Founded 150 years ago, Warner Fabrics was one of the big names in British textiles, supplying everywhere from the Palace of Westminster to the White House. After a lull in fortunes, it was recently taken over by Lee and Emma Clarke, founders of textile house Clarke & Clarke, and rebranded as Warner House, an online offering full of fabulous fabrics, wallpapers, paints, furniture and more, with archive patterns re—imagined for a whole new audience. Meet Lee Clarke, Director of Warner House, who shares his vision and passion for breathing new life into this extraordinary heritage brand…
I have worked in the home textiles industry for many years. I founded my own fabric house – CLARKE & CLARKE – in 1999. I decided to sell the company in 2016, but I remained at CLARKE & CLARKE until January 2020 when I bought Warner House from Zimmer & Rhode. Alongside my wife Emma, I am working to bring Warner back to life, preserving its rich heritage whilst building a significant presence in the contemporary interiors market.
My inspirations are mainly travel and historical buildings – Warner has always been inspired by travel to far flung places and has produced some amazing exotic pieces over the years. I am also inspired mostly by travel, it is amazing to see such contrast to what we see all day long in the UK; rainforests, spice markets, vast deserts and exotic animals for example – these all spark ideas for design and colour.
I was aware of Warner Fabrics and witnessed it’s decline from a pioneer of design to virtually becoming non-existent. I always loved the Warner style. Warner has tremendous heritage and it is such a shame that this famous brand was almost extinct before I rescued it from German ownership. After selling my previous interiors business CLARKE & CLARKE, I’ve been looking for such an opportunity and Warner came along by chance, which was perfect timing.
The Warner name clearly had to stay, the House is to support the brands change from just being a fabric supplier into a lifestyle brand with multiple product categories for the home.
The re-imagining and re-colouring of Warner’s archived designs is a highly technical process that requires extremely skilled designers – we have a team of expert designers who have worked in textiles for many years and who understand the process of taking an original document and transforming it into a commercial product. We also worked with a well-known textile historian who ironically was employed by Warner Fabrics back in the day as their archivist.
Our website launched on 1st October – it was a quite a long process uploading all the designs, colourways and products onto the site. It is also highly interactive, offering the flexibility to create personal statement pieces, from bespoke curtains and blinds to hand crafted furniture in a vast choice of fabrics and trimmings. So, it took some time to get everything online. The website perfectly showcases the outstanding quality of our products and offers a stylish, user-friendly way for people to experience our exceptional interior design service.
Knotted Sash is my favourite design. It’s an absolute classic Warner print dating back to 1900. A simple, yet bold trompe l’oeil pattern which looks delicate in pink for a bedroom and bold in black for a dramatic bathroom (for example). It was once produced as a heavy glazed chintzed cotton. I just love the simplicity of the design, yet it carries so much presence.
Currently, there is a strong maximalist movement, where consumers are demanding luxury and a multi layered style. Today’s consumer is very savvy, well-travelled and informed. There is a move away from paired back styling, as this has been popular for a long time now and people want change. Consumers want to invest in quality products that last, not fast fashion. In very recent times, due to covid, there has been huge interest in the home seeing people bunker down and seek more pleasure from the home, hence the appetite for luxury interiors.
My design tips for Wildflower readers:
- Go with your gut, if you see something you love then start with this as the star piece for the space – it could be a statement wallpaper or a bold patterned fabric for curtains.
- Don’t be afraid of mixing different styles, in fact make a point of it; large scale floral patterns, ikat weaves and animal print can look glorious together.
- If you are going with a tonal coloured scheme, make sure you use different textures to create interest
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