London may be retail heaven, but where are the best places to buy interior fabrics? Denna Jones investigates the city’s top textile emporiums.
1. The Cloth Shop
290 Portobello Road
Be tempted by The Cloth Shop’s superlative range of 60-inch wide, medium-weight, imported Swedish linen in forty-five sherbet-like colours. Or its heavyweight Indian furnishing cottons. Or the Faded Roses collection in a cotton and linen mix. Established in 1980 and operated like a family-owned collective, the shop is eclectic in the best sense of the word.
2. Russell & Chapple
68 Drury Lane
Known as the secret source for extra-wide (up to 300cm) plain cotton and linen fabrics suitable for curtains and upholstery, R&C has selections including herringbone 100 per cent Belgian linen, lightweight ecru and ivory linens woven in Scotland, “half Panama” pre-washed cottons, and “butter” muslins. And for curtains in danger from egg-wielding theatre critics, R&C also stocks stain-resistant Teflon-coated linens.
3. Redloh House Fabrics
2 Michael Road, SW6
A blue-shuttered cottage with a garden in a “tranquil mews just off the New King’s Road” is the welcoming setting for viewing hand-screened fabrics from select designers. Nicole Pritchard-Smith runs a “very relaxed and very tactile” shop, where fabrics are displayed as though in a home. Nine featured designers include Astrid & Rudolf, Penny Morrison, and Christine Van Der Hurd, whose career began in the 1970s designing for Yves Saint Laurent.
4. Bernard Thorp
53 Chelsea Manor Street
Bernard Thorp is famed as the source for bespoke, high-end, hand-printed hessian fabrics, or “burlap” as the jute fibre is known in North America. Described as “unexpectedly chic” by a journalist for House & Garden magazine, hessian is chic only in the hands of Bernard Thorp’s “family” of experts who design and hand-finish each screen print. Collections include silks, velvets and blends like silk/flax/cotton/polyester.
5. Ian Mankin
271/273 Wandsworth Bridge Road
A quarter of a century ago, Ian Mankin had the genius idea to borrow the simple, striped ticking pattern from bog-standard mattresses, interpret it with quality weaving, dyes and yarns, and catapult it to popularity as a furnishing fabric favourite for sofas, curtains and cushions. Years later, ticking, stripes, checks and hopsacks in natural colours remain the core of the Ian Mankin empire. When its namesake retired in 2007, the company merged with the family-owned Lancashire cotton mill that weaves its fabrics, meaning its legacy and design control extends from the drawing board to dyeing and weaving, to the shop floor in west London.
6. MacCulloch & Willis
25-26 Dering Street
The triple windows of a green-and-black Victorian shop front are stacked with fabric rolls in an invitingly pell-mell way, looking not dissimilar to a shop one might expect to read about in a Charles Dickens novel. Behind this display, MacCulloch & Willis is a venerable Soho shop, located near the traditional Berwick Street hub of fabric purveyors. It is both a haberdashery (trims, millinery, ribbons) and a fabric shop. Stock includes Nicole Fabre’s exquisite hand-printed linens inspired by French antique textiles, but also rare 292cm-wide white Irish linen sheeting.
7. Cloth House
47 and 98 Berwick Street
Two shops in the Soho nexus of London’s traditional area for retail fabrics, and located at either end of Berwick Street; each broadcasts an irresistible siren song to those who love fabric. Choice is sublime and surprising, made more so when one knows that the buyers source globally and ethically to support people and the planet. Discover the hand-woven linen hemp made by independent weavers in Eastern Europe, which become more difficult to source each year, or the range of unusual denim.
Liberty is fabric royalty. Trading out of its famous half-timbered Tudor Revival HQ on Regent Street, it is renowned for prints associated with its history, such as floral, peacock and paisley “art fabrics”. Liberty’s museum-quality design archive allows the company to create new contemporary collections “coded to nature, art, architecture”. Stock includes contemporary fabric designers like Osborne & Little and such smaller brands as Hibou Home.
9. Turnell & Gignon
Design Centre Chelsea Harbour
The finest fabrics from celebrated international designers and fabric houses are all gathered at Turnell & Gignon, at the Design Centre. Find Clarence House’s arboreal Kharif Crewel; Mary McDonald’s Chinoiserie collection for Schumacher; Nicky Haslam’s cotton velvet “Grotto” that looks like the mysterious interior of a giant geode; Neisha Crosland’s Weave Collection; plus designs from Veraseta, Voghi, Decortex Firenze, Patrick Gallagher Tessuti, Edmond Petit, Les Passementeries de l’Ile de France and Charles Burger.
10. Tissus d’Hélène Ltd
Design Centre Chelsea Harbour
Hand-blocked and hand screen-printed fabrics are the cornerstone of Tissus d’Hélène. The founder’s “passion for prints” is reflected in the designers she represents, which include Douglas Funkhouser’s handcrafted hemp textiles for his le gracieux collection, and fabrics by the eponymous design company founded by the legendary Sister Parrish. These are just two of the dozens of top designers stocked by Tissus d’Hélène, making this fabric boutique a mandatory stop for those seeking fabric inspiration.
11. GP & J Baker
Design Centre Chelsea Harbour
A gardener for the British Embassy near Constantinople, George Sr (born 1822) sent sons George Percival and James home to England to establish their eponymous textile company. Knowledge of the global textile market, savvy purchases of printing blocks and pattern archives, and designs commissioned from leading Arts & Crafts artists, allowed the company to flourish. The company’s garden heritage is reflected in the signature naturalistic designs – some in production for more than 100 years. Perennial favourites are periodically refreshed to reflect current colour trends. The company also represents fabrics by Kravet, Lee Jofa and Brunschwig & Fils.
28/30 Hoxton Square
Not far from East London’s Spitalfields, where Huguenot silk weaver refugees settled in the 17th century, Pongees sells silk and only silk. Known for high fashion dress silks, its location on Hoxton Square is a cognoscenti secret, and so too is its bijoux range of silk furnishing fabrics. Designed in-house, the pigment-dye and embroidered ranges are produced in India.