Recently, I visited the Lula Fabrics showroom to take a couple of snaps, and also to interview the brains and style behind Lula, Melissa Kerhoff.
Lula Fabrics is a pretty new venture for you, but you’ve been involved in textiles and design for a while. Tell us about your background.
I’ve had a long-term fascination with fabrics. As a schoolgirl, I’d venture into Cape Town on a Saturday morning and buy shwe-shwe fabrics off the market on the Grand Parade, and make them up into into fun baggies, skirts and dresses. My high school artwork was always vibrantly coloured and intricately designed, and so my art teacher suggested a career in textile design. After school, this is what I studied as the Ruth Prowse School of Art.
I started my career in the decor industry at Mavromac, where I got fantastic insight into the world’s most beautiful textile collections. I also worked at Home Fabrics, selling their imported ranges, and then at Tessa Sonik, before starting Lula Fabrics in March 2007.
Tell us about the collections you’ve designed for Lula.
The first collection, Damask and Paisley, was inspired by traditional paisley and damask designs, printed with an Indian block printed feel in soft, romantic, monochromatic colours on sheer linens.
My second range was very graphic and bold, called Delicious Monster Leaf with a co-ordinating stripe and Indian ornamental design. The colourways are both sophisticated and also cheerful, and the fabrics work well in outdoor areas and living rooms.
What’s the inspiration behind the New Tribal Collection?
This collection has been brewing since 1996, when I visited Turkey and encountered Suzani textiles for the first time. Suzanis are hand-dyed and embroidered textiles in vivid and intense colours. They come from Uzbekistan, and are a true work of art.
While in London last year, I visited the Haymarket Hotel, where the designer Kit Kemp had upholstered a wing back chair and large square ottoman in Suzanis. These magnificent pieces made me decide it was time to use this long-held inspiration in my own work.
Who are your design and style icons?
Tricia Guild, for her love of colour and romance, and for her whimsical and sometimes funky design. I also respect and admire the growth of her empire, producing fabrics, gorgeous soft furnishings and bedlinen, as well as her hugely inspirational books!
Pierre Frey, for his panache and fantastic attitude: he produces designs that he loves, and not just what’s fashionable or on-trend.
Kathryn Ireland, because her middle name is Melissa… not really! Actually, I feel a kinship with her, as the same things drive us both – the love of family, friends, animals, cosy comfortable living spaces adorned with beautiful fabrics. Her range, like mine, was borne out of her love of fabrics and her passion for beautiful things.
Tell us about a few of your favourite things
… my daughter Erin’s laughter. It comes from her gut and is completely contagious.
… the adoring nature of my cat, Lula-Cuddle-Cat
… my Grandmother’s 1940’s rose-cut diamond engageme
nt ring, because it symbolises the great love my grandparents shared for 63 years.
What are the plans for the future of Lula Fabrics?
Our website is under construction and will include a blog. Visit www.lulafabrics.co.za and sign up for our newsletter about upcoming events on the Lula calendar.