cloth is a small independent fabric company based in Sydney, Australia.
We design and make fabric locally by hand. We make things from our fabric – lamps, cushions, curtains and we also produce rugs, furniture, wallpaper and art.
Our products are all made by hand in and around Sydney. We work with local craftspeople the old fashioned way, slowly, one thing at a time. We’ve been working this way since we began in 1995.
We have a retail store and workshop on a sunny corner of William street. Our cloth HQ is just up the road from the store on Oxford street, both places in the heart of Darlinghurst.
We love working with natural fabrics, our favourite being hemp and linen. Our fabric is screen printed by the metre on a long table in a tin shed in country New South Wales. We use water based, nontoxic inks and dyes and have a sustainable, low impact approach to manufacturing and materials.
The inspiration for our work comes from our connection to our immediate surroundings and importantly, the strength and scale of the Australian landscape.
Our People - The Women of cloth
There are six of us and we are all women – that’s not a rule, just a fact.
Julie Paterson is the founder. She is artist and designer and lady chief person. This whole thing was her idea and she knows she couldn’t do it without her team behind her. She believes the secret to success is a good strong cup of tea in the afternoon. She prefers cycling to work but sometimes takes the bus. She is fond of old ladies and loves being cooked for.
Martine Kilo is the cloth manager in general. She really likes things to be on time. She is noisy, dynamic and laughs a lot. She has freckles and she says what she means. She has inherited her can-do approach from her Mum (who we call Handy Pat) who could single handedly build you a new kitchen from scratch then make a new batch of cumquat jam, all done and dusted before dark. Truly.
Kate Connors oversees our retail store, our interior design service and our website. She is nice to people and likes a chat. She is very organised and often wears her long curly hair up in a bun. She loves a mood board, has about 3 different design degrees and refuses point blank to wear an apron.
Hilary Knox is all round clever, a modest artist who likes to paint portraits of her Granddad and is a bit of a fitness buff. She is an obsessive list maker too, which is handy because she’s in charge of getting things out on time. She organises our deliveries, our orders, our stock. She paces herself. A trick, no doubt developed from all that sport.
Our newest recruit is Trudie Hood. She just turned up one day in the shop with the brightest eyes you’ve ever seen looking all healthy and relaxed. She comes from the UK and used to work as the manager of Habitat. She knows a thing or two about shops so we’ve put her in charge of ours. She swims miles every morning before work and rides a Vespa home. No wonder her eyes shine.
Karla Hansford is our financial department who has a penchant for information. Her grammar is impeccable, her hearing sharp. She is a very smart lady who always has the answer and who may, one day, write a book. We think she’s a bit of a legend.
Julie likes to sketch and paint, print and make stuff using the local landscape as her starting point. She does most of this in her studio up in the Blue Mountains two hours west of Sydney. Here she takes her paintings and ideas and turns them into prototypes for designs for the textiles.
She also works on her ideas in the store in Darlinghurst as she believes it is important to share her processes with her customers. Seeing first hand and being involved in the creativity first hand adds value and knowledge, just like when a kid takes a visit to a farm to see the cows being milked. Real life stuff right there under your nose.
Once her ideas are ready for production we employ local craftspeople to dye and print sew and make. We like to build up strong working relationships with our makers and suppliers and have been working with the same lovely folk for over 17 years now. This mutual loyalty is one of the cornerstones of the company. We hold these relationships very dear to our collective hearts.
We believe in making and trading locally. So everything we produce is made in Australia, mostly in Sydney itself. We make in short batches and then it sell in our store and online. We are also available through selected retailers and Interior Designers throughout the country and sometimes internationally.
Our Materials and Methods
We like to work primarily with industrial hemp, linen, organic cotton, jute, denim and sometimes silk and wool. But hemp is the real fabric of choice. We’ve been using hemp consistently from the very beginning because of its unique properties and sustainable nature. Into the mix we often add old wool blankets, coffee sacks and aged denim, because we like things to look and feel a bit worn in.
The inks and dyes we use are water based and nontoxic and the minimal manufacturing waste that is produced is disposed of responsibly.
With our production methods, we make only what we need. Our dyer dyes by the roll, our printer prints on 20 metre tables and our makers make one thing at a time.
We make in short batches, keeping a close eye on the quality and have a controlled and sensitive approach to materials and manufacture. And by working with low tech, old school processes, our fabrics develop a soul that cannot be created by any fancy machines.
We use our fabric offcuts and scraps to great effect, creating new products out of them and in particular running workshops focusing on teaching others how to use them in creative and low cost ways.
We really do love working collaboratively. Some of this work is for custom projects – whether furnishing boutique hotels or re-colouring existing designs to a client’s own colour palette, we enjoy the interaction and the processes involved in getting our work out into the world.
We also collaborate by working alongside local makers, manufacturers and councils. Our clay range is produced with Sydney based potter Katherine Mahoney, our bedlinen range is made with Melbourne’s Linen House, our wallpaper with local manufacturer Porter’s Paints and our rugs with Designer Rugs. And we have recently enjoyed a long run of collaboration with the City Of Sydney on their upcycling workshop program over the past 18 months.
We like this teamwork approach – it keeps us fresh and challenges us to consistently come up with new ideas. For the customer it deepens the experience of what cloth is about and cultivating this sense of community is what helps us grow.
We’re a retail, trade and wholesale business. Our store and workshop is home to our fabric, our products, our art and our expertise. It is where you will often find Julie working and Trudie serving customers. Our Headquarters is just up the road on Oxford Street. Martine, Kate, Hilary and Karla are based here. This is where we meet with trade and wholesale customers and generally coordinate the running of the business.
Our (Imperfect) Manifesto
Everyone is born creative and every day is an opportunity to perform a new creative act.
When it’s hard to paint the clouds, we draw the mountains.
Making things makes us feel good. We learn to do something by doing it.
When we are brave our life expands. Risk is what transforms us. Imperfection is our ally.
We like to slow down and do one thing at a time. That way we can take pleasure in the ordinary everyday details.
Being mindful helps to make the best art and it frequently involves old lady red.
Simplicity takes time.
We care about being authentic. We don’t mind if we’re not too flash.
We like finding forgotten things and giving them a second life. Living a modest life makes us happy.
We’d rather ride a bike than take the car. We’d rather read a book than watch tv.
We like to travel light.
It is good to work with others.
It’s good to listen. Listening to our customers is part of what keeps us fresh and on our toes.
Sometimes we name our chickens before they hatch.
Most problems can be solved by a strong cup of tea and a long walk.
When you get right down to it the essential thing is to do what you do with your whole heart.