Inside the studio with Zepel Fabrics.

Peek inside the design studio of Zepel Fabrics and meet their leading designer, Jannah Stevens.

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Inside the studio.

Ever wondered what it must be like to be a textile designer and play with colour and fabrics all day? Well meet Jannah Stevens, Product Developer for the past 4 years with Zepel Fabrics.

Zepel Fabrics is a textile brand designed in Australia and Europe that sources the highest quality drapery and upholstery fabrics to suit our active lifestyles and harsh climate.  Using the latest technologies and an extensive laboratory testing programme, Zepel provides fabric solutions for any environment, residential or commercial.

Describe a typical day at work in the studio and can you share what is special in your role as Product Developer? How do you find inspiration for your collections?

There are so many possibilities at the beginning of a collection and finding inspiration from the start is the best way to help guide the many decisions we need to make along the way. We start by asking questions and looking for the answers. For example – what colours are in demand right now, what patterns and textures are trending, what do we know is already working well within our range, how will these fabrics be used in the home, what is going on in the world currently i.e. do we need to source more recycled and eco-friendly constructions for our consumers?

We look to answer some of these questions through inspiration sources such as Pinterest, WGSN, interior and fashion blogs, magazines, social media and even good old fashion books!

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

Initially it’s all about the internet research. I like to start on Pinterest because before you even refine your search you can see what’s trending in the world right there on the landing page! From shoes, pets, food to lifestyle trends…it’s all there (their algorithms for what people are searching for the most are amazing). This helps me understand and get a bigger picture of how the world is living right now and what is important to people.

From there, I can begin to spot repetition of consumer needs / wants and refine my search to become more interior focused. After this, I begin to put together aspirational images and samples, whether they be fabric cuttings, wallpapers or paint chips. This is where you can start to bring in textures and think about what constructions might be best suited to the new product development, it’s all helpful in creating the ‘feel’ and direction of a new collection or design.

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?

We launch three extensive releases per year that include diverse and complementary designs in upholstery and drapery. Collection themes are directed towards lifestyle moments rather than design trends. What I mean by that, is that we focus on how our products come together when they are being released to address consumers current lifestyle needs and aspirations, rather than ‘here is the new black and white collection’. For example, some releases are full of relaxed and demure colours, textures and subtle pattern for a lifestyle that seeks rest and retreat while other collections are infused with exciting patterns and warm colours for the lifestyle that seeks inspiration, an injection of happiness and optimism. We shape or ‘theme’ our collections in this way.

“There are so many possibilities at the beginning of a collection and finding inspiration from the start is the best way to help guide the many decisions we need to make along the way. ”

— Jannah Stevens

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

It’s not a speedy process that’s for sure! From concept/brief to colour-work, the back and forth communications with the mills, testing and then sample and marketing preparation, we could be working on one design or collection for 12-18 months, depending on how smoothly things run along the way. A lot of work goes into ensuring the end result is exceptional and will perform the way we guarantee it will.

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

A fabric’s construction is so crucial when it comes to a new textile design. It’s the construction that contributes hugely to the overall look and feel of the fabric. We work closely with some of the best textile mills and suppliers in the world and we’re always seeking out their knowledge and advice around different constructions and new textile technologies that can help shape and bring something new to our ranges.

We do a huge amount of work and research in this area. If we are interested in certain constructions that look and feel right for the brand, we will move to the testing stage to determine if this will endure the kind of end use we would like to specify. Once results return with a positive outcome, we proceed further into the design brief and begin working on printing or weaving pattern and colour into the cloth. This process can take up to 12 months development before the product is even ordered with the mill.

We have a special focus on getting the best performance from constructions while keeping their aesthetic and handle soft, appealing and relevant to our lifestyle and the way we live here in Australia and New Zealand. Selecting and developing constructions that look luxurious and decorative are as important to us as making sure our fabrics are hardwearing and easy to clean. The Zepel range needs to help create a sense of everyday luxury no matter the home it ends up in!

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

We are a small and very busy team in the Australian Zepel studio with another branch of marketing support based in New Zealand. The bigger picture, from concept to completion, includes many people before a product is released to the market. This could include the textile agent helping with construction selection or the mill weaving, printing, or dyeing the goods, or the textile testing lab or the sample department, sampling and packaging the finished product. The amount of people I liaise with varies for each launch depending on what products we have selected to run for a release. To collaborate and share knowledge with numerous artisans throughout this process is incredibly rewarding and can often inform the outcome. A development will always pass through many hands along the way before it ever sees the light of day or the shop shelves!

What do you find challenging when designing a new fabric?

There are many factors I carefully consider when designing a new fabric such as composition, aesthetic appeal, its demand in the market, and how it will perform when in use. Ensuring all these elements perfectly align for each design is the most challenging part and sometimes a tough call not to run a design must be made if all boxes can’t be ticked in the development process.

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

What I enjoy most about working with fabrics is seeing a raw design or fabric construction go through its development stages to become something beautiful, functional and fully formed for the customer to enjoy and cherish in their own home. Nicoya is one of my favourite drapery designs from our range. I had a lot to do with the design development so I’m biased! But I love how unique and relaxed this sheer appears, even though it has a patterned element to it. Nicoya has an earthy texture running through the striped bands and I would honestly and happily use it my own home in any colourway.

“An interior is the natural projection of the soul.”

— Coco Chanel. Fashion Designer.

Some people, new to window furnishings, can feel 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?

Yes, before even going into store start thinking about what your needs are…do you need insulation from heat and cold? Do you need a light blocking fabric or just a soft, diffusing Sheer for a little privacy? Do you have a strict colour scheme you need to stick to? If so, take some paint chips or colour references to help guide you in store. There are so many designs to select from so look at magazines and online for references of interior looks you like and this will help guide you and anyone helping you with your selection.

How do beautiful fabrics change a room or home?

Fabrics are so essential to the home and although we are surrounded by them every day, we often overlook the impact they have on our everyday lives. For example, home fabrics and soft furnishings make areas we live in soft and comfortable, warm or cool (keeping in heat or blocking out harsh sun in the summer) and window furnishings offer privacy and diffuse the light which can create a beautiful mood and sense of retreat within the home. Upholstery fabrics can offer visual impact on a sofa or occasional chairs, displaying our personal sense of style or equally these fabrics can be subtle, textured and hard wearing to protect our valued furniture. “An interior is the natural projection of the soul.” – Coco Chanel. Fashion Designer.

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