In Profile: Ottilie Stevenson, Design Director of Vero Fabrics

Vero Fabrics Ltd have been shortlisted for the Fabrics Award in The International Design & Architecture Awards. Read more about Design Director, Ottilie Stevenson, below:

Name:  Ottilie StevensonVero Fabrics

Company: Vero Fabrics Ltd

Position within company: Design Director


Tell us a little about your background in design:
I studied at St Martins school of Art and Chelsea School of Art in London.

My first job was as a junior textile designer at Osborne and Little designing fabric and wallpaper collections, I was design manager when I left after 4 years. I was very fortunate to be under the watchful eye of Anthony Little who was the creative director at that time, he taught me a lot about colour and design. Working for such a commercial company so early on really influenced the way I work, it is very satisfying to design a product that is beautiful has mass appeal and is commercially viable. I spent a lot of time visiting mills and learning about the technical side of producing fabrics.

I then moved to New York and worked for a company designing bed linen, another great experience as it gave me an insight into the American market. After a year I returned to the UK and freelanced as a fabric designer developing collections for David Linley, Zoffany, Coles and Heal and son to name a few before setting up my first fabric, wallpaper and paint company under my own name when I was 27 which traded for 12 years until I had my 3rd child.

I met my business partner and co-founder of Vero Fabrics, Amanda Purves whilst designing for a silk mill in Suffolk. Amanda has extensive knowledge and experience in sales, PR and marketing so together we started Vero Fabrics in 2016.

How would you describe your personal design style?
I have been heavily influenced by my past, my grandparents always lived in beautiful English country houses which were decorated in a classic English style. I have been fortunate to inherit many pieces of furniture and paintings and take great pleasure in mixing them with the more contemporary pieces I have collected myself. I also love the bold approach to colour and design many American interior designers use throughout their work.

Colour is really important to me and I like each room in my house to evoke a different feeling. I rarely make a change to something once I have made a decision, I just add to it over time.

I love the simplicity and elegance of a leading edge on a fabric in a bedroom and the uniqueness of the seamless panels we create as they quietly complement any room. I like to layer using a wide variety of different textures and fabrics. I design a lot of small scale geometrics which I love using on cushions or upholstery in my own home and you will always find a silk ombre cushion somewhere in the house. I appreciate craftsmanship and quality and I like to know how they are made and where they are made.

Where does your design inspiration come from?
I take a lot of inspiration for our fabric collections from architectural details, iron work, panelling and engravings. I love to travel and see different cities which feeds back into my work. I also enjoy working and collaborating with other designers and realising their vision for a bespoke fabric or design concept. Working closely with British mills, I am fortunate to have access to some incredible fabric archives and I take great satisfaction reworking an old, over-looked design, rescaling it, recolouring it and making it relevant for today. I especially enjoy doing this for hotel lobbies. This year, I have been inspired by a lot of films and the fabrics and room sets in Autumn de Wilde’s film adaptation ‘Emma’ has reignited my love for dainty florals, candy colour stripes and using a more pastel palette in the future.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
We have always worked on a bespoke level as we hold no stock of any of our fabrics and weave everything to order. Now more than ever, clients are more discerning and are looking for something that is unique to them and not immediately identifiable or available.

Provenance is also incredibly important and knowing where something is made carries great significance, on so many levels. Clients are also far more environmentally aware and health conscious and want to know the fabric has been woven in a place that respects and looks after its workforce and that the manufacturing process hasn’t destroyed the environment and the dyes are not toxic.

We are in an incredibly fortunate position whereby we live very near to where we manufacture our fabrics and know every aspect of the production process and can proudly stand by every stage of their development.

We find most of the projects we take on require some element of custom work. Interior Designers like to push the boundaries to get the very best for their clients. They are also very exacting when it comes to colour. Whether it is a bespoke commission, taking elements from the building or surroundings to incorporate into the fabric design or custom colouring designs to coordinate perfectly with the rest of the scheme. Our projects are wide and varied.

 Since lock down, there has been an even more pronounced emphasis on having a good reliable supply chain and being in control of where and how your fabrics are made is key to keeping your business and your clients functioning. Working with a number of leading British heritage mills we have been able to successfully keep weaving our fabrics safely throughout the pandemic.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2020 and beyond

From a practical point of view, versatility, as a design and manufacturing business is key. As the demand for bespoke design and custom colouring continues to increase we need to be multi-faceted in our approach to both the contract and residential markets. We pride ourselves on answering the brief swiftly and where necessary sourcing specialist fabrics for specific areas in certain schemes. We work with some incredible craftsman who turn our samples and ideas around quickly and efficiently and service is at the heart of everything we do.

The origins of Vero Fabrics are British and as a company we are dedicated to supporting ‘best in class’ supplier-partners. We only use the finest yarns and work with the most experienced weavers. One mill we work with began weaving silks in 1740. All the design and production of our fabrics is also carried out on site in the UK. It is really important for our customers to know that as a supplier we are knowledgeable about all the processes and the detail involved in producing a luxury fabric. We are regularly at the mill and are able to oversee all stages of the manufacturing process. Since lock down, there has been an even more pronounced emphasis on a reliable supply chain and being in control of where and how your fabrics are made. Working with a number of leading British heritage mills we have been able to successfully keep weaving our fabrics safely throughout the pandemic.

Understanding the performance requirements of fabrics especially for the contract and cruise ship market needs to be carefully considered, as this changes from country to country and we need to be able to supply fabrics which look and feel beautiful and meet all fire retardant standards worldwide. Increasingly we are being asked to develop bespoke woven fabrics which have inherent FR & IMO properties which look luxurious and come at a competitive price point. This is an area that is evolving all the time and a challenge we enjoy.

Technically engineered fabrics
Post Grenfell Tower and Covid 19, rightly so, this is an area that is front of mind when specifying fabrics. Fabrics will need to work harder to prevent infection and already we are seeing the first fabrics emerging with inherently woven antimicrobial agents. Other areas of focus for us include wide width fabrics which have black out qualities as well as noise reducing properties. Fabrics that are fit for purpose are now very much on every one’s radar.

This is a key consideration for Vero Fabrics and an area we are passionate about. We weave all our fabrics to order so do not hold an excess of stock. We weave what we sell. As more legislation is being introduced, there is a lot more accountability now for wastage and landfill. The mills we work with are committed to positive change, taking responsibility for the impact they make on the environment. Working in partnership with customers and suppliers, the mill endeavours to reduce its impact upon the global environment year on year. To this effect all incoming water and outgoing effluent is monitored and recorded. Where necessary the coloured effluent is treated in a custom built de-colourising plant to meet with the local water authorities discharge consent. Water usage is regularly reviewed to avoid unnecessary wastage. Waste plastic is separated out from general waste and bagged for re-cycling off site and waste cardboard is compacted into bales on site and sent for recycling. Only licensed waste contractors are utilised on site.

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?
Enlist a great curtain maker! They make a huge difference to the overall look of a project. It’s disheartening when a lot of time has gone into producing a wonderful fabric and then it is badly made up into curtains that don’t hang correctly!

How important are the Design and Architecture Awards?
There are very few awards open to fabric design. A lot of work goes into creating a beautiful fabric for a hotel or private residence, so it is great to have the opportunity to show what we are capable of. Also the opportunity to promote how brilliant our British Mills are, the talent within them is often passed down through generations so has taken many years to nurture and develop.

What projects are you currently working on?
Vero Fabrics are currently working on a large private house in Japan, a luxury villa in Dubai, a large country estate in Wiltshire, a high profile project in Hong Kong, two houses in London and a villa in the south of France. The contract side of our business has also taken off over the last two years and we are currently developing bespoke fabrics for two central London hotels, bespoke drapery and upholstery for a 5* luxury hotel and apartments in Doha, a hotel in Gran Cayman, a Marriott hotel in Bulgaria, bespoke designs for a cruise ship and bespoke fabrics for a restaurant in South Kensington and another in Mayfair.

What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?
Vero Fabrics are in the process of finalising our first comprehensive collection of textures and plain fabrics which can be custom coloured for both the contract and residential markets. We will also be launching a recent fabric collaboration we worked on with Martin Kemp Design.

Following on from the successful textile design competition we ran at the beginning of the year, we will be working with the winning candidate to bring this design to market in September. The design will be launched in the Holland & Sherry showroom.

Prior to Covid-19 we visited New York and were in talks with a fantastic distributor in the US. We hope to re-ignite this connection as we both love working in the US and have found a very captive market there. Other goals include employing a new team member to look after all our sampling and moving office to a larger space.

Final thoughts: tell us a little more about yourself and daily inspirations:

Your most treasured possession?
A painting of Cairo that I inherited from my grandfather he bought it whilst stationed there during the war in 1941.

Your favourite holiday destination?
An Island called Patmos in Greece, I have been going there every year since I was about 18, so know it very well!

Your favourite hotel, restaurant & bar?
My favourite hotel is the Ritz in London, I have spent some great nights there, it never changes, it is elegant and timeless. I love the dining room

My favourite restaurant is tucked away in the mountains in Italy, it is a family run Agriturismo called Cole de sole, they produce all the meat and vegetables themselves and the views are breathtaking.

My favourite bar?
Sadly it isn’t the same anymore but it will always be The Criterion in London, the interior was so beautiful, mosaic everywhere, a long bar, it was one of the pioneering bars for design at that time. A really special place.

 Your favourite book, film & song?
I have just finished reading Atonement again by Ian Mc Ewan, I love films that make me laugh Some Like it Hot never fails, one of my favourite songs is The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face sung by Roberta Flack but it always makes me cry therefore I don’t listen to it too often!

Your favourite food and Drink?
My parents are both excellent cooks so I was lucky enough to be bought up with an appreciation for eating well. My father does an amazing paella cooked on an open fire on the beach every year and my mother’s creme caramel evokes comforting memories of special occasions. I am partial to a well-made Mai Tai given the opportunity…..

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?
Sitting with good company under a canopy in a lively outdoor cafe, people watching, surrounded by breathtaking architecture

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
I find people fascinating, so I may have been a therapist of some sort

Vero Fabrics Ltd have been shortlisted for the Fabrics Award in The International Design & Architecture Awards.

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