Now that we've been introduced to Kathleen McCoy in Behind the Design Part 1, here's her testimony about who and what inspires her, the sourcing and textures that make Bella Notte stand out as a brand, and a brief peek into what's in store for the next collection.
Q: What is your favorite part of the process of creating and introducing a new line?
I think my favorite is when all the parts come together. This doesn't always happen but when it does you just know that it’s right. I wish it was every single time...there is just a feeling you get that's beyond explanation; it’s the proportion, the color, the mood. And then seeing and hearing peoples' reactions. Generally I have found if something truly speaks to me it will speak to my customers as well.
Q: What is your main source of inspiration for fabrics, colors, styles, prints, and patterns?
Everything. I read trade magazines all the time, a real variety from all over the world, and glean styles and general feelings from those. Travel—any textiles I come across, from batiks in Bali to the simplicity of styling in Australia, the colors of Mexico.
A collage of snap shots from a recent trip to Europe for MAISON&OBJET and Heimtextil
I also go to museums quite a bit, art exhibits, textile oriented, and those are always very inspirational. The last one I saw that just blew me away was at the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. I think I saw it two or three times! He is a genius; I could have seen it time and time again.
Q: Do you have a favorite designer?
I'm not necessarily influenced by fashion design per say, I don't follow the trends very closely. But as far as interior design, I am very intrigued/influenced by Muriel Brandolini. Her use of colors and textures and layering is very inspirational.
Q: What do you do when you are feeling uninspired?
If I’m uninspired it usually happens because I need a break, I’m over saturated, burnt out, and need to take some space. When I’m on vacation I can get very inspired because I’m rested and reflective. A vacation in Hawaii each month should be mandatory!
Q: What makes Bella stand out from other brands?
I think part of it may be the fact that we source fabrics globally. I have discovered that many other lines have found a particular vendor that they like to work with so their line maintains a specific aesthetic, whether it’s from India, Portugal, China, or anywhere. In contrast because we source globally, Bella brings in a multi-cultural feeling. Yet all of our textures are able to remain cohesive because they are dyed into the same palette.Our palette range is also something that sets us apart. We have anywhere from 17 to 20 colors depending on the season. The garment-dye process helps us to achieve this tonal quality in our products; they aren't necessarily a perfect match to each other and just that slight contrast gives a little friction between the colors which I think makes them more exciting.And, just the sheer appeal of these soft, beautiful fabrics will always help us to stand out.
Kathleen inspects new fabrics
Q: How does it feel when you see other designers with a similar aesthetic?
That is always an interesting series of emotions when you see your product being copied. I think initially one feels very proprietary and taken aback that someone would blatantly copy you. But then again, it’s the fashion industry, the bedding version, and that was Design 101. I try to find a sense of adulation in it…'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' as they say. And then what it usually does is get me in gear, it lights a little fire. It inspires me to continue looking for that next design, that next great color, that next collection.
Q: Why do you put such an emphasis on local, eco-friendly, and charitable causes?
It’s part of doing business in the 21st century. And even prior to that it’s been important to us. Using non-toxic dyes has made producing consumer goods less impactful on the environment. We are making a product that uses resources, but because it utilizes a process that doesn't pollute so heavily, it is not making so much of a negative footprint. And to the best of our ability we bring in organic fabrications or products like Tencel (made from wood-pulp), which have much less impact on the environment. It just makes sense. As far as being charitable, when you’re in a business like this it doesn't feel balanced when it’s only about the profit and the gain. There is plenty to do with our scrap product so that is doesn't get thrown away. Plus we like to donate our end use product to causes that are dear to our hearts. One of our mission statements when we first developed the company was that family comes first. That translates to our donations as well. We donate to battered women’s shelters, Habitat for Humanity, Marin Food Bank, anything to do with families and aiding local community members. It makes for a more balanced company.
Q: What are you thinking of introducing throughout 2013?
We have a few colors we've been playing with, the first being a coral—but not too bright, the bright shades don’t seem to harmonize with our palette. Another possibility is a soft green—ever since we discontinued Pistachio, we have had many requests for the addition of a green into our line. We're also sampling a color we have named Ebony, a just nearly black color with a softness to it that really complements our current palette. And lastly for a classic tone, we're looking at Wedgewood Blue—a gorgeous, soothing addition that harmonizes well with the whole palette.As for prints, we’re looking to bring in a large floral and a beautiful bird Toile.
Q: What is your biggest success and biggest challenge in the industry?
I think they are basically both the same: I believe our biggest success is having mastered and refined the art of garment-dyed bedding. And our biggest challenge is marinating this difficult process and continually producing pieces that meet our high standards.
Q: Some might think you are the face of Bella, who else is a part of the creative team and how do they help with your vision?
There is a very large group of talented individuals that comprise our company—everyone here plays a vital role in our success and within the creative team, we have quite a few key players. One being our extremely talented stylist, Juliet White. She lives in England and we correspond via email while brainstorming ideas and organizing sets, then graduate to Skype during our actual photo shoot. Her ideas, use of props, color and texture combinations always push the envelope ever so slightly, constantly inspiring us and seemingly our customers as well. Our head of visual media and design assistant, Taylor, is also a contributor to this team. She is able to channel the constant flow of ideas within our company into cohesive projects, whether that means seeing out the development of a new texture or tone with me, organizing and collaborating on a photo shoot, or traveling to the design shows to aid and research and development of new collections. We also have our photographer, Jay Graham, who works with our team masterfully. He is an extremely gifted photographer who is able to take our information and designs and, in the midst of a chaotic photo shoot, truly capture the essence of Bella Notte.
Photographer Jay Graham
Our dyer, Mark, is able to problem solve and relentlessly interpret the colors that we come up with. It can sometimes take as many as 10-15 attempts, but he has the ability to meet those challenges as he is not only a technician but also an extremely creative individual.
Mark our dyer
And it’s important to mention that Bella Notte Linens wouldn't be this company without my partners, Mitchell and Bob. From the beginning, Mitchell has made what we do possible because he is the "can do guy". Bob has always been constant force, a very sound and pragmatic business man
Look for more introductions and interviews with the rest of the Bella Notte team in upcoming posts!