For over 30 years we’ve been the leader in handloom fabrics for the high end furnishing trade
Malabar was founded in the U.K by Peter Sterck in 1986. While running his successful furniture stores throughout London with his brother John, he came to find a passion for the textiles they were selling. In that time he struck up a friendship with an older fabric merchant who sold them a selection of 12 richly coloured handloomed cottons, which Peter took a liking to. As the man was retiring and with no family interested to take on his small fabric business, he offered it to Peter.
Peter took the journey to a remote village in the south west of India to meet the weavers; back then a small family run business. He became enamoured at the slowness of life, the poetry of hand weaving and the depth of colour that surrounded him. He quickly expanded those 12 colours into 99 rich and varied hues right at the time when England was awash in muted greys and flat chintz in dusty colours and the designers went mad for it! And thus and a company, and a reputation for colour, quality and charm was born.
Today Malabar has a world-wide reputation for its beautiful collections of unique furnishing fabrics – handloom fabrics in vibrant colours and textures, embroideries, appliqués, sheers, silks, chenilles and velvets. The scope of the fabric collections ranges from decorating basics – plain cottons in an extensive range of colours, stripes and check – to chenilles designed for robust contract use and complicated silk jacquards with large repeats, ideal for big design statements.
Malabar is well known for its vibrant hand loomed cottons in plains, checks and stripes and has remained faithful to them through the years. All new launches and ranges are made up of or complemented by these beautiful fabrics. Each fabric is individual to itself as a result of the techniques used in its production and a major part of the charm and beauty of the product lies in the irregularity of the weave and of the pattern repeats.
Malabar has been using cotton from the Kerala region of India since it began nearly 30 years ago. Handloom cotton from the tropical monsoon lands of South India is produced in the most traditional of ways. It is dyed by hand using the most stable vat dyes available to the region and the high quality of the dyeing is attributed to the region receiving the brunt of the monsoon rains. The cotton is then woven on hand looms by some of the most skilled weavers in India, without the use of machines, using time-honoured techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation. Malabar cotton hand loom fabrics are sourced from small co-operatives which are run ethically and provide vital support for the small communities and villages where the mills are located.
Malabar passionately values the ancient traditions of those involved in the making of these unique and socially accountable fabrics. We share in the pride of the craftsmen who know that they alone are responsible for the look, feel and beauty of a fabric made by their own hands.
Malabar first introduced silks to its ranges as a natural complement to the colourful handloom cotton collections. With ranges spanning slubby natural silks, versatile curtain and heavy weight silk plains, complicated jacquards and delicately embroidered silks, Malabar offers an extensive choice in this ancient, beautiful and lustrous yarn. All are designed to work alongside corresponding cottons and Paintworks colours by Malabar.
All Malabar’s silks come from India where there is a centuries-old tradition of sericulture (the cultivation and production of silk yarn) and silk weaving. Sericulture is an eco-friendly form of yarn production, which uses low land holding but produces good revenues. In India 60% of those working in sericulture – from the mulberry garden management and leaf harvesting to silkworm rearing – are women, providing valuable employment in rural areas. Less than an acre of mulberry garden and silkworm rearing can support a family of three without hiring labour. Most of Malabar’s silk is cultivated using the mulberry silk worm, the most popular species used for commercial silk production today.
Silk weaving is concentrated mostly in the Karnataka area of the country, centred around Bangalore in western India, although handloom silk production of collections such as Gisha and Kuki is in the north east. Twenty-first century technology in the shape of the power loom is used to weave the more sophisticated fabrics in Malabar’s collections such as the giant-scale exotic floral jacquard design ‘Zanzibar’ and the exuberantly coloured ‘Zari’ collection which embodies the spirit of India, warp and weft.
As a natural progression to complement our plains and stripes we introduced embroideries. Taking cues from the organic shapes of nature, we work with the most skilled hands in this field. Often taking our handloomed cotton base cloth and innovating with embroidery machines or, talented hand embroideries. It is the design itself which dictates the technique.
Experimenting with texture and effect, we’ve been known to blend applique and embroidery, weaving colour and form together in unexpected ways.
DECORATING GREEN’ – ECOLOGICALLY-FRIENDLY FABRICS FROM MALABAR
While hand loom weaving is by its very nature ecologically friendly, the cultivation of yarns for cloth production itself throws down other challenges to fabric manufacturers, including Malabar. World cotton cultivation in particular uses a vast amount of pesticide and fertilisers at present and there is just not enough cotton being grown without these. While organic fabrics for clothing are quite well-established in the fashion industry, so far Malabar is one of the few companies to pioneer its use in home furnishings. We have taken small steps toward making our production more environmentally friendly by introducing a 100% collection of plain cotton called Timba.
Timba is a versatile collection curtain-weight plain cottons in a selection of 65 essential colours. Yarn dyed to ensure the distinctive vibrancy for which Malabar fabrics are known the world over, Timba carries all the subtle changes in weave which mark out craftsman-made fabrics and which give the fabric its liveliness. It is destined to become one of Malabar’s best basic plains.
We are striving to produce yet more eco-friendly furnishing fabrics. It will take time before we can produce all our collections in organic yarns, but we are looking to introduce more pesticide and fertiliser free fabrics such as organic cottons and bamboo fibres.