Textiles designer Suki Cheema studied printmaking at Central St Martin’s before going on to live in New York where he designed textiles for the likes of Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Diane Von Furstenberg. He launched his own brand in 2010, we asked him about his wonderful world of colour, pattern and embroidery…
When did you know you wanted to be a textile designer? I inherited my love of textiles and design from my creative parents and nana. When I was a child my parents owned a textile factory in the Midlands. One of my fondest memories is when I first went through my mother’s dowry. I played with the colourful fabrics and sharis and loved the patterns and embroidery on the sharis, my most cherished item was a blanket, which was handwoven for her by my nana. This is where my love affair with textiles started.
What are you most proud of in your work? The vast majority of our production is done in India. We use ancient embroidery and printing techniques and combine them with bright colours and modern prints. I am proud to be creating what I love most while honouring and protecting the validity of these centuries-old crafts in the modern world of design.
Which other textile designers do you admire? I have great respect and admiration for the innovators of textile and print design. While in school at Central Saint Martins, I was particularly fond of the work of William Morris and F. Gregory Brown. I still find myself referencing these two greats when doing research for my new collections
Which place has inspired you most in your work? It is hard to name just one place! Each collection that I design is inspired by a different location around the world, whether Masai paintings and jewellery, Incan cave drawings, or the cobblestone streets of London, I find inspiration everywhere. That said, I do find myself often drawn to India. The vibrant hues and wonderful fabrics are so varied that there is always more to be influenced by.
You worked with Diane Von Furstenberg, what did you learn from her? Early in my days at DVF, Diane walked into the design studio with a napkin that was soaked in beetroot juice and said, “THIS is the colour that I want.” She was so specific about what she was looking for that it has stuck with me ever since. I learned about the importance of each shade of a colour. Not only was she a strong leader, but she also taught us the importance of following our dreams.
Which textile technique do you love to work with most? Hand silk screening and Aari work, which is thread work done as a chain stitch. You’ll find both of these techniques mixed a great deal in my textiles. I loved the added dimension and texture that it brings.
What are you working on now? I have just finished designing our Africa and Safari-inpired Spring 2013 collection, which includes bags and scarves. In 10 years time, we would like to be a well rounded lifestyle brand that is a household name.