. It is the sourcing and editing of different textile qualities where the magic happens and the vision comes into focus.
“Audubon Garden” in progress.
Raymond: Did you have a specific audience or theme that you had in mind?
Allison: To be a success in all of the different regions and markets across America, the collection needs to also have wide appeal. Our clients have a strong appreciation for quality. The attention to detail and the colors offered in this collection really highlight luxury and sophistication.
Raymond: Please describe the methods, tools, and materials you used to develop and prototype this design?
Allison: The suppliers I work with are the best in the world, and that mastery of craftsmanship is poured into the development of each design in the collection. Home textiles, like fashion, are cyclical, and older styles can be reproduced with a fresh take for today. CARAVAN is the perfect example of this, modernizing a traditional boucle with a natural quality and hand-made look. WAVE HILL, a true warp print, is produced by trained artisans in India and has a charming rustic quality to it. ELIZABETH is a cheerful block print and embroidery that uses a unique combination of stitches, including chunky hand knots. HAMPTON PATCH is a quilted four color patchwork of cut trapezoids pieced together. Each fabric in Garden Club is a true labor of love! Another design priority was the importance of locally sourcing materials, and trying to be as eco-conscious as possible. Impactful change starts slow, with this collection an example of one small change was to digitally print wherever possible to improve our carbon footprint.
Raymond: Did you utilize a new technique or technology to conceptualize this product?
Allison: It wasn’t so much that I utilized new techniques; it was more that I focused on celebrating age-old weaving processes that are specific to different regions and villages.
Raymond: Please describe any challenges that affected the design and perhaps steered you to an entirely new final design?
Allison: Oh yes! As I’ve mentioned, I like to start each new collection with a trip to the archives. On the visit where Garden Club was conceived I fell in love with this amazing antique document; a garden oasis with wisteria, birds and butterflies. The rest of the collection was layered around this archival print. After a few months of development and once the design had been screen separated to begin working on colors, it was brought to my attention that the exact same design, inch for inch, was a part of a competitor’s current line. This was a crushing discovery; actual tears were shed. This is known to happen occasionally with textile documents that pre-date copyright. Document dealers would cut in half and sell the same designs to multiple fabric houses, and it would surface decades later! Armed with the knowledge that the design was already out in the world, I knew I couldn’t bring this design to market and now needed to reframe and find a solution.
I believe in signs, and the very evening that I was faced with this design challenge, I came across Southern California artist Allison Cosmos while aimlessly scrolling on Instagram. I knew I needed another garden-inspired anchor print in the collection and her stylized birds spoke to me. I cold-called her the following morning, and together we collaborated on the original hand-painted garden chinoiserie that became Audubon Garden, the hero print of the collection. This fresh adaptation of the original document resulted in the perfect combination of old world charm with a modern twist.
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