The Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company is one of the oldest silk producers in England. Founded in Sudbury, Suffolk in 1903 by entrepreneur Reginald Warner, the company’s leather-bound ledgers from that era reveal that its customers included such important names as Morris & Co and the White Star Line shipping company – best-known for being the owner of the ill-fated RMS Titanic.
Nowadays commissions include work for Royal palaces, National Trust properties, fashion designers and, of course, interior designers. “Working with Gainsborough offers a unique time capsule of 250 years of the most remarkable history of fabric,” says interior designer and the company’s creative director Russell Sage, who has used bespoke silks in rooms at The Goring Hotel in London, amongst other projects.
The traditional weaving methods being applied in house, creating truly unique fabric.
Gainsborough has been at its current premises since 1924, and has 32 staff, 24 of whom work the looms and windingmachinery. Inside the weaving shed, original, manual Hattersley looms from the 1920s and 1930s sit alongside three electronic ones. “The old looms have their own distinct character and produce exceptionally fine silk fabric – we’ve had people working on the same looms for over 20 years,” says Sage.
Everything is done in-house, from the dyeing of yarns to the weaving of the fabric, often honouring century-old production methods. Inside the archive, over 50,000 exquisite fabrics showcase the inimitable quality for which Gainsborough is renowned, and intricate pattern cards, some dating back 100 years, still dictate the pattern of the fabric being woven. Yet the business has its eye firmly on the future, too, recently collaborating with Fromental, drawing on over a century of weaving expertise to create a limited collection of co-branded fabrics. Added to which, Sage reveals “We’ve engaged the services of Karen Beauchamp, formerly creative director at Cole & Sons, to work on a definitive book of historical English fabric which will be completed by September.”
An example of the collaborative collection with Fromental.
Clients can commission just 20 metres of a truly bespoke fabric, in any design, colour and composition,” says Russell Sage, creative director. “No one else in the world will have the same fabric.”