INSIDE STORY THE GAINSBOROUGH SI LK WEAVING COMPANY WORD PLAY
The Suffolk textile brand loved byhollywood andbritish royalty New fromdanish type enthusiast Design Letters are thesemessage boards, which display letters and numbers fromdanishmaestro Arne Jacobsen’s hand-drawn 1937 alphabet. Whether displaying your gro
The small market town of Sudbury in Suffolk is the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough, celebrated portraitist to the 18th-century aristocracy. It’s easy to imagine his well-heeled sitters as clients of The Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company, established in his hometown in 1903. Its sumptuous damask and brocade fabrics have graced royal palaces and the Titanic, as well as the set of the recently released Beauty and the Beast film.
The companywas founded byreginaldwarner, anentrepreneurial weaverwho travelled aroundeurope and brought back exceptional fabrics that he used to create innovativenewdesigns. More than a century later, Gainsborough is stillmaking its fabrics by hand, using looms fromthe 1920s. It operates from the same ‘weaving shed’ that it has owned since 1924.
The secret of Gainsborough’s lustrous silks is not only in its traditionalmethods and high thread counts. Most important is the type of silk used: filament silk, the finest quality thread available, which is brought to Suffolk all the way from China on the ancient Silk Route. Once it reaches the factory, a lengthy dyeing and drying process ensues, and then it can take up to six days to weave 50 metres of fabric.
Though age-old techniques are the foundationof whatgainsborough does, it hasnot remained frozen intime. In2013, interior designerrussell Sagewas recruited as creative director, and brought the company anewaudience by using its textiles inchiclondon venues thegoringhotel andzettertownhouse Marylebone. And last year, designerkarenbeauchamp was commissioned to create two collections. The first, ‘Renaissance’ (top), puts amodern twist on archive patterns, from damasks to gingham checks, all in a contemporary palette. Her next collection, ‘Out of the Blue’ – which she describes as having ‘a 20th-century vibe’ – will bring even more fans ( gainsborough.co.uk).
Gainsborough’s damasks and brocades have graced filmsets, royal palaces and the Titanic