From zero to hero, designing and weaving a patterned upholstery.

Within the Mokum studio we develop original designs which sit within thematic collections. From beginning to end, the development process is completely custom, and in this article we outline the steps involved in designing an upholstery pattern.

With any new development we start with research both analytical and creative, however for the purpose of this article we will focus on our creative process.  

Our chosen example to illustrate this development process is our hero design Majorelle, a woven jacquard textile which became the namesake of the entire collection. This particular design was developed in collaboration with Catherine Martin, who we have been collaborating with for over a decade. Catherine is the Academy Award winning production and costume designer and is married to acclaimed film director, Baz Luhrmann.

Catherine Martin

We met with Catherine in New York during the early stages of the collection’s conception to finalise the theme of the range. We chose Yves Saint Laurent’s exotic Marrakesh retreat, the famed Jardin Majorelle, as our muse for the collection and reviewed images of his home and its surrounding iconic gardens. From this discussion we chose to create a decorative design which referenced Arabesque tiles.

Le Jardin Majorelle, Marrakesh

Arabesque tiles

The next step was selecting an appropriate woven construction for the design concept. 
Within our Sydney studio we have a large archive of textiles organised in boxes by either mill or country, which we have collected over decades. It’s a hoarders dream! These constructions have been sourced from international trade fairs and mill visits in Europe, North America and Asia. One of things we love most about our industry and our supply chain is that different countries often have such a rich and unique history with textile production, often specialising in a very specific style giving a clear cultural handwriting to their textiles – so when we have a specific construction in mind, we know exactly where to go to achieve the best result. 

The mill we chose this construction from is based in Bursa, a renowned textile weaving city in Turkey. They are a boutique mill with a contemporary and creative sensibility and specialise in high end multi-coloured jacquards. We got to visit them last time we were in Turkey which was so inspiring to see their design studio and weaving mill in action. 

Textile mill in Bursa, Turkey

The construction is a viscose-polyester blend. We chose this weave due to its multi-coloured construction, antiqued woven effects and intricate binding, which creates exquisite complexity within the pattern which is reflective of traditional antiqued tiles. 

The viscose fibre adds softness to the weave and a desirable subtle lustre. The polyester fibre improves the performance of the upholstery. We always start with the construction or the quality we want to develop with from an aesthetics perspective, often then changing the composition and experimenting with different finishing techniques as we know how certain changes will impact on the finished appearance and durability of the finished textile as well as the price point. Although the Mokum brand sits in the high end, we are always aiming to create as much value as possible for our customers. 

We then created the surface pattern design here in our Sydney studio using CAD systems to resolve the motifs. The motifs within the Majorelle design came from a previous Catherine Martin border rug design which we reformatted into an Arabesque tile style motif.
The design is mirrored and repeated to reflect the highly detailed, mathematic Arabic tile systems. 

The scale of the Majorelle repeat unit is horizontal (weft) 35cm x vertical 32cm (warp). 
The final roll width is 140cm wide. 

A 35cm horizontal repeat is a useful repeat system as it allows 4 repeats across the roll width, in the weft direction, and is also an appropriate scale for end use, in particular for pattern placement within cushions and centred on upholstered chairs.

Majorelle repeat unit

Full roll width showing 4 x horizontal (weft) repeats

After design approvals, the CAD artwork along with detailed yarn placement and binding instructions, are sent to the selected mill for weaving an initial trial.  
You can see that the CAD is flat, one of the aspects of woven design that we love is the complex aesthetic that comes from combing a CAD pattern with different types of weaving techniques and yarns, adding surface interest and beauty to the final design.

It takes about four weeks to receive the first trial which is sent to our studio for review. Once approved we send the quality to our testing facility in Melbourne to ensure the finished construction is fit for purpose. If it fails any key test we rework the construction in partnership with the mill to improve the outcome and achieve all required test results.

Once the testing is completed we start our thorough custom colour development process. 
We either request a yarn bank from the mill (the library of stocked yarns) or use fabric or pantone references to create our own custom coloured yarns. For the Mokum brand we tend to only work with mills who will custom colour for us, as getting nuance of shade right is so important. Within Australasia we have a very relaxed, contemporary lifestyle and unique colour palette, which is due in part to our clear, clean light. This impacts on our colour choices, as we prefer much more mineral based shades and subdued colours, paring back hues for a more dusted off aesthetic.

The colour key for yarn placement used during Majorelle colour development. 

Yarn colour selection and CAD for colourwork placement.

Woven samples are then sent from the mill for review.

We often require further rounds of colour work before being satisfied that the final colours are correct. For the Majorelle development we underwent three rounds of colour development, because the yarn placement was so complex having 6 colours plus was hugely affected by the warp shade which is visible in the antique accents within the pattern.

We then begin the process of elimination, debating and refining appropriate colours, based on the original vision, ensuring we have a mix of sales drivers (genuinely neutrals) fashion driven colours and thematic shades. Throughout this process we also ensure these colourways work back with the plain drapery and upholstery designs within this collection as well as previous ranges, offering a holistic and agile textile solution within our brand.

The final selection is a refined palette of 6 colourways. The colour palette ranges from a stunning soft opal, aquatic teal through to a spirited sapphire, taking influence from Majorelle’s iconic cobalt blue paint shade. Turquoise pays homage to Catherine Martin’s signature combinations of red and turquoise, seen in her work with the famed Faena Hotel in Miami, as well as the more masculine shades, Marcasite and Copper.

Majorelle colour Opal featured on sofa with cushions from left; Medina colour Soapstone with Hammam Opal Trimming, Leopardo colour Snow, Majorelle colour Opal. Aleuj colour Opal drapery and Majorelle Wallpaper colour Opal.

Be sure to also seek out the stunning Majorelle Wallpaper which is throughout Catherine Martin and Baz Luhrmann’s New York Townhouse, as well as the small scale geometric coordinate Hammam, a classic Arabic star tile repeat which was woven in the same construction – they make a delightful pair.

View the complete Majorelle Collection here.

In an age of innovation and technical development the viscose fibre truly stands the test of time. Embracing natural beauty, versatility and innovation viscose/rayon uses science to convert a natural component into a high quality yarn for weave. Known across the world as different names, the term viscose is widely used in Europe, whilst more commonly known as rayon across America.