Earlier this month, I met with Francesca Baur, founder of Fable & Base, to hear more about the story that sits behind Fable & Base, a new studio producing carefully sourced, hand-printed, stunning textiles. I was won over by Francesca’s pitch at a recent RSA Engage event, where Fellows of the Royal Society of Arts have a chance to pitch their ideas and offer the chance to get involved. A sort of gentle Dragon’s Den, though just as nerve-wracking on the podium. While trooping round various design events during London Design Festival, I was often drawn to fresh, botanical prints, either a contemporary twist on florals or channelling a cool, contemporay Scandi look. However, ask about the materials and inks and often the link with the environment is swiftly severed. Fable & Base has its firmly roots in the Kent countryside, where Francesca is based.
The story begins with Francesca’s grandfather moving to London from Munich in 1930, where he had been an agent for Spitzenhaus (a lace house) Klauber. Her grandfather set up a lingerie textile business in London’s Regent Street and Great Sutton Street, which he ran successfully until the late 70s when textile production began moving overseas. The family then moved to Kent, with her father swapping his role as barrister for the good life, setting up an organic farm that pioneered an organic vegetable box scheme in the 1980s. Francesca trained as a printed textile designer at Middlesex University. With over twenty years experience of designing and teaching, Francesca wanted to combine her love of textiles with the ethos of the “Slowfood Movement” that she grew up with.
Fable & Base is the culmination of these two passions. Fable, as it is a story with a moral, and base as the base cloth or blank canvas to tell that story. Our clothes and other textile products rarely share the story behind them: the toxins and pesticides in the production process and working conditions on the farm or in the factories are hidden from view. With Fable & Base, Francesca’s “aim is to creative a narrative upon the cloth. By telling the whole story of the fabric, right from its origins with the farmers and weavers, I hope to provide complete transparency from seed to finished product”. Stories grow stronger when they are shared, and Fable & Base will share their story through workshops that engage the community.
The brand was launched with two collections at this year’s Makegood Festival for culture, creativity & entrepreneurship. The first collection, Edible Flowers, harks back to her childhood on the farm, and more recent inspiration from the fields around her Kent home. The second collection, Fable, reflects Francesca’s love of clean, crisp Scandinavian inspired-design. Francesca’s current favourite is Woodland from Fable collection (pictured above). I love the bright, zesty Courgette Flowers from the Edible Flowers collection (pictured right). Francesca will launch a new design each year to grow the collection.
The designs are screen-printed by hand using Soil Association approved water-based inks onto sustainable fabrics made of hemp, linen, and organic cotton. For the moment, the organic cotton is sourced from India and Turkey, and the lighter weight hemp-organic cotton blend fabric is sourced from China. Francesca is looking to organic linen from Belgium. Francesca would also like to experiment with natural dyes, perhaps a theme for a collection next year. You can buy the printed fabrics by the metre (£50-£75 depending on the fabric). Products, such as cushions, soft-furnishings and fashion accessories are made to order to minimise waste.
Fable & Base is about to launch a campaign on Kickstarter, supported by the RSA, on 31st October. Francesca aims to raise £7,500 for her micro-business to set up a workshop space and buy essential equipment to scale up her operations, print repeat lengths of fabric, grow the workshop programme and develop DIY kits. You can pledge your support in exchange for a reward, whether a tea towel, fabric, or even a print party. As the calls for greater supply chain transparency grow louder, here is wonderful example of how small can be beautiful, in every sense.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Kering Group, owner of Gucci, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and other luxury brands has placed sustainability at the heart of luxury, their business, and their reporting. Just this week, Kering Group announced a five-year partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF), at London College of Fashion (LCF), to support sustainable practices and innovation in the fashion industry.
You can next see Fable & Base at the Selvedge Winter Fair at Chelsea Old Town Hall, 31st October and 1st November 2014, so why not pop down and pick up a few Christmas gifts early. Francesca’s fabrics and products are always available online at www.fableandbase.co.uk, and at select fairs.
Image credits: Fable & Base