Born in South Africa, Bernie de Le Cuona’s passion for beautiful linens began when she was a small girl. Today, she’s the owner of a hugely successful fabric and accessories website and she’s kindly taken time out of her busy schedule to chat to us here at Distinctive Chesterfields about her life and design loves – enjoy!
Distinctive Chesterfields (DC): You say on your website ‘a love of linen’ spurred your passion for beautiful fabrics. But when did this passion begin?
Bernie: I have always loved interiors and colour. Whilst growing up in South Africa I was always fascinated at the mix of colours and designs that the black Africans used. They never followed fashion or any unwritten law than the white Africans (hope that’s politically-sensitive). The ladies used to sit and embroider all their bed linen and pillows and made up their beds to look so gorgeous – totally different to what I had seen. I loved to watch them. Also colour; I believe that colour can change lives. A beautiful, muted room is so much more warm and inviting than, for example, a white one.
DC: You’ve clearly created some gorgeous creations in your 20 years as a designer, but what stands out as a career highlight for you?
Bernie: Every time I achieve something that I am told is impossible it becomes my favourite until the next challenge. However, at the moment I am about to launch the most sublime sheer cashmere with an illusion of a design woven into it. It’s been so difficult to develop but now it’s perfect.
DC: Did you ever expect your first cushion design to take off quite as well as it did? We’d love to know about your beautiful showroom too.
Bernie: Really to route to market was not by selling collections but by selling cushions made out of the fabrics I wanted to launch. I have designed thousands of cushions in all sizes, but the ones that instantly transform a room are the fine silk velvet ones backed with a raw natural linen – so simple yet such a favourite of designers.
I think the London showroom is really pretty and the apartment above it shows how the products make up, but really it’s too small. Next year, we open a really large space where we can showcase all our products well and service the trade and private clients. We run a bespoke service for clients who want the full treatment – i.e. curtain make-up, upholstery etc., and take on these projects worldwide.
The New York showroom is much more professional; it’s a design centre and directed towards design professionals only at the moment.
DC: We’d love to learn a little more about you. What are your hobbies outside your day job? And how do you like to relax?
To relax I run. In fact, I find it hard to start a day without exercise – it just clears my head. I love travel and exploring other cultures, and of course Africa is still in my soul so the African bush is highest on my list of relaxation.
DC: Tell us a little more about your new collection ‘Wild Tranquility’. What were your inspirations behind the collection, and how has the creative process gone?
Bernie: It’s all about texture and colour. There are oversized damasks in unexpected colour combinations. Gravelly cashmeres, embossed stone washed linens. My favourite is the indigo blue embossed.
DC: Here at Distinctive Chesterfields, we offer a bespoke service whereby the customer can provide us with a fabric of their choice and we’ll magic it into a perfectly-tailored sofa. Are you a fan of the Chesterfield? And could you see your stunning creations on a traditional Chesterfield sofa or chair?
Bernie: Totally, our cloths are not age, time or style specific. We have country wools, paisleys and everything from elegant linen to gutsy textured plain linen – a little bit like the Chesterfield, it never dates.
DC: What advice would you offer to a budding designer? And what three skills/personality traits would a person interested in taking up a career in the industry require?
Bernie: It’s more than being creative, it’s project management. Attention to detail and understanding what you’re proposing, as well as having great empathy for people helps.
DC: Which is your personal favourite design across your collections, and which one is the most popular amongst customers?
Bernie: The most popular worldwide is a plain linen in a colour we call tusk. This just shows that customers are discerning, as it’s expensive and just plain, but we have taken so much care to weave it from the finest fibres and wash it in silicone to leave it with a creamy, heavy finish.
DC: We noticed you sell to the trade in the USA; we also ship our products to the American market. Have you noticed any subtle differences in UK and USA customers’ design tastes?
Bernie: The US is totally different to the UK as I’m sure you will know. Each city seems so different from the next but generally Americans prefer pretty colours and designs. New York has, over the last year or so, become more similar to the UK in terms of colour. Americans are more demanding in terms of colour matches but are also far more understanding and ready to wait when a cloth is out of stock.
DC: Finally, what’s in the pipeline for yourself and the brand? Any exciting developments on the way?
Bernie: Oh yes, lots of new products and unexpected products, but just a little too early to tell so next year will be a big expansion for us.
To discover more about Bernie and her range, please head to her website. Enjoyed this piece? Don’t forget to leave us a comment on this post below to let us know.