In celebration of the official launch of Lewis & Wood's Fritz Porter showroom, we interviewed founder Stephen Lewis for this month's vendor profile (pictured below with Lewis & Wood Creative Director Magdalen Jebb). Keep reading to get to know the man behind the spectacular brand!
TELL US ABOUT HOW LEWIS & WOOD WAS CREATED AND HOW IT HAS GROWN SINCE ITS FOUNDING.
I started the company almost 27 years ago now. It has grown enormously in that time from a London basement apartment where I first operated from, to a converted mill in Gloucestershire which is the main headquarters and the creative and production hub of the business with a growing team of staff. Pivotal to the development of the company has been Magdalen Jebb, Creative Director who has been with the company for 15 years and has been absolutely instrumental in developing and nurturing the current success of the company and driving the direction of the brand.
HOW WOULD YOU PERSONALLY DESCRIBE THE LEWIS & WOOD AESTHETIC AND BRAND?
I would like to think of the brand as being perhaps a little quirky, always authentic and original, and with a real sense of provenance in terms of design and aesthetic. What is very important is that we only make things we like. We don’t follow trends, and never have – ultimately there has to be a point to everything we do. After all nobody needs another floral fabric so if we are making one - it has to be worth it, and something that both Magdalen and I like.
HOW DO YOU APPROACH CREATING A NEW COLLECTION?
Discovering and nurturing artistic talent from other applied arts such as engravers, ceramicists, muralists and decorative painters is how we have often approached a new collection. Collaborating with artists rather than textile designers is always an enriching experience as they bring a different perspective.
Recent successful collaborations include working with wood engraver Andrew Davidson on Royal Oak, a modern toile interpretation of the English countryside featuring St Mary’s spire in Tetbury, the home of Prince Charles; decorative artists Flora Roberts, Melissa White and Su Daybell on the English Ethnic collection, and Alexander Hamilton, who was responsible for the design of the Beech and Bosky artwork.
More recently we were given privileged access to the archive of the Victoria & Albert Museum which provided the inspiration for the Spitalfields Collection based on 18th century Huguenot artists work, and this spring we launched the Voysey Collection based on the original drawings of CFA Voysey, a celebrated British Arts & Crafts architect and designer.
WHAT DOES "LUXURY" MEAN TO YOU?
Luxury just makes me think of people being ‘spoilt’ but not necessarily in a good way. I think it is an overused word and does not really apply to what we do.
TELL US ABOUT THE BRAVEST DECISION YOU HAVE MADE IN YOUR TIME AT LEWIS & WOOD.
Most definitely taking the decision to expand in 2008 in the midst of a recession and moving to the Mill at Woodchester. It was a huge leap of faith to do so, knowing that a global recession was around the corner. As Magdalen assured me ‘Ships are safe in harbour but that is not what they’re built for” so we took the plunge, even though my retort at the time was ‘but not in a Force 9 gale!” I am glad to say it was absolutely the right decision and was certainly a brave one at the time.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT QUALITY THAT YOU LOOK FOR IN THE PEOPLE THAT YOU WORK CLOSET WITH?
I would say two qualities are vitally important – rigour and a sense of humour.
WHERE IS THE MOST INSPIRING PLACE YOU HAVE BEEN?
Without doubt that would be Istanbul which is captivating. It is so utterly ‘foreign’ and really lives up to its reputation as the place where East meets West. I still find it remarkable that you can get on a train in Istanbul and travel in any direction - to Russia, China or Europe.
WHAT IS YOUR SIMPILIST PLEASURE?
Walking my dog probably! Obviously that depends to a large degree on the weather in the English countryside, but I do find contentment in walking and seeing Isla (a black Labrador) just exploring everything and scampering about for the pure pleasure of it.
YOU ARE AWAY ON A TRIP WITH YOUR FAMILY AND DOG AND A NEIGHBOR RINGS THAT YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE - WHAT DO YOU ASK THEM TO SAVE?
That would have to be my collection of fishing rods which I have amassed over the years, and my Purdy 12 gauge side-by-side left to me by my father.