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Fabric brand A Rum Fellow talks modern mark making and its first print collection

‘Kindred’, created in collaboration with George Spencer Designs, is the latest chapter in a creative journey that began seven years ago

a rum fellow
A Rum Fellow

Artisan-made ethical textiles that put a fresh spin on traditional craft techniques – that’s the ethos behind London-based design studio A Rum Fellow, founded by Dylan O’Shea and Caroline Lindsell seven years ago.

‘There’s vibrancy and energy to South and Central American textiles; all that colour and pattern attracted us,’ recalls O’Shea, of a three-month trip to Bolivia and Peru in 2012, when they met remote indigenous communities. It kick-started the couple into setting up their own business (previously Lindsell was a fashion designer while O’Shea has a background in charitable development). What began as an online shop selling second-hand furniture that the pair reupholstered in vintage South American fabrics swiftly morphed into them designing their own.

a rum fellow fabric
‘Holmul Falseria’ fabric in ‘Autumn’, £225 per m, A Rum Fellow (arumfellow.com)
A Rum Fellow

‘There's a vibrancy and energy to South and Central American textiles: all that colour and pattern’

‘Our first commission was for an interior designer, who wanted a bespoke fabric for a set of dining chairs. Caroline created the design and we partnered with a fair-trade weaving co-operative in Peru. What it allowed us to do – and still does– is to essentially work in an uncompromising way, making textiles that are as beautiful, complex and detailed as we want,’ explains O’Shea.

The studio specialises in hand-weaving, so it’s partly the constraints of a particular loom that dictates the pattern. Fabrics including ikats and boundary-pushing brocades are made in Guatemala; the latter on a simple back strap loom where artisans embroider the pattern as they weave the cloth.

It’s so intricate that a single panel takes up to a month to complete.

‘Instead of replicating ancient designs, we see our role as understanding the possibilities, then moving them in a new direction with our own aesthetic,’ says O’Shea, who takes it in turns with Lindsell to visit the artisans in their isolated highland locations every six weeks.

a rum fellow cushion
‘Amates’ cushion in ‘Chalked’, from £365, A Rum Fellow (arumfellow.com)
A Rum Fellow
a rum fellow chair and rug
‘Matlock’ chair with ‘Coyolate’ brocade, £1,695, A Rum Fellow. (arumfellow.com)
A Rum Fellow LLP

As well as being sold by the metre, the fabrics are made into lampshades and cushions, and used to upholster furniture. The patterns are also up-scaled into flat-weave and hand-knotted rugs in India.

In a new departure, this season the duo is launching its first print collection, ‘Kindred’, in collaboration with George Spencer Designs. ‘Print is a lot more freeing, so Caroline began by asking, “If we were going to create a globally connected tribe today, what would the mark making look like?”’ explains O’Shea of the bold, contemporary designs that explore woodblock, screen and etched rotary printing.

This side-step into printing aside, ultimately their vision remains to ensure a future for heritage techniques. ‘The artisans get to use their incredible weaving skills and we put them out to a much larger audience – that’s our mission.’ arumfellow.com

a rum fellow rug
‘Hikira’ rug in ‘Green’, £440 per m, A Rum Fellow (arumfellow.com)
A Rum Fellow

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration October 2020

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