Villa-sitting in Mauritius was the starting point for Safomasi’s most recent Indian Ocean collection of vibrant illustrated prints for fabrics and homewares, featuring weaver bird cushions, coral reef bean bags and lotus lily quilts.
‘Our designs always tell stories about the places we’ve been, like visual memories of our travels,’ explains Sarah Fotheringham, who founded the company with her partner Maninder Singh eight years ago.
The British-Indian couple met in Delhi: Singh had recently returned from living in Melbourne and was working for the Fashion Design Council of India, while trained illustrator Fotheringham had been exploring the country before taking a job at creative agency Wieden +Kennedy.
‘In India, textiles are everywhere and I’d always liked making things. We spent weekends experimenting with patterns taken from felt-tip drawings in my travel sketchbooks and found someone to screen print a run of fabric,’ she continues.
Their first print was ‘Mithai’, 169 varieties of Indian sweets paired with pink, orange and yellow candy stripes. Then came the ‘Pushkar’ range (based on the annual Pushkar Camel Fair) featuring the ‘Camel Traders’ print, which scooped an ELLE Decoration International Design Award just a year after the couple started their business.
Since then, collection themes have included Japan (with zen on sen garden, cherry blossom and crane bird patterns), Salcombe in Devon (Fotheringham’s family have been holidaying there for years) and Cappadocia in Turkey, where evocative motifs include hot air balloons, rock-cut cave houses, painted frescoes and evil eye amulets.
‘It doesn’t have to be somewhere super exotic or faraway; we choose destinations that have a rich history, with interesting landscapes where we know we can conjure up visual ideas,’ says Singh.
The duo is now based in London but travel back and forth to their studio in Delhi. Cotton is sourced from mills in North India; inks are mixed and sampled before being hand screen-printed as runs of fabric. In-house tailors then make the products, from pillowcases and table runners to throws.
Future plans include expanding their range of fabrics – something which is set to begin early next year with a new collection based on several trips to the Himalayas. ‘It has a different colour palette to our previous designs, more rust reds and autumnal tones,’ says Fotheringham. ‘The mix of patterns are taken from architecture and nature, and include the journey up there, which is quite a thing, on winding roads for five hours.’ Proof that with this pair, when it comes to creating pattern, personal experience and first-hand storytelling is what counts. safomasi.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration October 2020
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