Ikats: Fabric with a Story

The theme this year for the D&D Building’s Spring Market was internationalism, and I had the pleasure of attending a handful of incredibly intriguing and thought-provoking presentations on fabrics and design styles from all over the world. Fortuny held a discussion about the correlation between fine art and design with Murray Moss and Susan de Menil, and Schumacher held a panel on sophisticated and worldly design for children and teens with Lulu DK, Susan North, and Carolyn Solls.

Above: Robert Allen/Beacon Hill’s showroom display of their new Outdoor Ikat Collection

One of my favorite presentations was Robert Allen’s Outdoor Living program, featuring the editors of “New York Cottages and Gardens,” Kendell Cronstrom and DJ Carey.  DJ spoke about a shift in pool-side trends from a classic, nautical, New England style, to a more exotic and colorful style.   Kendell highlighted interesting ways to approach outdoor design, all of which allowed nature to mold the space.  One was a path through a bamboo forest, and another was digging out part of a backyard and filling the space with dazzling white gravel.  Both were adamant that a change is coming to the New England way of designing outdoor space, and presented great ideas as to how to make it happen.  Watch out for my interviews with Kendell and DJ – soon to come!

Above: Barbara Karpf, Kendell Cronstrom, and DJ Casey

Alexis Audette, Vice President Beacon Hill Design, also discussed the move towards more exotic and globally-inspired outdoor design. She shared with the audience Beacon Hill’s new Outdoor Ikats, a collaboration with Sunbrella.  The Textile Museum in Washington DC was the point of inspiration for the collection; the exhibit, “Colors of the Oasis,” displayed hundreds of antique, hand-woven Uzbek ikats, each unique and vibrant. Alexis showed the audience the original antique fabrics, which served as blueprints for the new Outdoor Ikats. We were even lucky enough to get a few pictures of the old and the new, side by side.



Above: “Ibi Ikat – Clay” with its source: a robe, “Shara Ikat – Clay” with its source

Alexis even shared a little bit of ikat’s colorful history with the audience: In the 19th century, the desert oases of the Silk Road (which wound through what is now known as Uzbekistan) were famous for their fine silk ikat patterns. Artisans created these tribal colored silks using a special technique: they dyed fabrics in intricate patterns before hand-weaving them. They became so popular, they became widely used as currency, gifts, drapery, wall hangings, clothing, and more. By the beginning of 1920, Uzbekistan and the rest of the Central Asia became a part of the Soviet Union, and the production of ikats was immediately shut down. The Communist Party viewed it as too elitist and believed it was produced solely for the wealthy.

Above: “Ona Ikat – Clay” with its source on the right

Thankfully for us, Uzbekistan gained its independence in1991, and quickly reignited the tradition of ikat.  By the mid-1990s, Ikats had become much more than a trend once again, and are now a staple in the design world.

Above: “Miram Ikat – Pomegranate” with its source on the left

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