| Sep 29, 2014 |
Schumacher celebrates 125 years of firsts, fabrics and flair
Boh staff
By Staff

Schumacher has had a lot of “firsts” throughout its 125-year history. It was the first company to import European fabrics to the United States, the first to collaborate with interior and fashion designers on fabric collections, and now for the first time a former magazine editor has played a major role in the creation of an anniversary collection of fabrics.

“After we hired Dara last year this all began,” said Schumacher CEO Terri Eagle, who hired Dara Caponigro to be Creative Director last year. “I knew I wanted to do something with the archives for the big anniversary, but it was really Dara who wanted to do this collection, and she brought it to fruition, and the feedback so far has been phenomenal."

Terri Eagle and Dara Caponigro

With 15 patterns in multiple colorways, the 125th Anniversary Collection features approximately 45 fabrics in total, which according to Caponigro are all statement pieces that are meant to stand-alone and truly represent the company’s history.

“We looked at so many things in the archives, but what I wanted to do was concentrate on showing off Schumacher's incredible range,” said Caponigro. “I wanted the collection to speak to the kinds of things Schumacher is known for—the classic, fun and fashionable, and the luxurious. I also wanted to package it in a way that spoke to the breadth of the brand while still feeling relevant. Some things were not ready to come back, and some things we were like 'oh my gosh, this is fantastic.’”

From left: Citrus Garden fabric part of the 125th anniversary collection inspired by interior designer Josef Frank's version, and the Iconic Lepoard pattern

Throughout the years, Schumacher fabrics have been seen in the White House under Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, in Lincoln Center, on screen in I Love Lucy and Gone With the Wind, in the home of legends like Mick Jagger, and even as a parachute for the United States Air Force during World War II used Schumacher fabric.

The new 125th Anniversary Collection brings a lot of that back to life, while still keeping things modern and fresh for the next generation. Read on for an interview with Caponigro (DC) and Eagle (TE) about the collection and where Schumacher is headed. 

Odalisque fabrics

EAL: This is your first time designing a collection of fabrics. What was that process like?

DC: I'm not the actual designer, I really spearheaded the process in the design studio and they are all total pros. We have three amazing designers and I felt like I was in really good hands. We saw eye to eye in terms of patterns, materials and colorations. I helped to give the collection focus, and I helped package it. I decided on the colorways, what kind of fabrics to use, etc.—the things that can completely transform a design.

EAL: Editorial requires quick decision-making. Did your background in magazines influence your design process?

DC: With this collection, I had deadlines just like I did in magazines. At Schumacher we're producing 12 collections a year—just like you put out 12 magazines a year. Things come in and you have to decide right away if it works or what needs to be changed. It's a really creative business but it’s just as deadline-oriented. It's so similar to magazines on so many levels that it took me by surprise.

EAL: How did you choose the colorways and patterns?

DC: Everything came from the archive, and while some things are dead ringers for the originals, a lot of the patterns were blown up and the colorations were changed. We took the time to include a hand-engraved toile, which is very true to what it was originally in traditional purple and blue. So many companies are doing digital toiles and there is a huge difference. We were proud to do it the way it was done way back when. So while we kept a lot of things the same, we made slight changes to make everything feel more modern.

Iconic Leopard in six colorways

EAL: Do you have a favorite pattern or moment in the collection?

DC: I have so many favorites. One is called Iconic Leopard, which was a 1970 pattern and it’s fabulous. It's printed on linen and it's so cool but so classic. The second is Serengeti, which is a very lush animal woven. We did curtains with it for our brochure and upholstered it on sofas. It feels great, and it's the perfect marriage of comfort and elegance.

Manor Rose, inspired by Dorothy Draper's original design

And finally, everyone thinks that these designer partnerships we do are new, but Schumacher has been doing them since the 1920s with the likes of Dorothy Draper, Cecil Beaton and Paul Poiret among others—it's quite an impressive roster. So for this collection, we've reintroduced a Josef Frank's 1947 Citrus Garden fabric and totally left it alone. We're now the only American fabric house to carry one of his designs. We also re-released Manor Rose by Draper, the first fabric she ever designed for Schumacher in 1944. Her collaboration with the company went on for 20 years after that.

Pine Hollyhock, inspired by Albert Hadley's original design

TE: Pine Hollyhock. It is an original design used by Albert Hadley in 1962 for Princess Pine's home in New Jersey. Schumacher has since produced it updating it in new colorways for the 125th Anniversary Collection. It's always been my favorite, and now I'm looking to do something with it in my home.

EAL: What do you want designers to know about the final product?

DC: That it's an incredible range and it's not designed to go together. Each piece is a show-stopper on its own. The fabrics speak to a range of style—which is one of the things that is great about Schumacher. We have one velvet fabric that takes a day to weave just eight meters. It's all so special but also fitting for the world that we live in today.

EAL: What's been the most rewarding part of working on the anniversary collection?

DC: Since this was my first collection seeing it from start to finish, I really enjoyed working with the people in the design studio and learning about the fabric industry in a deeper way. It's so impressive that we can still make fabrics the way we do today. When you hold fabric in your hands you're not aware of what goes into it, but if you go through the whole process like I have, it gives you a whole new appreciation.

Shengyou Toile fabrics

EAL: Have your tastes changed since being so close to the process at Schumacher?

DC: I entered the world of design in the 1980s as an editor and that time period really didn't match my personal aesthetic, but it was a great lesson. I since have been able to separate my personal aesthetic from what is truly beautiful. I see authenticity now as opposed to taste, so I ask, ‘Is it true to itself? Is it the most beautiful thing it can be?’ Over the years I have learned to see value in things that you wouldn't put in your home but you can still appreciate them.

EAL: Do you have anything else planned for the big anniversary?

TE: Our main initiative is putting together a new website which will be a mix of content and commerce. We're doing a whole lifestyle presentation in the showroom and we did a campaign that Dara shot which shows the anniversary collection in people's homes with their kids. We're also having various parties across the country and celebrating big time.

EAL: What can we expect from Schumacher in future years?

TE: More Schumacher. We have had some amazing partnerships with designers and I think we're really going to balance that with our own collections and branding moving forward. We're bringing out special product with Dara, like antiques and accessories. We're hoping to extend our brand in other areas as well, like furniture. Dara is really taking all of this and styling it in the showrooms so that it looks livable and that's really special.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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