When London-based fashion designer Duro Olowu photographed a display of raspberry-hued fabric in the window of Soane Britain and shared it on Instagram, he could not have foreseen the impact it would have. Soane’s co-founder and creative director Lulu Lytle suggested a meeting, and this month sees the launch of the pair’s debut textiles collection at her Pimlico showroom.
The partnership exploits obvious synergies. Both Lytle and Nigerian-born Olowu are well known for creating fabrics in bold pattern and colour, and the duo’s work draws on an extensive knowledge of cultural and historical references.
Their new collection consists of 11 furnishing fabrics in four patterns (from £140 per metre), all born of Olowu’s inspirations. The Koro and Timbuktu weaves are inspired by the mosques of Mali and in particular the Great Mosque of Djenné; the topiary and foliage of Arts and Crafts Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire inform the printed Stencil Leaf linen; and Regency Swirl is inspired by “the harmonious and symmetrical proportions of the ironwork seen on Georgian houses in Bath, which I love,” says Olowu. This printed linen brings two new colourways to Soane Britain’s palette – Etrurian Blue and Adam’s Pink (homage to the neoclassical architect Robert Adam).
Lytle works solely with British makers and the linens were printed in Lancashire, while Suffolk weavers worked on the two weaves. The collection, exclusive to Soane, has launched alongside a further 14 Soane-designed fabrics and wallpapers, as well as furniture and lighting.
The collaboration is Lytle’s first with a fashion designer, but Olowu is familiar with the world of fabrics for the home. In the past, he has created bespoke commissions for private clients and his boutique in Mason’s Yard is decked out with his own creations. “There’s a big difference between designing textiles for fashion and those for furnishings,” he says. “The joy with the latter is that there are almost no restrictions on the size and scale of motifs, prints and patterns. One can be even more daring and dramatic because furnishing fabrics need to be statement-making and timeless.”
Olowu is the subject of a new exhibition, Seeing Chicago, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago until 10 May.