Inside the studio with James Dunlop.

This week we step inside the studio of James Dunlop to meet Annie Moir and to talk about their beautiful range of fabrics.

Words by
James Dunlop
Photography James Dunlop

Inside the studio.

Annie Moir, Design Director at James Dunlop, is a 5th generation family member and so it's a brand she grew up with and it’s a brand she has a huge amount of heart for.

James Dunlop is a New Zealand textiles brand with a rich heritage. Wholesalers of interior textiles since 1907, James Dunlop is a trusted lifestyle brand delivering timeless design and accessible textiles for the mid to premium market.

When we develop new collections we design through a contemporary lens, backed with over a hundred years of industry knowledge.

“We take constant inspiration from our Antipodean heritage, our stunning landscapes and our unique lifestyle – how we live in our part of the world.”

— Annie Moir

Describe a typical day at work in the studio.

This is difficult to answer as no two days are ever the same! If I’m not travelling, a typical week will involve multiple supplier meetings to review our mills latest range or discuss current developments.

Of course we have a continual stream of product development to do; be it reviewing laboratory test results, resolving a new print design, weave development or colour work. Between now and Christmas we are in the midst of our busiest time of year as everything launching by end 2023 must be signed off and ordered before Christmas!

We catch up weekly with our sample department and marketing team and endeavour to get out in the market to see key clients for market feedback as much as possible.

When I’m not travelling, my week is always anchored by a studio product meeting with my design team. In amongst a lot of moving parts this keeps us focused as we run through the immediate product pipeline and reset priorities.

The week is busy, there is a lot of caffeine consumed!

Can you share what is special in your role as James Dunlop Design Director?

I feel really honoured to be in this role. Being 5th generation family member, James Dunlop is a brand I grew up with and it’s a brand I have a huge amount of heart for.

I’m really motivated to see where we can take James Dunlop in the future. I have an extremely passionate and talented team of designers and product developers in our studio, all within their first year working for the company but each bringing extensive experience with them – it’s so exciting to have such fresh perspective and new energy working on our legacy brand.


How do you find inspiration for your collections?

James Dunlop is a brand born of place, which means where we come from really does shape our point of view. We are inspired by Life and Style.

We take constant inspiration from our Antipodean heritage, our stunning landscapes and our unique lifestyle – how we live in our part of the world. These things all help to shape our unique Australasian perspective. Within the James Dunlop Studio we create textiles that form a genuine connection to our surrounding environments, influenced by our desire to connect between the land and the homes in which we live.

Our latest collection, Homestead was inspired by architectural homes carved into the rugged landscape of New Zealand’s South Island. The textiles are transitional, focused on dimension and tactility – they’re all about framing the view to let the view sit as artwork within a space. We photographed the collection within an award winning architectural home in Arrowtown, just outside of Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island. It’s a wonderful illustration of how nestled within these incredible landscapes lay remarkable homes that have been designed to complement the land and pull elements from the outdoors in.

Given our close geographical proximity to Asia, we share an inherent love of minimalism, of quality and craftsmanship. We love relaxed luxury in our part of the world and the fabrics within the James Dunlop range reflect this.

When considering a new range/theme, what is the research process?

Within our creative process our three main areas of research are visual, conceptual and construction.

When researching the visual aspects of a potential new collection we tend to start online using image rich platforms such as Pinterest. Pinterest is a fantastic research tool for pattern and colour ideas as it allows you to drill down and get lost within a labyrinth of other inspiring image rich sites.

We always start by pinning to vision boards and as our ideas evolve so too do our boards. We’re constantly refining, resolving and curating the key messages and themes of the collection. The vision boards become a critical working tool for our development process; they keep us focused and we constantly refer back to them especially when we’re working on colour development.

An important source of inspiration comes from researching cultural and lifestyle trends via the global trend forecasting agency that we subscribe to. Using a forecasting agency delivers insights into future trends and lifestyle movements and also helps us cultivate language for the collection themes. We also glean thematic ideas from social media, print media, art and architecture as well as our observations whilst travelling.

Another huge source of inspiration comes from researching new textile constructions via our supply chain. This is a critical element of our development process as what we are seeing within the textile industry at a construction level also influences the theme of our upcoming collections. We visit two key trade fairs annually, where we are able to meet with the majority of our suppliers in person and we also travel to our key mills around the world in between Trade Fairs! Within the James Dunlop studio we have a large archive of textiles organised in boxes by either mill or country, which we have collected over decades. We are the ultimate horders! We constantly revisit these archives for new inspiration ideas.

Just like fashion brands, interior brands also launch collections throughout the year. How often do you launch a new collection and what drives the design theme?

On average people tend to redecorate their homes every 10-12 years, so with any new release product it needs to feel timely but at the same time, timeless. Our industry is not fast fashion. The past two years have forced us to change some of our behaviours as a company, and as an industry in general. It has required us to slow down and reassess the impact of our decisions. As such, we have decided to continue our recent launch pattern of  smaller, more regular releases rather than two complete collections a year. This change of behaviour allows us to be more agile; to give breathing space to our wonderful new products, stimulate the market more regularly and continue to sea freight goods rather than air freight which is critical in reducing our impact on the planet.

How many months or years do you work in advance for each fabric collection?

When we start to form a new range or collection we have multiple new products already in development; some about to launch and in the marketing phase, others still in design and colour development, and at the same time we are researching future themes and construction ideas for new collections.

At any one time we are generally working on approximately 24months worth of product development – it’s a continual pipeline!

“This change of behaviour allows us to be more agile; to give breathing space to our wonderful new products, stimulate the market more regularly and continue to sea freight goods rather than air freight which is critical in reducing our impact on the planet.”

— Annie Moir

The production of each new fabric is highly involved and intricate. What is your production process and, on average, how long does each new fabric design take?

Once we’ve defined the construction or the quality we want to develop with we often tweak elements of the composition knowing how certain changes in fibre content can impact on the appearance, durability and also on price.

We have unique environmental conditions in our part of the world, with extremely damaging levels of UV light. Outside of the aesthetic influences, our environmental conditions, lifestyle and architecture create a technical criterion for our product development.

A critical part of our development process is testing. We send all new developments to our testing facility in Melbourne and if new developments fail any of our key tests we work with the mill to rework the construction to improve the outcome and ensure its fit for purpose.

Once the testing is approved we begin the creative process of design and colour development. The entire product development process takes about 12 months from conception to order point. Then roughly another 9 months to produce, ship, sample and launch a new product. It’s a labour of love, and involves many different touch points!

You work with a wide range of Suppliers from around the world. Could you share what it’s like working collaboratively with these artisans and how many you work with?

Yes absolutely, we work with an incredible supply chain from all over the World, where many of the relationships span decades and generations, so with all new textile developments it is a real partnership of shared IP. James Dunlop work with mills from Spain, United Kingdom, Belgium, Turkey, and throughout Asia.

One of the things I love most about our industry is that for many countries or regions the history of textile production runs deep, often with certain areas having specialist weaving or printing techniques that can date back centuries – this creates a unique cultural handwriting to the textiles from a particular country or region, so when we have a specific construction in mind, we often know exactly where to go to achieve the best result. James Dunlop has over 100 years experience in wholesaling textiles within our home markets, and our mills are experts in their craft, so we work together to ensure we’re creating textiles that are both beautiful and also durable to withstand the harsh conditions of our local markets.

It’s a continual exploration of new fibre and yarn innovations, new manufacturing techniques and custom colour development.

“It has the ability to completely transform a space, to change the mood or create a certain atmosphere. ”

— Annie Moir

What do you find challenging when designing a new fabric?

Creating textiles that genuinely emulate the look and feel of natural fibre but with the practicality of synthetic. We love the challenge of delivering the aesthetic of high end luxury textiles but really strategically developed to be accessible and with inherent practicality – it certainly comes with its challenges but its something I’m really passionate about delivering.

Homespun is a wonderful example of this. A tactile, open weave sheer that emulates the look of textured linen and wool but is woven in 100% polyester. Available in a curated palette of warm neutrals Homespun is an illustration of luxury that needn’t compromise on practicality.

What do you love about working with fabrics? Do you have a favourite?

I’m particularly passionate about colour development. Colour is a really important part of what we do – in our experience when it comes to the selection of interior textiles people tend to choose first on colour, then design and texture. Colour connects with people on such a visceral level. It has the ability to completely transform a space, to change the mood or create a certain atmosphere.

The way we perceive colour is heavily influenced by our surrounding light. In New Zealand and Australia we have abundance of clear, clean natural light. Our light tends to amplify the way we see colour. Colourlines that we view at Trade Shows in the Northern Hemisphere look perfectly placed in the typically more diffused lighting of the UK for example but when we get back to our design studio they can often look too saturated in our light. So we almost always need to custom develop our own exclusive colours with the mill. In our part of the world we love fresh neutrals but our preference for decorative colours tends to be towards shades that are slightly muted and a little more paired back.

Through custom colour development we can control the nuance, the strength or depth of colour. It allows us to ensure our colour palettes sit cohesively within our visual environment. Colours that complement the view and sit effortlessly within a space. In Australia and New Zealand we experience a deep connection to our surrounding landscapes, so there is a desire for interior colour palettes that reflect the colours of nature, to allow one to bring elements of the outdoors in.

Having a design studio that does custom colour development allows us to be agile to the changing trends and evolution of market demands.

I particularly love recolouring a James Dunlop Classic; designs that have stood the test of time. Cavalier is a wonderful example of this, first launched in 2011, Cavalier remains a constant within our top performing draperies. This wide width sheer is woven in predominantly polyester to create the appearance and handle of fine linen whilst being able to withstand our harsh environmental conditions. This trusted James Dunlop Classic has been recoloured and reinvigorated within the design studio. The new palette offers top selling neutrals from the existing colourline with the inclusion of fresh white, six new neutrals, duckegg blue, blush, ginger, deep moss and citrus based martini greens, a classic ink and black. Cavalier’s updated palette borrows colour from Mother Nature, developed to elegantly frame the view within any home.

There’s a sustainability to reinvesting in our James Dunlop Classics – through recolouring, resampling and relaunching the Classics we ensure these trusted products remain current for years to come. 2023 will see a recolour of James Dunlop’s much loved Kyoto and EnvoyII – stay tuned!


Some people new to window furnishings can get overwhelmed by the large choice of designer fabrics in a dollar curtains + blinds store and find it difficult to decide on a fabric for their windows. Any tips?

Keep it simple – what’s the function of the fabric within the room? Does it need to have light blocking properties for small children or shift workers? Thermal insulation for temperature control? Are you after a sheer or something more solid? The function of the curtain is a great starting point to narrow the fabric selection.

From there I believe colour is the best starting point, and there is no wrong answer – always keep in mind the existing colour scheme within the space, but ultimately go for what you are personally drawn to, colour that feels good for the soul is always a good choice.

How do beautiful fabrics change a room or home?

We’re constantly exploring what fabrics can bring to a space, how they can transform a house into a home. Fabrics can frame a view, add comfort, create atmosphere. Most importantly, fabrics influence how people come together and interact within a room.

When layers of soft textiles mix with hard surfaces, accessories and other interior mediums, they become the glue that pull everything together within a space.

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