The force behind Fondant Textiles
Tell us a bit about yourself I love wearing stripes (people say I must have been a stripe in a past life!), playing beach Ultimate – a game involving a Frisbee, or “disc” as its called, and eating sushi from Takumi, Cape Town’s new restaurant by Papa San.
What do you do, and how did you get into it? As a textile designer, I have a background in woven fabric design from the Royal College of Art in London. As a child, I remember always having a fascination for fabrics used in the interiors of historical houses in England that I would visit with my grandparents when I stayed with them in London, during school holidays. Fast forward and I was to start my career in India in my twenties, with an opportunity to design woven silks for a large silk producer in Bangalore. A design role at one of the leading British fabric houses gave me the opportunity to learn more about the industry. I designed and coloured ranges, travelling to European trade fairs to source new fabrics from suppliers.
Walk us through a day in the life? More often than not my day starts with a gym class, or a run! That active burst of energy gets my day off to a good start, and I am ready for what lies ahead, which is not always planned, but keeps me on my toes. Depending on orders, and market days in my diary that I need prepare for, I may be visiting my CMT (the guys that make up my fabric designs into my various product requirements), or the screenprinters in Muizenberg. I try to find time in my day to maintain and channel my creativity, whether it is working on new print design ideas and images, or additional freelance design work I do for South African fabric houses. I also set aside time to plan and think about the future of Fondant Textiles.
How did you end up in Cape Town? I was offered a design contract in the studios of a local weaving mill here in Cape Town. I visited the city for a few days with a friend beforehand, and loved the feel of the city and its coastal location.
What’s your favourite thing about living in Cape Town? I love the natural beauty of the city, and its offering of mountains and sea, within such a short distance of each other. It means a lot to me to be able to have these surroundings, especially as I didn’t live near either in England.
How did you come up with the name? I wanted my prints, having a culinary appeal and, in many cases, a historical influence, to have a name that represented this concurrent theme. The word Fondant, a word of French origin and a word that I love and that speaks to me in such a visual way, fitted perfectly!
Do you have a process of product design, or does it come down to inspiration? I often work with specific themes or ideas in mind, and try to remain focused around this when working on new product development. Working with different natural fabrics as my print bases, the materials themselves inform me as to the designs end uses and functions. I love translating drawings hidden away in very old English department store catalogues into fabric designs that can be used and appreciated in the home. The images have such an eloquent feel!
What’s the most popular item in your range? The Happy Union print, a design based on biscuit stamps from Hampton Court Palace has a universal appeal, and is available in table runners and napkin sets. Any huge challenges in setting up a business far away from home? It was a fairly natural transition developing Fondant Textiles as a business in South Africa, even though I saw it as a little daunting initially. There are opportunities to tap into here in Cape Town, with local supply and manufacturing close to hand. I have come to realise that by taking it step by step, and with the networks around me that I have created since moving to South Africa, I have the support, and encouragement I need.
Any advice for aspiring designers? Keep sight of your dreams and goals, especially when things are challenging. Make the most of business support networks and institutes that relate to the industry, for help, advice and even relevant courses – and be prepared to work hard! What’s next for Fondant Textiles? An exciting potential new venture, involving the design of a new range of interior fabrics. So there you have it, folks, the lady behind the light that is Fondant Textiles. Keep on keeping on Nicola, we love it.