Rachel Doriss, Design Director of Pollack, joins us to discuss the design process in creating the Wilder collection of comfortable, cozy and textural fabrics. Through sumptuous materials and exciting colors, these fabrics were created with the home in mind. All exude a sense of security and joy while maintaining a rich look and feel. There are also a few fun surprises throughout like bold colors and geometric patterns that are sure to excite—plus, four new upholsteries and three new window fabrics join the Hospitality line.
Raymond Paul Schneider: When did you first start to develop this new collection?
Rachel Doriss: We started development at the beginning of the COVID lockdown, which was a real challenge. In-person brainstorming with my design team and touching fabrics is an essential part of our process—not so easy to do this remotely. Sending images back and forth and Zooming was a huge pivot for us. We work with over 100 state-of-the-art mills around the world. I normally have face-to-face meetings with them. This obviously came to a halt when international travel was restricted, so we learned new ways to communicate our ideas and we carried on with our very special fabric developments.
Raymond: What was the overall timeline from conception to achieving the final design?
Rachel: It took about 6 months to develop the patterns and finalize construction and colors. Then another 9 months to bring the fabric to market. In all, it was about a year-and-a-half process from start to finish.
Raymond: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea(s) come from?
Rachel: Because of the intense connection to home during the lockdown, we wanted to create fabrics that conveyed a sense of coziness, safety, luxury, and of course, joy.
Raymond: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
Rachel: For the two embroideries, Polka and Piccadilly, we wanted to focus on drawing patterns that had simple geometry and clean happy lines. We didn’t want to be too dramatic or serious. We wanted to achieve designs that were approachable, livable and casual. We also wanted color to play an important role. We started with the graphics for both embroideries and then made decisions about what types of yarns, grounds and stitches to use to achieve our vision. From there, we identified which suppliers to partner with to create these textiles.
For the luxurious textures in the collection that support the signature patterns, we worked with several of our best mills in Italy that have the most incredible yarns, weaving and finishing techniques. The materiality of the collection is over-the-top and really achieves the sense of luxury we want to feel in the home—especially in this present moment.
Raymond: Did you have a specific audience or theme that you had in mind?
Rachel: We create gorgeous, luxurious fabrics; the most important thing is that they are useable. We are not designing decorative fabrics for formal dining rooms that rarely get used. These fabrics are functional and livable and appropriate for the modern household. With all of the time spent at home, I feel like it is important that everything we choose to surround ourselves with should have some special quality and meaning. Each yarn and technique is chosen with care, even in the most basic texture.
Raymond: Please describe the methods, tools, and materials you used to develop and prototype this design?
Rachel: Polka is the “wow” signature of the collection. This fabric is extra special because it uses a combination of techniques. The ground fabric is a fine cotton/linen herringbone weave that is then machine embroidered with lustrous viscose yarns to create the block shapes. If you look closely, you can see there are two colors of embroidery thread creating a herringbone stitch pattern. I chose metal-like embroidery colors to simulate perfectly machined blocks, like a heavy woven metal rope. After embroidery, the fabric is sent to a boutique hand blocking studio in Bangalore (India) where the colorful circles are block printed by hand. It is so amazing because EVERY single individual polka dot is printed by hand! The block printer registers the polka dot by eye with every print and must make sure to use the right amount of pigment so it doesn’t smudge. You can see color variation in each circle, which gives it a beautiful handmade character. It’s a combination of hand and machine, perfect and imperfect, ancient and state-of-the-art. I wanted to pop unexpected colors in the polka dots, too. This is a very happy fabric. For Piccadilly, we used a different type of embroidery technique called couching. This is where the rayon chenille is laid across the surface of the cotton/linen ground fabric and fastened in place with fine stitches. That means that the chenille is drawing a fine line on the ground—we are actually drawing with yarn! These fine lines of chenille are parallel and create a perfectly machined wavy line—like a racetrack winding across the width of the fabric. The surface contrast is lovely because the chenille yarn is literally sitting on the face, rising up on top of the tightly woven ground cloth.
Raymond: Did you utilize a new technique or technology to conceptualize this product?
Rachel: This was the first time that I have designed a fabric using the couching technique, so it was exciting to experiment by drawing with yarn.
Raymond: Please describe any challenges that affected the design and perhaps steered you to an entirely new final design?
Rachel: The first drawings and strike-offs of Piccadilly actually had 7 different chenille stripe colors—which made the color repeat was 66” high! It was stunning to see the fabric draped in a long panel showing so many different colors, but reality sunk in on the challenges that would lie ahead with sampling and with waste. For example, if a designer wanted to make multiple pillows showing one specific chenille color stripe, there would be so much wasted fabric. Also, the memo samples would need to be huge to show all colors, never mind the cost of creating them! We opted to cut the color repeat down to three chenille colors and it is just as effective and 100X easier to use. That’s what I love about design: the reality of function dictating design decisions. Pushing creativity within constraints is a beautiful challenge.
Raymond: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos
Rachel: In our studio, we pride ourselves on being weavers. We create our textiles from the ground up. We think like architects—textile architects—considering yarns, constructions, end-use, color, finishing, pattern, cost. Every element must be considered every step of the way in the development of every fabric. My heart gets pumping when I sit down with a pencil and paper to draw a pattern, but pattern is only a small part of the puzzle. It’s the challenge of embedding every single fabric with special consideration. We are weavers at heart.
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