Rachel Schurmann has been in the textile trade for more than 16 years. She honed her skills on the showroom floors of Harris & Nugent Fabrics and Redelman Fabrics, both family run businesses, before finding herself in her own business in one of those good old twists of fate. Without really meaning to, she drew together her favourite labels – those that sparked her curiosity and made her heart beat a little faster – and in no time has become an agent or national distributor for exciting designers and makers, named Style Revolutionary.
With a definite lean to handmade, natural and unique bents, Rachel has quickly built a successful business, based out of her home in the Brisbane suburb of Greenslopes. And with the work from labels like Louise Jones, Edit Fabrics, These Walls and Quercus & Co hanging on her racks, it is easy to see why interior decorators are warming to her eclectic collection. It was awesome to see all of these prints under one roof. Here's a little from Rachel about her business.
You have had extensive experience working with, and selling textiles. When it came time to create your own space, how did you approach the curation of the brands you now stock?
Since starting Style Revolutionary in 2013 the whole curation process and growth of the brands we stock has been completely organic. I knew I wanted to have a focus on artisanal product, based around natural fibres and pattern. My personal style can be a bit quirky, with a knack for sourcing really unique and left-of-centre pieces, so I also wanted to ensure the curation of the collections from our artisans had that feel too.
Essentially, if it’s not something I would personally choose for myself, then it’s not something I would generally bring into the collection. My personal taste is pretty broad and I love how you can pull from so many different styles to create a look. I think I’ve been able to achieve this in the brands we house. I believe I've been able to curate a wide collection for interior designers to pull from and give them the opportunity to use a number of pieces from our ranges to create schemes for their projects, from patterned textiles and wallpapers to embellishments and accessories and beautiful basics for drapery and upholstery . A lot of our collections also offer scope to customise including pattern, custom colouring and multiple substrate options that cover both residential and commercial applications.
It’s really important that every brand we represent has a process or story to tell. Handcrafted elements and processes make up the bulk of our artisans' collections and adding to this is the inspiration and story behind each artisan and their collection. In an industry with so many mass produced options, I wanted to offer textiles, wallpapers and home accessories that have a personal handcrafted touch and story so that whoever purchases from our collections feels like they know the artisan and has a connection to their work.
Why are you drawn to the textiles and makers that you stock? Tell us a little about some of the brands you stock.
Nine out of ten times I’m drawn to the textiles or makers collections because I’ve fallen in love with a particular pattern of theirs. It’s hard to describe, but it stops you dead in your tracks and gives you goose bumps. I become totally mesmerised and fall in love with it and think, ‘Okay, I need to find out more about this. Who is the creative genius behind this amazingness!!!’. Then everything flows from there as you learn about the artisan's story, process and inspiration, which then turns the pattern you fell in love with into something so much more.
All of the brands are so unique and special and cover so many process aspects so it’s hard not to reference them all! We’ve just released two new Australian artisans Yolanda Zarins and Slower Dawn; both use a similar process in how they create their textiles by hand screening, hand dying and hand painting, but are so vastly different which of course is due to their inspirations and stories. Yolanda’s work has an overlaid faded softness and washed texture to it, whilst Josie from Slower Dawn has a more bold free hand style with layered pattern of motifs over hand painted pattern. Josie’s Ramuk Midnight is one of those “goose bump” moments I talk about above.
Clare Frost’s collection out of New York is one of our only brands that encompasses a full array of handcrafted processes from hand-weaving, hand embroidery, hand-dying and block printing. the collection is all about bold colour, pattern and supporting craftspeople in their work. Clare works with artisans in India, Afghanistan and Turkey to create her amazing textile line, and I love that Clare’s work is completely driven by her life experiences and every pattern has a story behind it. The completely hand embroidered trims and textiles are some of my favourites.
I really love the unique processes that Elworthy Studio uses to create her line, they are absolutely fascinating! Kate from Elworthy is based in San Francisco and has two collections that span over textiles, wallpapers and grass cloth. Her first collection is based on rust dying where she wraps rusted pieces of metal in fabric, leaves them to soak in a liquid solution for days or weeks, and when the fabric is unwrapped the rusted metal objects leave really beautiful markings and patterns in the fabric. She then digitises her patterns to create repeats and play with colour. Her second collection, just launched in October, is based around camera-less photo processes developed on new and vintage photographic paper. The expired lumin papers have given hand to some amazing outcomes in colour and texture, where again she digitises them to create repeats and play with colour. Some patterns are really pretty and delicate, others have an aged affect and some have a bit of an old school glam Hollywood vibe, the collection is just stunning.
What are some of the most exciting things you see happening in Australian textile making today? And in the future?
I see two really exciting things happening with Australian textile making today. Firstly the access to digital printing. This side of the industry has expanded greatly in the last two to three years and there is so much choice depending on budget and substrate needs. The open availability of this is now giving artisans and makers a sustainable, easy and generally affordable option to translate their original artworks into both textiles and wallpaper which I think is fabulous!
But I think the most exciting thing, and this is also what I see most exciting for the future as well, is the return to slow or small batch textiles; textiles that are completely and wholly created by artisans whether it be hand painted, hand screened, hand embroidered or hand woven. The connection and feeling of knowing that what you hold has been completely made by hand with very little or no machine process is awe-inspiring, beautiful and extremely precious. This is something that I’ve seen the interior design community embracing with open arms and is getting them inspired and excited to use them in projects both commercial and residential.
What is it that you love the most about textiles?
That’s a hard one, because there is much that I love! Other than their textural qualities, colour and pattern I think the thing I love most about them is their ability to transform an interior space. They take you on a journey and can change the look or feeling of an interior or even yourself when wearing them. They have the ability to inspire a whole look which when you think about it is pretty powerful, whether it’s because of the style, pattern or colour, or the story that connects someone to a particular piece. The softness, luxury and homeliness that textiles can bring to a space is part of what gives a personal touch and story to your home, and I love that this can be expressed in so many different forms depending on your style and budget. Textiles are a never ending world of daily inspiration for me!
And what are you hot tips for working with textiles in our homes?
Textiles are one of the easiest items to bring into the home and I think this is where you get to have the most fun, experiment a little (or a lot!) and inject personality into your space. If you think about it everyone has textiles in their homes whether it’s in upholstery, soft furnishings, bedding, art or table ware, so why not experiment and have fun. It’s a great way to add pattern, colour or texture to a space that isn’t permanent, change your cushions every other season, add a patterned lampshade or have a slipcover made for your bedhead. Textiles give you the option to take risks and be bold with pattern or colour, they also allow you to create a relaxed sanctuary if colour is not so much your thing, there is nothing better than plain soft linen! There is so much choice and certainly something for every taste out there, so have fun with them and experiment.
The other tip is to only have what you LOVE! Invest in textiles that are of good quality whether they are new or vintage and that create a connection with you, if it means saving up for a special piece then do it! I believe contemporary handcrafted textiles with their stories and processes are the new heirlooms of the future that can be passed onto generations, so make an investment in an artisans work, and for future generations to enjoy.