When Anastasia Phillips made her way to a Sydney party eight years ago, she had no idea she was stepping out for a date with destiny. In one of those rare and life altering moments, she met Tim Rouse, a recent Visual Design graduate, and their conversation quickly found its way to textiles.
“When I met Tim it was unbelievable that we wanted to do the same thing,” said Anastasia, who had just completed her Fine Arts degree, majoring in screen printing. “In one month he was leaving for India to find people who could manufacture his textile designs. After three months, we were in India together” she said.
Upon their return, the couple started designing textiles for fashion, all the while nursing their dream to create their own range. Their designs sold well, to labels including Lisa Ho and Ginger and Smart, often garnering suggestion that their repeat patterns would translate well to homewares.
The period was a valuable stepping stone to later finance their label, however the throw away nature of the fashion world trended against their moral ethos. So, when a City of Sydney initiative for Oxford Street presented an affordable work space option in 2012, the couple jumped and Rouse Phillips was born.
Their vision for the label has been fixed since that first meeting – to create a textile range that is both timeless and current. With a distinct nod to classicism, Anastasia and Tim aimed to produce a quality comparable to their favourite European brands, at a price point that people can afford.
“We wanted to put out an aesthetic that we loved and bring it into the every day. Design shouldn’t be about the latest trends, a lot more thought should go into what people are buying. We all see what the latest trends are on our feeds, but the truth is that I can see it aging terribly,” said Anastasia.
“From a design point of view, let’s choose to hark back to what was, rather than just contribute to landfill. A lot of people feel like they have seen our fabric before, even though it is new. They want to collect beautiful things for their home – things that look good with what they already have. We hope that our work feels familiar because it’s based on the principles of classic, good design”.
Citing the venerable likes of William Morris and Fortuny as influences, this approach is clear in the range they have created. With the help of hard and fast, almost familial relationships formed with their Asian manufacturers, their signature designs are digitally printed in warm and muted colours on completely natural base cloths.
Each design evolves differently, usually reflecting an inspiration or creative process capturing one of the couple’s interest at the time, such as the newest edition, Columns, evolving from Tim's recent interest in Shibori dying.
“Tim started doing experiments in the bath tub and the washing machine at home,” explained Anastasia, “He was doing all sorts of things and creating lots of test bits to see how it worked out. He was tying lots of things into fabric to create patterns and when he unravelled this particular piece we both really loved the design. We scanned the piece, put it into repeat and recoloured it.”
This new design sits comfortably with earlier work thanks to the couple’s preference for earthy and easy to live with colours. This power of colourway choice was illustrated for the couple early on when they released Cherry Blossom V02.
“The colours of Cherry Blossom V01 are quite Japanese and it was popular ever since it was first released,” explained Anastasia, “but it was not until we brought out Cherry Blossom V02 that it really took off and became our best selling design. People love the fresh blue and cream of that particular colourway, reminiscent of the classic blue and white made famous by Wedgwood,” she said.
Beginning from an original photo of three original flowers and a single stem, taken by Tim, Anastasia believes that the design is popular because “people love beautiful things. Even single men want to have Cherry Blossoms on the wall because it is beautiful,” she said.
This simple and powerful sentiment is reflected in Anastasia’s tips for making foolhardy textile choices that will stand the test of time, “After thinking about what you already have in the room, how you use the room and the architecture and era of your home, know that a lot of work can be mixed and matched. It really does depend on the person – if you really love something, that’s what you should have in your house”.
Photos by Threadbound