Aug 16

A Tradition of Weaving in New England

When Merida decided to start manufacturing in southern Massachusetts nearly twenty years ago, we saw the potential in the rich textile manufacturing community present there. Today, the town of Fall River is on the verge of a design manufacture renaissance, and Merida is proud to be spearheading that movement. We caught up with another company with roots in New England’s textile weaving tradition, and dished about inspirations and in-house textile creation.

We spoke with Bess Clarke, CEO of Nantucket Looms, a boutique storefront and handweaver operating in the heart of Nantucket since 1968. For high-end clients to discerning visitors and locals alike, Nantucket Looms has carried on a tradition of design manufacturing and in-house weaving, in addition to a flourishing interior design business. They also help foster a community of local artists and artisans who are featured in their shop.

How did your partnerships with luxury fashion houses and high-end clients begin, and how have they developed?

Many of these partnerships developed from the connections the original founders of the Looms —Bill Euler and Andy Oates— had to designers and to customers from New York and Boston who vacationed on Nantucket. Bill had worked at the Plaza Hotel in NYC and Andy had studied under master weaver Anni Albers at the famed Black Mountain College, so they both brought a variety of experiences and relationships to the business. Bill and Andy had both developed reputations for excellence in design and quality and became the go-to for high-end production textiles, before fabric was so readily outsourced abroad on a mass production scale.  Nantucket Looms has proudly produced the wall coverings for the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., the fabric in Chanel’s Corporate Headquarters in Paris and for the upholstery fabric in Bill Gates’ private airplane. And the list goes on…

Nantucket Looms Master Weaver Andy Oates in the 1970s.

What is it about Nantucket that inspires you?

We find inspirations in the natural color palette of the island—the greens and browns of the moors, the blues and turquoise of the ocean and the soft grays, pinks, and soft purples of the sky. Also, in the landscape and details of the island; In the organic shapes of shells and seaglass found on our beautiful beaches, in the historic Quaker architecture that has been so carefully preserved over the past two hundred years and of course in the local art of the island—everyone from weavers to basket makers, painters, potters, carvers and jewelers who carry their work here at Nantucket Looms.

photo: Abby Capalbo // @abbycapalbo

Explain the value of having both textile design and weaving under the same roof.

In our world design and weaving go hand in hand, literally. Each weaver personally oversees the production of every piece they make, start to finish. The design component, the actual weaving of the textile and the finishing process are all equally important parts of the process. Since we only produce 7-14 pieces at a time, each textile deserves the time and attention to make them unique.

How do you envision the future of design, textiles, and interiors?

I think people will have more focused interest in where things are made and how they are produced. Now that interior furnishings can be readily accessed online in a moment’s notice, people will start to want more of a story to what they are buying. Here at Nantucket Looms you can know who made your handwoven throw and customize it based on your color palette.

A Nantucket Looms designed room featuring our Slater wool rug in Natural.

Nantucket Looms uses our Bora Bora jute in this fresh sunroom.

How do your company values align with Merida’s?

Besides loving the look and quality of Merida’s products, Nantucket Looms shares Merida’s same values of craftsmanship and the integrity of our materials. And similar to Merida who has been in business for 30 years, we too are dedicated to our local economy by employing people year-round since 1968.

In your expert opinion, which of our woven in USA collections do you like the most?

We are drawn to the Tissage Collection since it most closely resembles the Nantucket Looms handwoven textiles that we are known for. Simple, yet classic weave structures that represent timeless style.

Bonpoint, from the Tissage collection.

Linea, from the Tissage collection

Handwoven cashmere throws by Nantucket Looms.


Shop Merida’s Tissage collection >

Visit Nantucket Looms >

Jul 16

Point of View: The Appeal of Passementerie

Merida neutral decorative cords

As recently mentioned in a Wall Street Journal survey of 26 designers, “Old-World Ornamentation” is an interiors trend on the rise. It was great validation of two of our recent developments: fine Decorative Cords designed for rugs and the graphic tassels of the Ashe + Leandro for Merida collection. Up to a year in the making, these two collections weren’t created to follow trends, but instead sought to incorporate these ideas in more subtle ways.

Since last fall passementerie has been making a comeback in fashion and interiors. Passementerie is a French word meaning “the art of making elaborate trimmings or edgings of applied braid, gold or silver cord, embroidery, colored silk, or beads for clothing or furnishings.” New York Fashion Week featured a number of adorned garments with clean lines and a touch of trim.

photo: imaxtree via

Recent fashion shows in Paris also featured tassels and embroidery prominently. The Balmain show, below, demonstrates an old world style with more explicitly ornate embroidery and fringe.

photos: Monica Feudi / Vogue

photos: Monica Feudi / Vogue

Passementerie has made its way into jewelry as well.  The pieces below from Lanvin and Aurelie Bidermann combine elegant tasseling with a modern, simplified edge.

Left: Lanvin earrings. Right: Aurelie Bidermann bracelet.

Reminiscent of the New York Fashion Week designs the Saint Laurent bag below features quiet, elegant styling in a modern black with military-inspired trim and two prominent tassels.

We took a refined approach to old world passementerie with two recent collections. “While we don’t exclusively focus on trends we are always observing how the world is changing and as a result what’s next in art, design and fashion.  Attending international shows, scouring flea markets, exploring the latest art exhibitions and observing the latest runway shows are all part of our design process so we stay fresh and relevant.” – Roxanne Hanna, Merida’s Creative Director.


Touro in Black Pearl

The Ashe + Leandro collection provides a new take on tassels: they extend the graphic pattern rather than being a full-length or added-on edging. While not technically passementerie—since the tassels are woven into the suede pattern—the hand made tassels serve a similar purpose with a more integrated and organic look.


Touro in Black Pearl

Leao in Natural

Aires in Black

Taking the idea of passementerie to its most minimal, we custom sized a linen mélange twisted cord to provide a subtle accent for our rugs and cloth bindings.

Antwerp sisal in Belgian Linen with a Decorative Cord in Sienna.

Agave Superior sisal with a Decorative Cord in Dark Roast with an outside finish.

Avant sisal in Titanium with a Decorative Cord in Dove.

We worked with trimmings expert Jana Platina Phipps to source the cords from a 90 year old Italian factory: “These twisted cords, made of exquisite linen yarns, dyed in subtle, natural colors, are customized to fit the manufacturing process and design aesthetic of Merida. So, in addition to a handmade rug that speaks to your taste for fine things, you will have a small Italian story to add to your interior tale.” The Decorative Cords are made in Italy and applied by hand at our workshop in Fall River, MA.

Jul 16

Q&A with Mark Cunningham: Finding Life in the Unexpected

Photo: Richard Powers / Architectural Digest

As long time friends and fans of Mark Cunningham Inc. we were thrilled to see their stunning Greenwich, Connecticut project in August’s Architectural Digest. Mark Cunningham is known for his discerning eye, his singular interior compositions, and his ability to leave a unique imprint with each project.

We caught up with Mark to gain insights into his design philosophy, sources of inspiration, and a little background on this recently published project. In addition to the Greenwich project, Mark Cunningham Inc. was also featured in Architectural Digest last September.

What energizes you?

Unexpected places definitely energize me. What is uncovered through exploration is always a mystery worth seeking. Finding a special object or piece at the end of a long search is always extremely rewarding. The discovery process can also result in looking for new meaning in a piece. Inspiration can always be found in the most obscure things by transforming a particular detail into something new.

What excites you the most while working on a project?

The transformation of space, by taking something from its current state and discovering its new identity, fuels me. I allow myself to carefully craft a well thought out narrative for each project I tackle. I truly am the author of my own exciting story with each project I work on.

Featuring Madagascar Locust. Photo: Richard Powers / Architectural Digest

Who or what has been your greatest influence as a designer?

Being from the west, I’ve always found inspirations in rarely explored places. I would describe myself as an “off the beaten path” seeker. My projects have given me the incredible opportunity to travel all over the world. My years working at Ralph Lauren were also very influential and memorable.

Featuring Mandacaru City. Photo: William Waldron / Architectural Digest

What aspect of design do you find the most challenging and rewarding?

Every piece I curate for a project is important, however it’s the unexpected items that really bring life to the spaces I design. Finding and integrating these elements is often the most challenging and rewarding part of the process.

Featuring Bora Bora Volcano. Photo: William Waldron / Architectural Digest

How well do you have to know a client before you understand exactly what they are looking for and how you will go about achieving it?

The relationships I have with my clients make each project unique. Through collaboration, my designs compliment their lifestyles and fulfill new aspirations for the life they would like to live in their new space.

How does restraint play into your design process?

Everything I use to fill a space has a purpose. Instinctively, I exercise restraint when decorating by never filling a space just because I can. My philosophy is that the absence of something is just as important as the pieces I find.

Featuring Rift Natural. Photo: Richard Powers / Architectural Digest

Last fall, you toured Merida’s mill with your team.  Tell us something that surprised you during your visit.

I was moved by the attention to detail that each artisan brings to the table. My visit to the Merida Mill was special for me, because I have always appreciated the art of craftsmanship, and to see the process first hand was very enlightening.

While working on the Greenwich project how did the architectural style of the house affect your plan?

The Tudor style of the house on the exterior is somewhat formal and imposing. I wanted to make the interiors comfortable and less formal and to bring in the light.

Photo: Richard Powers / Architectural Digest

Featuring Cordova Nutmeg. Photo: Richard Powers / Architectural Digest

What role did our rugs play in your design process?

Merida rugs played a large part throughout the house because of their versatility, selection and price. The living room and study are both natural woven rugs, abaca and sisal. The master bedroom is a cream colored wool and the guest bedrooms are carpeted in tight textured wools.

Featuing a custom version of Troy. photo: Richard Powers / Architectural Digest

Shop our wool rugs >

Shop our abaca rugs >

Shop our sisal and jute rugs >

View Mark Cunningham Inc.’s feature on >

Jun 16

Point of View: Artisan and Machine

“While we don’t exclusively focus on trends we are always observing how the world is changing and as a result what’s next in art, design and fashion.  Attending international shows, scouring flea markets, exploring the latest art exhibitions and observing the latest runway shows are all part of our design process so we stay fresh and relevant.” – Roxanne Hanna, Merida’s Creative Director.

One of the broad cultural trends we are seeing is the merging of technology with traditional forms of making to create design houses and brands that are exceptionally flexible but still put quality and integrity first.

The fact that a rug is woven using a machine shouldn’t necessarily decrease its value versus a handwoven rug. We believe in utilizing the best parts of hand and machine; we maintain the quality of handmade products with the efficiency and capabilities of specialized looms. When used as artisanal tools, machines only expand upon what skilled craftsmen can do.

The joining of man and machine is occurring throughout art and fashion communities as an alternative to mass production and outsourcing. Li Edelkoort of trend forecasting group Trend Union was quoted in a recent Dwell article: “Outsourced production has jeopardized economies and humanitarian standards. Through technology, we might be able to create newer, smaller, more mobile, and more flexible brands. I’m excited that we’re now beginning to see young designers reinventing machines, or recreating old ones to get to the making that they desire. They see the machine as an alter ego, friend, and companion. …Now, we’ll begin to see more customized, made-to-measure tools.”

Edelkoort highlights the machine as companion, with emphasis on the machine’s potential as a made-to-measure tool. Rather than being replaced by machines, designers are using them as specialized tools to go beyond what a human hand can practically do, and be more flexible in the process.

A current exhibit at the MET, Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology also explores this idea. As curator Andrew Bolton explains, “Instead of seeing the hand and the machine as dichotomous, the show attempts to show it more as a continuum or spectrum of practice. I think technology should be used especially by good designers, as a way to enhance their design practice.”

One of the inspirations for the exhibition, a Chanel haute couture wedding dress designed by Karl Lagerfeld combines the hand and machine made. A pattern drawn by Lagerfeld was digitally rendered and intentionally pixelated. The resulting pattern was then applied to fabric and enhanced with thousands of hand applied gemstones, pearls, and more. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

From left to right, these dresses contain an increasing number of machine made elements, yet each is as striking as the last. Yves Saint Laurent (’69-’70), followed by two from Iris Van Herpen (’13-’14 and ’10). Photos © Nicholas Alan Cope

Left: Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga, 2003. Right: Iris van Herpen 2012. Photos © Nicholas Alan Cope

Bolton states, “The show isn’t really about fashion and technology per se; it’s more about techniques and processes. People are so preoccupied by the next thing, there’s a lack of appreciation in the making of fashion.” In essence, the quality, design work, and craftsmanship that go into a garment, textile or rug can be independent from the amount of hand or machine work involved.

Designers can take advantage of technology in subtle and sophisticated ways to differentiate their product from mass production without sacrificing flexibility.

At Merida, the harmony between our design team, craftsmen and weavers elevates our design process and helps us refine developments in a more meaningful way.  This synergy provides the benefits of growing our team here in the United States instead of feeling the constraints of having to move our production overseas. This joining of man and machine is more than a trend; it’s a cultural shift that is here to stay.