At McKenzie & Willis we have long been passionate supporters of NZ brands and NZ Made products. Which is why we are bringing you our “Meet the NZ Designers and Makers” blog series! In this series we delve into the stories of some of our much-loved NZ brands so you can get to know the people behind these incredible companies.
This week we caught up with Nick Dunlop who filled us in on the story of the James Dunlop brand.
Although not NZ made, James Dunlop Textiles was established in New Zealand well over a hundred years ago and is now run by the fourth generation of the Dunlop family. We will let Nick fill you in….
Tell us a bit about the story behind James Dunlop Textiles. How was it started?
James Dunlop Textiles really is a family business. The company was founded back in 1907 in Dunedin as a supplier of European fabric to retailers. From the get-go a commitment to quality design and performance ensured longevity for the company and product alike.
Today, the fourth generation Dunlop family still govern James Dunlop Textiles across the Asia- Pacific region. Along with a strong focus on sustainable textiles excellence, we are committed to providing outstanding service backed by world class logistics.
How do James Dunlop/Mokum designs begin their life? Can you elaborate on the creative process?
We have two talented Design Studios in Auckland and Sydney, who are constantly observing and interpreting fashion, colour, societal and lifestyle trends both locally and globally. They synthesize the information and deliver textiles that both follow and lead fashion trends while at the same time are suited to our demanding Southern Hemisphere lifestyles. The Mokum brand is based in the Sydney design studio and creates bespoke textile designs to sit within thematic collections.
Buying trips are critical to discover and source exclusive new constructions for luxury drapery or upholstery development. Examples could be a stunning print base cloth, a sophisticated weave with interesting binding detail, or new yarn innovations.
From the studio the design team will then create bespoke surface pattern designs to suit the chosen textile, often tweaking elements of the construction to ensure it meets their visual brief and passes stringent testing standards.
Once they sign off development trials and finalise specialist finishing techniques they begin the lengthy process of custom colouring to ensure the fabric offers the desired palette for the Mokum brand and target sales markets. The Mokum studio works with the finest mills from all over Europe, so the development process is a true partnership between our Sydney design studio and the mills specific expertise.
Where do the creative team find inspiration?
Specific inspiration for their collections is always more personal and specific to the fabric brand. The Auckland-based James Dunlop brand team tend to find their inspiration from people, culture and the environment of New Zealand. For instance the 2017 James Dunlop main collection, Alpine, was inspired by one of our great walks, the Tongariro Crossing. The yet to be released 2018 Spring collection is inspired by the life work of New Zealand’s pre-eminent Potter and Artist, John Parker.
Inspiration for the Mokum brand on the other hand comes from global fashion and cultural trends and how those trends are interpreted in an Australasian context. When researching color and design trends, the Mokum studio spend a lot of time looking at high-end fashion for both palette and motif references; seasonal fashion trends are often a lot braver than the interior industry which requires longevity so we reinterpret these trends to suit our industry and the Mokum brand philosophy. The design team also utilize a leading global trend forecaster, reviewing its latest colour reports in line with our own sales reports, ensuring we have a mix of trend-driven colours and sales drivers.
Becloud Fabric, Serenity by James Dunlop
What techniques and materials are used?
Overall our design philosophy is to creature luxurious, contemporary textiles which maintain a relaxed and casual aesthetic. We initially develop our textiles using primarily natural fibre, often blending with synthetic yarns to increase performance benefits, until we find that balance of look, feel and performance. Our design teams have a discerning difference, we put a lot of focus on weaves and finishing, often using specialist finishing techniques, ensuring our textiles are both beautiful and practical.
Do you have a favourite collection or design?
For the James Dunlop brand it would have to be the Avenues collection launched March 2018. The Avenues collection explores the timeless appeal of classic textile designs and techniques, reinterpreting these using trends and colour for modern living.
Sloane Fabric, The Avenues by James Dunlop
I am also loving Mokum’s recently released Canvas design and particularly the colour “Yves Klein Blue”. This abstract geometric has been hand painted, over scaled and then woven in a commercial heavy duty construction reminiscent of canvas material. The colour “Yves Klein Blue” offers a welcomed strike of colour against the collections soothing palette of neutrals. When the Mokum studio last visited London they spent the afternoon in the Tate Modern Gallery, where they saw the original works of Yves Klein. As a 19 year old the artist looked at the sky on a beautiful sunny day in the south of France and declared “the blue sky is my first artwork”. In creating his trademarked shade of ultramarine blue, the artist wanted to take the sense of space that we see in the blue sky and turn it into paint. This strong cobalt blue will be popping up as a feature colour in many upcoming Mokum designs, particularly in our next outdoor collection – stay tuned!
Canvas Fabric, Pure by Mokum
What emerging styles/trends in textile should we be on the lookout for?
Earlier this year the Mokum studio travelled to Italy for the annual textile trade fair, Proposte, followed by supplier visits in Italy and the United Kingdom. Their last day was spent in London undergoing research and development at both a design and colour level.
Soft Minimalism was a strong trend evident throughout Proposte, the entrance atrium featured layer upon layer of plain textures in clean shades of white and soft neutrals. The idea to create a serene and calming interior space to counterbalance our overloaded lifestyles is growing in popularity as people’s perception of luxury shifts from what we own to how we live. This trend was evident in new weaves as well, with craftsmanship and tactility gaining importance to balance the digital screens that dominate daily life. Look out for heavy and textured linen weaves, plush velvets, soft faux furs and chunky tactile woollen blends.
Piet fabric, Pure by Mokum
Illusion Fabric, Serenity by James Dunlop
Tropical design was still very much present. People’s desire to reconnect with nature remains a strong driver in reaction to living increasingly urban and digital lifestyles. Lush, deep greens in all shades of the spectrum were popular. Tropical motifs were woven, printed, ombred and heavily present in wallpaper and accessory items also.
La Palma Wallpaper, Majorelle by Catherine Martin by Mokum
Opulent florals continued to dominate, taking on a softer painterly style as opposed to photographic clarity. For this style, vibrant purple in line with the 2018 Pantone of the year works with lush green and yellow accents.
Magnolia, Essenza by Mokum
That concludes our interview with Nick Dunlop. To see the beautiful range of fabrics from both James Dunlop and Mokum visit your nearest McKenzie & Willis showroom.
And did you know, that right now and until the 19th of August 2018 we’ve taken 20% off selected NZ made furniture brands and selected NZ brand upholstery fabrics + some incredible deals on NZ made beds!
We are also hosting some of the top designers from our NZ Made brands in the McKenzie & Willis Christchurch showroom during the NZ Made Expo. Come in store for your personal consultation between 12 and 4pm on the weekends of the 11th/12th and 18th/19th of August.
Click here to find out more and to see a full schedule.