Lumière de Lune - the fabric products of Matlock designer Susanna Davis
PUBLISHED: 00:00 22 October 2019
Catherine Roth meets local designer and entrepreneur Susanna Davis whose products accentuate the beauty of a natural fabric.
Susanna Davis designs and sources unique and bespoke linen products from Latvia and Lithuania. Describing her products as lifestyle linen, they are a combination of casual chic and smart boho.
Her products are bought by customers across the UK and abroad but she has recently opened her brand new showroom Lumière de Lune in Matlock, bringing her creations to the heart of the Derbyshire Dales.
Susanna, who lives in Cromford, has been working with Baltic linen products for 18 years. However, it wasn't until she was represented by Tissus d'Hélène, a boutique London showroom specialising in artisan fabrics and wallpapers, that her business really began to grow and she now sells linen fabric by the metre to interior designers and architects. Susanna also exhibits her separate finished product range at the 'Maison & Objet' show in Paris twice a year, which attracts buyers from all over the world.
Beginning with simple placemats and tablecloths, Susanna's collection now extends to artist tunics, shawls, kimono gowns, pyjamas, cushions and towels. Although her products appear in selected shops in the UK and abroad, the thought of opening her own showroom never occurred to her - that is until a friend suggested the idea to her one day and she thought to herself 'Why not?' She adds, 'I don't believe in set plans. A lot of things that happen are random so instead I have a vision and know what I aspire to but am open to what presents itself.
'A lot of what I've achieved has been in response to a situation whereas if I'd had a fixed plan I might not have done it.'
It is this same philosophy that first introduced Susanna to the world of linen fabrics. She had no plans to work with linen but whilst studying for a Masters in Business, following a career teaching modern languages and then five years with Laura Ashley where she trained on the shop floor and in management, a fellow student invited her to travel with him to the Baltic countries.
Susanna says, 'I was entranced by the people there who live quite close to nature.' In Latvia she discovered the country's long association with hand-weaving. 'When I first saw the linen that was produced - the lustre and quality of the work - I thought, "There must be some way I can get this noticed?" I had no huge aspirations at the time, the linen was just very beautiful and I knew I could do something with it.'
Working with the fabric, her knowledge and love of linen quickly grew. She says, 'For it to come from muddy fields in France and Belgium where the flax is grown and be turned into cloth of such lustre is quite enchanting. The more I learn about its production and how the flax fibre absorbs colour differently to cotton and manmade fibres is quite lovely.'
As a fabric, linen has many benefits, as Susanna explains: 'It's a little bit like silk but not as glamorous! The fabric breathes so it's very good for your skin and balances body heat quite well - in summer it's cool and in winter it's warm. It's a very tactile fibre that has a strength and durability about it and a softness once it's been washed. Linen towels are amazingly absorbent and exfoliating and, because of their more open weave, they dry incredibly quickly.'
A factory in Lithuania processes the raw flax fibres into yarn, which it spins and dyes before weaving into fabric on machine looms. Some of the yarn is bought by a weaving studio in Latvia where it is handwoven into fabric using 100-year-old wooden looms. Susanna says, 'Linen that is machine loomed is more versatile and can come in different thicknesses whereas hand-loomed linen is more specialised and takes a lot longer to produce.' It is these two small suppliers that Susanna works with to produce all her items.
Susanna returns to Latvia and Lithuania twice each year when she visits both the weaving studio and the factory to discuss - in Russian - her new designs, including colour choices and weighting of cloth. Susanna's designs are classic contemporary, finding inspiration from the world around her whether it is in architecture, nature or books. She says, 'I will see something and reinterpret it, adding my own colour palette. I want things to be enduring but relevant and modern.'
Susanna usually begins her day with Darjeeling tea infused with honey, ginger and lemon to relax her mind before planning and prioritising what needs to be done that day. Then, using her knowledge of languages, she pores over the world news as reported in different countries. After that it's time to fulfil orders - cutting fabrics, packing and dispatching, or opening her shop for the day. She says, 'Planning and thinking time gives a better work-life balance and I work more effectively rather than diving straight into something and having to redo it. Because there is so much rushing in the world I try to do things slowly.'
This sense of calm is evident in Susanna's shop in Matlock, the interior of which she has designed with as much love and thought as goes into her linen products. Susanna says, 'The shop is called "Lumière de Lune" to signify the lustre of linen used from earliest Egyptian times and in mediaeval France, where the term was first coined, as linen's lustre seemed to glow like moonlight.'
Likening linen to treasure is just how Susanna regards it too. Having fallen in love with this versatile fabric she hopes more people will discover its simple beauty.
'Lumière de Lune' on Dale Road, Matlock, is open from Thursday to Sunday, 11am-5.30pm. For further details visit: susannadavis.co.uk