We sat down with Paola, the designer behind Paola Melendez |Casa, and asked her everything you wanted to know about her process, designing during a pandemic, and the inspiration behind her new collection of fabrics: Texture Library.
What does the initial planning of a collection look like?
"The first stages of designing a new collection include a lot of pulling and grouping inspiration and ideas. I like to land on a feeling or theme, an umbrella under which I can develop a story. Since this was only our second collection, I had a good idea of where I wanted to go next and what I felt our current offerings were lacking. It is important to me that we fill in the gaps that I see in our repertoire. That way, designers can shop with us whether they are looking for a show-stopper or a pattern that blends easily into its environment, a coastal design, or a romantic floral. Our collection is still pretty small, so we have a long way to go! But this drop is a great start. The new fabrics make fabulous coordinates to our original designs while also offering our designers (and their clients) design styles we didn't have before. "
How do the designs translate from your sketchbook the the final fabric products?
"All our fabrics start as my original ink paintings. I use Indian ink to paint motifs on watercolor paper, which I then scan into my computer. I like using black ink because I can truly admire the positive and negative spaces of the design before adding other elements, like color. I go back and forth between these two steps until I have all the elements I need to start building my patterns. From there, I use Illustrator and Photoshop to assist me in putting the designs into their final scale and repeat. Once I am happy with the designs, I print them out full-scale and tape them onto our studio walls. The patterns live here for days (sometimes weeks!). I admire the designs multiple times a day, considering their scale, their application potential, and how they interact with each other and with our other fabrics. If by the end of this process I am still happy with the designs (some patterns never make it off the wall), I send them to our production partners who engrave the designs onto screens for hand printing. The final stages of creating our fabrics include: choosing grounds, approving color swatches, and sampling. Each of these steps can take anywhere from a few days to a few months."
What is it like to balance being a business and being a creative?
"It's my favorite thing in the world! I like messy days in the studio just as much as I like days of picking up the phone to reach out to potential clients or days of sitting down to analyze our business strategies or spending. I love the freedom in creating. I love the texture and smells of materials, the thrill of seeing my work in the real world. But I also love the constant creative problem-solving that running a small business requires. The editing of a collection to stay within budget, the guerilla marketing; challenges like that excite me. And it's not just about our problems. I like putting myself in the designers' shoes to see how I can make their life easier. I love being an artist! The fact that I can be a businesswoman, as well, feels like I get to have my cake and eat it too."
We have all been hearing a lot about "pivoting" during the past year. How was designing during a global pandemic different and do you find that you "pivoted" in any way as a company?
"Yes, definitely! Designing and bringing new products to market during a pandemic had its own set of challenges. First of all, I found myself looking inside for inspiration; a big contrast to our debut collection which was inspired by travel. This collection came together from memories and ideas that I had collected throughout the past few years; things I knew and loved. The other part that was very challenging was, of course, production. I had to play around with sourcing to make sure we could get the right quantities, of the right grounds, at the right time, and that our printers had availability on their schedule to make our fabric dreams come true. Without a doubt, the biggest pivot we made this year was that we began doing some of our fabric printing in-house. We realized we could successfully take on smaller jobs like printing the fabrics for our pillows to take some pressure off our printers, while also delivering with exceptional lead times to our customers. Printing in-house has been a game-changer. Not only are our customers super happy with the faster turnarounds, but it has sparked a different and exciting type of creative energy in the studio. I can feel how having a part in the printing process is making me a better designer. It has also reminded me of the huge part my passion for screenprinting had in the founding of Paola Melendez Casa and I am currently exploring that. I feel a few ideas brewing, stay tuned :) "
Talking about upcoming projects; any plans or dreams for what's next?
"So many plans and dreams! Planning and dreaming is a huge part of what I do daily. The longer I sit with the fact that my designs have been so well received and used in so many beautiful ways; the more I realize anything is possible. In terms of fabrics, I have already started working on my next collection and I am hoping to include some florals in this next group. I am also looking to lean more into the art side of things and I am currently working on a series of what I like to call "fabric paintings" that I am very excited about. Long-term, I am excited by the idea of working on full spaces and bringing my aesthetic to furniture, rooms, and construction. Maybe it starts with a little studio space/ office for our team, or a renovation/build to call home. I also see myself dabbling in hospitality and creating spaces and experiences in that realm. I'm dreaming big!"
Want to get up close and personal with our fabrics? You can now shop samples of all our collections directly from our website by creating a trade account.
All of our fabrics are made-to-order, which means we can accommodate special requests for grounds and custom colors. Email us at email@example.com to learn more about our customizing options.
To learn more about our fabric and browse the collection click here.