In January 2014, in the midst of the Parisian chapter of the Maison & Objet design fair, amongst the movers and shakers of the homewares world (dubbed the designers to watch), was the first time that we spoke with Harriet Wallace-Jones of the illustrious design studio Wallace#Sewell. It wasn’t the first time we’d seen them exhibit. They were fair regulars, often displaying their collections amongst other young and internationally recognised designers.
We’d been drawn to their collections before for their bold, vibrant use of colour and their wholesome, detail-oriented approach to design. But when we visited them this time, it wasn’t simply to admire: we went with a mission to partner with them, and to create an exclusive, limited edition collection that put our mutual love of natural materials brilliant craftsmanship at the fore.
That day, Harriet was dressed in a yellow blouse and sported navy stockings, and complimented her bright, standout stall. From our first conversation, the partnership felt right.
Wallace#Sewell is a small British company focused on producing high-quality products made from natural materials. They believed in maintaining heritage production and understanding how each of their pieces was made, from conception to finished product.
‘For us,’ says Emma Sewell, designer and co-founder of the studio, ‘quality means a piece that’s created with care and thought, where every element has been selected for a purpose. Whether it is the fibre creating the feel; the colours selected to achieve balance, yet with a touch of juxtaposition; or the structure which helps tie everything together.’
Since founding Wallace#Sewell in 1990, this philosophy has helped them grow from as two graduates of London Royal College of Art to the head designers of a studio that is recognised around the world, and listed in the Buy British campaign.
Emily Lynam, URBANARA’s head buyer and design expert, knew that the collaboration would come easily.
‘It felt right for us to partner with [them] because they also equally value quality materials, heritage production, and striking design,’ she said. ‘They're a small company who's focused on producing quality over quantity. Actually, lead times on their products can be upwards of six months, so you know that you're getting something that is thoughtful, and considered at every point from conception to production. It's a philosophy that's in line with our own.’
And they really do prove their point. The Winchester collection is woven using 100% pure Shetland wool, which is spun in Yorkshire and dyed by local dyers. The wool is then woven by a family-run mill in Lancashire. Another 30 miles from here, they are washed at a finishers, the final softening treatment for this rugged, colourful design.
There is no question as to whether their products are first-class quality. But their design is stand-out, too: for URBANARA, partnership with Wallace#Sewell also allowed us to expand our collection’s palette and introduce a splash of colour, a strong characteristic of the Wallace#Sewell style; bold, bright palettes meet and sing in plaid and checkerboard patterns, a colourful feast for the eyes. So statement are they that their first exhibition in 1992 attracted the attention of Barney’s New York, who consequently placed an order for scarves. The pure artistic influence behind their style was also appreciated in the art world proper, the studio having been commissioned for a scarf collection exclusively for the Tate Modern.
This was another reason that excited Emily about partnering with them.
‘Their colour palette really, really stood out for us,’ she said, who conceived the Winchester Bedspread for URBANARA in conjunction with the studio. ‘Our collection portfolio includes a lot of neutrals and greys - in stark contrast to these designs. We thought it would be an interesting and valuable way to expand our colour palette, while remaining focused on traditional craftsmanship and outstanding quality.’
The result is a statement piece that displays the trademarks of Wallace#Sewell, but which embraces URBANARA’s colour spectrum. It was also given a generous size so that it could be used as a bedspread, as well as a blanket.
This versatility, Emma said, makes them practical: ‘With their large areas of colour in a three dimension waffle weave, the blankets can be casually thrown over a sofa to show off the graphic texture, laid flat to cover a bed to create an abstract design, or folded in various ways… and each way looks different,’ and adds, ‘and their soft yet rugged feel means they can be used both indoors or out in the fresh air’.
In other words, made in Britain for the British weather.
Emily agrees. ‘It’s not just a bedspread, it's a piece of art! It’s been designed by artists and is entirely British made so it’s a testament to local heritage and skill.’
For URBANARA, the partnership with Wallace#Sewell was a stellar example of high-quality materials and craftsmanship, married with a design flair that makes the piece truly unique.
The Winchester Bedspread is a very limited edition collection available exclusively at URBANARA. The Bedspread displays the trademark plaid design of Wallace#Sewell, and is available in a light raspberry or green and multicoloured design.