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…
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.
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.
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.