One of the highlights of getting ready for Waverly Week here on Sew4Home was getting the chance to talk with some of the Waverly team about how they come up with their inspired fabric designs. As we pointed out in our introductory article, Waverly is much more than a fabric company. You can find their distinctive look on kitchen and bath items, window and wall coverings, tech accessories, luggage, furniture, and lots more. That's why they call it Waverly World. But they got their start more than 90 years ago in fabric. And when they're working on a new design that will eventually be rolled out across Waverly World, they start designing it as a fabric.
Anthony Noberini, Creative Director for Waverly, walked us through the process. It's pretty complex, as you might imagine. So consider this the Reader's Digest version.
Keeping the Waverly promise
Waverly is unique among home décor brands. Nearly 90% of consumers have heard of the name and are of aware of its distinct character. Most people can't even name another fabric brand. Even as Waverly develops and introduces fresh designs, they ensure they're in keeping with the company's heritage.
Anthony explained it as being up-to-date without being too trendy. People want their Waverly to last.
"With home furnishings," he says, "the design has to have some longevity. It's not like a piece of clothing you might get rid of next season."
Secondly, as they come out with new designs and colors, Waverly makes sure customers who've purchased items a few years ago aren't abandoned. You'll always been able to find fabrics and accessories that complement your Waverly décor from a few years ago. You find a fresh take on your existing design and new ideas for accenting it. It's one of the reasons Waverly customers are so loyal.
Beginning the design process: analysis and inspiration
Coming up with the next big Waverly design is part science and part art. The design team analyzes what's been popular the year before and decides which current lines should be expanded, adding what they call "sister fabrics." They're related and get along nicely together (just like real sisters do).
At the same time, they're also coming up with ideas for completely new designs. The entire process from concept to fabric-in-the-store takes about six months.
Waverly team from left: Anthony Noberini, Waverly Creative Director; Sara Kennedy, Design Director for Wovens, PK Lifestyles, design firm for Waverly; and Pam Maffei-Toolan, VP of Design, PK Lifestyles, design firm for Waverly
As you can imagine, Waverly designers are very interested in emerging style and color trends. They do research in Europe, at fashion shows, take into account Pantone's color forecasts, and draw from dozens of other sources. But they're also open to inspiration that strikes from out of the blue. Anthony told us the story of walking through New York's garment district at lunch, spotting something interesting in a window, and bringing back a cell phone picture for consideration by his design team.
Throughout the process, the Waverly team is always keeping specific customers in mind. In fact, as designs progress, they must fit within six key lifestyles that broadly describe Waverly's customers (keep reading for more specifics on these). The team puts together a Lifestyle Storyboard, focused on one of the six areas, adding to it as they refine the design.
When the team has decided on the pattern for a design, it goes to the colorists who develop numerous palettes. The final concept art is often hand-painted before being imported into a computer to create the digital version for production.
Once the look of the design is finalized, it's sent to the factory where they create the engraved printing plates. It's then test-printed on its intended base fabric in what's called a "strike off." At this point, the design team can check for color and overall look, making a list of any suggested revisions.
When everyone has settled on the final design, it's sent to the factory for production. And soon, a new Waverly collection is in your favorite store.
Waverly's six lifestyles: which one fits you?
Rather than simply settling on a new fabric design because everyone on the Waverly team thinks it looks cool, they work with six specific consumer lifestyles in mind. The three "core" categories are the more traditional. The additional three groups reach out to new trends and influences.
Below are the actual Lifestyle Storyboards the Waverly team used for new fabrics that came out late last year, along with each definition the design team uses to guide them through their creative process.
One of the three core Waverly lifestyles, Beautiful Things is always key to the brand. The look encompasses the wonderful Waverly floral story. The visuals include beautifully rendered botanical florals and foliage, over-scaled blossoms, and garden fresh flowers. The color palette is crisp and clean, think spring cutting garden.
The second of the three core lifestyles, the feeling of Past Perfect can be a bit more nostalgic, reminiscent of sweetheart romance and vintage chic. The prints and wovens speak to a less hectic time in our lives... a causal, easy feel. Florals have a tendency to be slightly faded and distressed. Wovens show lots of surface interest and are time-worn. The colors are sun kissed and leans towards a softer, paler palette. The feeling conveyed is comfort, like wearing a favorite old sweater.
Town and Country
Third of the core lifestyles, Town and Country conveys opulence and stature. Regal embroideries, soft silks, and lush velvets tell the story. The palette is deep, rich, and saturated jewel tones; gold, silver and metallic also play into the color theme. The look is definitely decadent and luxe. Think damask, traditional paisley and jacobean design, pure thoroughbred.
The look of Cultural Rhythms stems from an ethnic influence. The designs are inspired by all regions of our world, a true global story. Hand-blocked motifs, tropical notes, Asian influences, and animal skins all merge in this lifestyle. The palette bends toward spicy, chili pepper reds and curry yellows with rich indigo blues punctuating the color story.
Waverly takes a new direction with Modern Essentials, a unique variety of classic motifs designed in 21st century style. The color palette ranges from saturated, bright jewel tones to crisp, warm fruit punch colors to fresh, bold aquatic hues. The designs are bold and bright, consisting of straight lines; bold, dramatic geometrics; and fun, statement florals. Each execution works within the collection as a focal point as well as a companion print.
Simplicity is the lifestyle that conjures up thoughts of tranquility – our Zen lifestyle. The feeling is natural and serene. Light and airy designs feature single leaves, branches and nature-inspired motifs. A variety of woven textures create a soft hand to the fabrics; think cotton, linen, and slubby base cloths. The palette is ethereal: neutrals and off white, accented by a whisper of blue or a pale grass green.
Why Waverly endures
Even as the Waverly people were sharing so much of their internal processes for coming up with new designs, we kept checking that we weren't divulging their trade secrets here on Sew4Home.
Wavery Creative Director, Anthony Noberini assured us there's nothing magic about their process. It's their creative people who make Waverly what it is.
"Great designers have an innate sense of what's coming to the forefront," he says. "They know what's going to be the next big thing."
The Waverly team has been able to combine a thorough knowledge of their heritage with a great sense of what's new and fresh. And that's why so many of us will be enjoying their fabrics for years to come.