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July 25, 2012
There are always a lot of really great questions around fabric.
Why does it cost so much? Why does this one look the same and it’s cheaper? What makes this one special? How is this made? Where is this made? What is the difference between all the fabric content?
Fabric seriously gets me geeked. We had fabric house reps in the studio this morning and it’s like admiring the new cars inside the showroom. You find yourself matching new fabrics to clients, tucking away color-ways for your own future chairs and seeing how fabric has changed.
Sadly many mills have left the US. They cannot compete with overseas. Interestingly enough I saw a lot more fabrics from Eastern European countries that had mills eons ago. That makes me happy. The quality…the incredible colors and choices are returning. There was a hiatus for a few years while fabric companies contracted, like the rest of industry and are finding their way. Many have joined forces. The “Celebrity” fabric designer is in full swing. This started a while back, though in the last 10 years has become a staple….Isaac Mizrahi has a line with S Harris, just saw a line for Stark by Sonia Rykiel that is incredible. The designers you have heard of from fun shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” ‘s Thom Filicia has a beautiful line with Kravet.
So that all important question of ‘why do some fabrics cost so darn much?’
There are a lot of answers, many that will create a glazed look as you suddenly notice you are hungry. First and foremost is a fabric house is in business to make money. Just like any other large corporate entity, they have people (stockholders) that they are accountable to. So lets take this fabric: a newer one out that I love. It is by Lee Jofa called “Belgravia”
Lee Jofa “Belgravia” Orange/Pink
It’s really lovely. This colorway is Orange/Pink, it is 100% Linen, made here in the US and it’s list price is 170.00 a yard-that is a normal industry standard for commercial fabrics 54″ w x 36″.
Yes, a pretty penny for a yard of fabric. (just so you know, there is 61 yards available…right now, if you are having a hankering for some drapery panels or your 8 dining rooms chairs)
So let’s break it down. You want drapes in your Dining Room, and you fell in love with Belgravia. So you have one large window at the end of the room that you want woven wood shades and stationary panels. “Stationary”-they will be on either side, framing the window, though too skinny to close and cover the window completely. A little trick to get big bang using minimal fabric. (important to note….do not make these too skinny, it will look skimpy and like you got cheap-pick a different fabric or use your “love” fabric as a banding on the lead edge paired with a less expensive one). Let’s say your window is 78″ wide and 72″ high, 22″ off the ground with some space above the window casing. A nice rule of thumb is extend 6-8″ on each side of the window casing and 4-8″ above the window casing (if you have the space). This gives the window room and does not feel so crowded. A window that wide, I would suggest using a width-54″ and a half for each panel. Once pleated, this gives you roughly a 36″ w stationary panel. Nice fullness and you can really “see” the drapery fabric. In this case you will need 11 yards of fabric-this takes into account for hems and pleating at the top. 11 yards x 170.00 a yard=1870.00 for fabric.
Are you still there?
These panels including labour to make them, might be in the ballpark of 2200.00. Yes, this is a lot of money for some fabric hanging from a rod. Think of it this way, a good suit will set you back around 1200.00. It will last and if classically made be in fashion for 8-10 years. These drapes are the same thing. Taken care of, they will last 10-25 years. The cost per use (or view in this case) even at 10 years is about 1.65 a day.
Okay, I haven’t answered your question yet on why so much.
Hand blocked fabrics use dozens, sometimes hundreds of individual blocks to
create the pattern. These are from Kravet-the parent company to Lee Jofa.
I love this. Think about someone lining all of these up for one yard of fabric. Then moving them all to the next yard. Screened fabric is the same way. Sometimes dozens of screens used for one yard….then on to the next yard.
Some are loomed. This is a series of pictures that shows a Jim Thompson fabric being loomed….by hand. He predominately uses silk and the fibers are literally microscopic.
Jim Thompson fabric being woven by hand.
I am a believer that when you are surrounded by things you love….beautiful textures and comfortable furniture, whatever is happening outside that haven will be right again.
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