Chilewich brings depth to surfaces. Reimagining the potential of extruded yarns, New York designer Sandy Chilewich first introduced her woven textiles to the international design community in 2000. Today this internationally recognized, family-owned company’s unique coverings for tabletops, floors, walls, and windows continue to push the boundaries of both form and function. Designed and made almost entirely in the United States, the ever-evolving collections of Chilewich combine innovative weaves and distinctive color combinations with the extraordinary durability and easy maintenance that makes their goods so great!
As founder and creative director of Chilewich, what's your day-to-day like?
In the beginning, my job required me to do everything and think of every detail. As our company has grown, we’ve been able to build a team of very talented and accomplished people who help us run things. At this point, much of my day is spent in meetings with these various division heads. I also always make time for dreaming about products, playing with materials, and developing ideas to expand our product assortments and our brand.
Let's talk product development. How do you approach creating new color palettes and weaves?
I have a very creative design team in place. They are all much more classically trained than I am. While I am creative, I never went to art school. I am in and out of the studio constantly throughout the day — looking, admiring, consulting, and sometimes questioning and challenging.
How do you feel about mistakes, and what is your editing process?
Our design team, which has grown to five full-time people, is creating so many beautiful products to choose from. Editing gets harder. These are not simply aesthetic choices (wouldn’t that be easy!). We make artful products, but we are not making art! We have many decisions to make in order to sustain—and grow--our business. These include costing and pricing and production challenges for mass production. We are always trying to balance art and commerce with as little aesthetic compromise as possible.
You have created a novelty looming and manufacturing process using Plynyl, TerraStrand, BioFelt, GreenGuard, and Microban in textile design. Can you tell us more about your specific materials – how and why they define Chilewich?
I have often been quoted saying, “Making something beautiful is easy. Making something beautiful as well as functional and affordable is the challenge.” We are on a continuous quest—with my husband and partner, Joe Sultan, at the helm—to make textiles that truly solve problems in our daily lives, at home and at work. Durability and ease of maintenance, all done in the greenest way possible, are core values for us, and this requires ongoing research and experimentation.
A little bird told us that you love to collect jewelry. Any favorite pieces or designers?
That little bird wasn’t telling the whole truth! The fact is I love collecting all kinds of small objects. Whether old or new, each one is unique in one way or another. What attracts me to them is often a textural quality, or a material or color that is hard to pinpoint and define. But my favorite jewelry designer right now is Judy Gelb.
Your design studio and retail storefront are both based in relatively close proximity in lower Manhattan. What is it about the neighborhood that appeals to you?
We moved into our new studio and headquarters in the Flatiron District about a year ago. In contrast to 32nd Street, where we were for so many years, this location is much more vibrant, with more retail, food, and ambience in easy walking distance. And any place closer to downtown just feels better! Another advantage is that it’s just a couple of blocks from the Chilewich Store, on 20th Street.
What’s the best gift you ever received?
My husband, Joe, created a tiny collage for me that he put into an antique velvet frame. I keep it in my office.
In what ways are you pushing yourself and Chilewich in 2019?
Just do better and be nicer.