28 May 2021
This new series, Design bites, unveil the backstage of contemporary creation. Tackling various topics from personal designer processes to the position of Collectible design on the global design market; these bites offer different views to suit all tastes. Today we talk with Eleanor Wright and Sam Watson, founders of Saison International.
COLLECTIBLE: What is your vision for Saison International – what do you want the brand to represent and become?
Eleanor Wright & Sam Watson: We want Saison International to be the go to place for exclusive, renowned artists textiles and to broaden knowledge of how artists work. Despite the relative underrepresentation of artist textiles within the art historical canon, artists have long adapted their work to the medium. From Anni Albers’ pioneering woven works to Sonia Delaunay and Henry Moore’s printed fabrics, textiles enabled these artists to bring their work more in touch with everyday life. Saison International draws on this history, as well as the Arts and Crafts movement and Bauhaus, Finnish design houses Artek and Marimekko and also interdisciplinary initiatives such as the Bloomsbury Group and Omega Workshops.Our brand is also built around the spirit of collaboration and a critical approach to the rich cultural value of our product. We want to bring people’s attention to the relatively untapped history of artists and textiles, which we will do through a cultural programme of special public events, published exclusive articles, essays and interviews from leading artists, writers and scholars exploring the social and cultural relevance of our products and the work of the artists in the collection.
“ We want to bring people’s attention to the relatively untapped history of artists and textiles.”
C: Where are you based and what makes your city unique in the global art and design market?
EW & SW: After several years of living and working in European cities, we settled in Antwerp two years ago. Antwerp has this interesting quality of being at the centre of things geographically while at the same time being on the periphery. It has a strong sense of cultural identity stemming from the still functioning port and history of international trade and merchant travel dating back to its golden era in the 1500’s, as well as renowned 20th Century histories in fashion, design, architecture and art. Being just outside the centre (London, Paris, Berlin) ultimately means there is less pressure to conform, where you are freer to reimagine things in your own way.
C: Where are your products made? Are there any particular artisanal techniques or materials you have explored so far?
EW & SW: We source our natural fabrics directly from European suppliers, as well as through our England based printing partner who, like us, strives to maintain traceable and ethical supply chains. For example our linen is woven in one of the oldest mills in Flanders, which has operated since 1864. From field to fibre, from yarn to fabric, the making of their linen is a story of passion and craftsmanship. The region’s rich soil and mild North Sea climate, where sun and rain alternate, is ideal for growing a fibre that is known worldwide for its quality.
C: Can you talk about the artists you’ve worked with so far – what have they created and what makes it special and interesting?
EW & SW: Our relationship with the artists we work with is at the very heart of what we do.
Each artist is selected for a quality in their work that we feel would translate well into fabric. It is important to us that our collaboration offers something truly unique exemplified by the fact that these artists do not strictly work with textiles. It is also imperative that our fabrics are not simply reproductions of the artist’s work, which is why we work in close dialogue to create a unique new work for the collection. One aspect that we look for in an artist’s practice is their willingness to work across varying scales and contexts. By coincidence, our three launch artists each have their practices rooted in painting, yet they all regularly undertake ambitious architectural commissions, bringing the more uncontrolled contexts of shared, public spaces into proximity with their discrete works shown in galleries.
About Saison International
Saison International specialises in limited edition textiles by renowned international contemporary artists. In April 2021 Saison International launched its first collection of ‘by-the-meter’ fabric designs, complemented by limited edition ‘readymade’ textile pieces. Commissioning each line as a unique artwork, Saison International’s products are timeless, functional limited edition objects for the home. The brand celebrates its launch with the introduction of lines by British artist Paul Morrison and German artists Sophie von Hellermann and Lothar Götz.