Spotlight On: Swaffer Fabrics with Kate Beaney-Smith

Welcome to a spotlight on Swaffer Fabrics.  I was first introduced to this company through my close friend Kate.  I have known Kate for around five years now – bonding over our love of travel, food and have spent plenty of hours chatting about lots of subjects.  Some of the best ones were spent in Santorini accompanied by ouzo!

Recently, Kate asked whether I would be happy for Swaffer Fabrics to have pictures of their products taken in our home.  I jumped at the chance as their fabrics are just so dreamy! Plus, who doesn’t feel a little bit giddy about cushions?!

While Kate was here I seized the opportunity to have a chat with her about Swaffer, what her role is in the company and how they decide on which beautiful design to showcase.  As I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels this way about cushions and fabrics, I thought I’d share it with you too – here is my chat with Kate Beaney-Smith of Swaffer Fabrics…

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My humble dining chair decked out in cushions made using Swaffer Fabric

Hi Kate!

Hi!

I thought I would take the opportunity, while you’re here with me, to pin you down and talk to you about Swaffer Fabrics! 

So, you are Kate Beaney-Smith.  You work for Swaffer Fabrics and you are the Design and Marketing Assistant.  Please tell me a little bit more about Swaffer and the company.

Swaffer has been going for nearly 50 years and it was started by Anne and Robert Swaffer, as it was originally called, and it has always been a family company.  Then nearly 25 years ago my mum (Janet Beaney-Smith) started working there and over the years, Swaffer has become a part of our family.  I work with my mum {we steered clear of asking about office politics and the like!} whose Design and Marketing Director, and part Owner with Martin (Jeffery) who is our Sales and Operations Director. He’s worked with Swaffer for 25 years. I’d say one of the nicest things about working for Swaffer is the Swaffer Team has been together for so many years, decades even. Most in the office saw me grow up! It’s a nice place to work, it has a family feel all round. I was only meant to work there temporarily and it’s been seven years! 

So we make upholstery fabrics – we design them – and they are printed in the UK as much as possible.  We are known for our florals!

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Artemisia Rosa Design Development

What does your current role as Design and Marketing Assistant involve?

It can be different depending what stage we are in a project. Day to day it is social media marketing, or writing the newsletters that we send out to customers, looking after the website – that’s the marketing side.  

When we have new collections we will do the planning of photo shoots and deciding what we will shoot and the mapping out and the logistics of all of that.  On the design side of things, it is the inspiration for new fabrics and designs.  We get a lot of things sent to us and then we end up collating things from all different sources and it can sometimes be straight forward, but sometimes it’s more organic.

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Weave development of Austen Weaves.  All the colours of the rainbow with this one.  This is where it can get overwhelming.

So do other companies want to be involved with you as well then?

Yeah, so there are design mills and there are people there who’s job is primarily to come up with design upon design upon design and you can look at their archive and you can buy their designs from them; that’s one way.  Sometimes, which is especially for the floral patterns, we do get artists.  We have worked with artists like Kay Elliott – she has done a few collections for us, and she had never done interiors before, or fabrics.  My mum actually found a blank card in Waitrose, got in contact with her and then she painted watercolours of flowers and then from that we developed it, so she didn’t have to worry about pattern repeats.  Then we also work with artists like Andrew Whitworth, who is a textile artist. So when he paints, he will do it thinking about pattern repeats.

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Whitworth Sofa (Gallery Collection) – Originally painted by Andrew Whitworth

Nice to have the mixture

Yeah it can come from anywhere. A mill may send something to us and we think it’s great, and we’re inspired by it and we can see how we could pair different designs together and create a collection.  We will change the scale of the pattern, edit the design, take some elements out and then of course the colours is a never ending thing! If I’m not doing marketing then it is that developmental process.  Then we will send things off to a printers and they’ll try our design ideas and many, many colourways out and then it’s like some kind of ‘X Factor’ judging! “Who’s going to make it to the next round?!”

Who’s Simon?

Oh, my mum!! {We obviously laugh about this concept because Janet’s waistbands are never that high!)

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Bowes Chair (Gallery Collection) – Another design originally painted by Andrew Whitworth. 

Sounds like a lot – I’m imagining that doesn’t happen every single day though!

Noooo! Thankfully!

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Some behind the scenes of our In Bloom photoshoot which was one of the collections Kay Elliot worked with us to create.  There have been three collections of Kay’s watercolour florals and our Eden collection is a “best of” what was the Paradis Collection and Handpicked Collection.

Ok, so what’s you’re typical day-to-day?

At the moment we are developing collections.  For example, today I have been looking through designs that a mill has sent us and deciding which ones we like and which ones will go well with the ones we have already chosen.  Discussions and a lot of conversation sometimes and opinions on things.  You have to think about, not just what you like but what will sell – head and heart!  Then, I am on Instagram a lot! Always a funny thing to admit to people – “I get paid to go on Instagram”.  Facebook too – they’re the two main social media platforms we use.  I also write a lot of copy for newsletters, exhibitions or magazine features or I’ll create visual content for the newsletters or online.

{Rudely interrupted by Mr S arriving home and wanting to chat!}

Sounds like you have a lot of developmental work going on right now.  Is there anything exciting happening for Swaffer in 2019?

We have! We are very excited! We will be launching two new collections this year! One is a weave collection and then one is a print collection.  There will be florals!  I can’t say too much as we are still fine tuning the final designs and deciding on names – that’s always when people get opinionated!

I was going to ask – does that often prove to be the most controversial side?

My mum doesn’t like naming things…

You and your sister faired really well then!!

That was a very short process!! 

I really enjoy naming them and I have helped name most of the fabrics and collections in recent years, or rather I am the ‘ideas generator’.  My mum is always conscious of negative connotations – not just in English but other languages too.  Eventually we get there! We have named most of the collections but we are finalising them at the moment.  I find it the fun part and really enjoy it! A lot have botanical names and we get the thesaurus out and look at our synonyms!! Baby naming websites too!!

Well, you don’t want to alienate a certain audience with a name do you?!

Yeah and you can’t repeat the names and we’ve had 50 years of fabrics, so sometimes we have come up with a name but its been similar to one we’ve used before.  For example, ‘Scene’, but we’ve already had ‘Scenario’.

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Some more Swaffer Fabrics up close.  Our sofa looked so good decked in all their florals!

Here is a fun thing as a bit of a curve ball for you! Swaffer is a company that has been around for 50 years and now you feel it’s part of your family also, SO describe Swaffer Fabrics in three words…!!

Three words? I would definitely say COLOUR.  QUALITY.  This is really hard.

It’s the curve ball, it’s not meant to be easy!

I would say DETAIL, as in attention to detail – we verge on OCD – we all need help!!  Yeah, QUALITY, COLOUR and DETAIL. QCD – isn’t far off OCD!!

I’d like to thank Swaffer Fabrics, and Kate, not only for decking our house in their beautiful fabrics but for also giving an insight into their ethos and developmental process.  I find this fascinating and I always enjoy learning more about the people behind a business or brand.  For more information on Swaffer Fabrics you can click here and you will be taken to their website, which is equally as beautiful!

Lydia x

 

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