Lindsey Hesketh, co-founder of ABN7 Architects, and interior designer Claire Canning – who previously used Clippings to furnish a high-end office in Aberdeen – launched their textiles label Granite + Smoke last year. Named referencing their home cities Aberdeen (The Granite City) and London (The Big Smoke), we’re not surprised it quickly gained traction with the industry and press. The duo’s colourful, geometric designs referencing architectural features feel bold, modern and joyful.
Intent on supporting British craftsmanship and sourcing sustainable materials, Lindsey and Claire put an incredible effort into the design and finding the right manufacturers in Scotland and England.
We caught up with the two to talk about their creative influences, finding sustainable yarns, embracing local craftsmanship and the challenges of starting a new homewares label from scratch.
Architecture has a substantial influence on your designs. How did you translate building features into abstract patterns?
We are inspired by form, structure, repetition, geometry and scale, but we’re not translating these literally into patterns. In the creative process of pattern, print and mark making, we explore similar rhythms to evolve our work.
Who and what has inspired the vibrant colours?
We are both interested in modernism and the Bauhaus movement, looking at artists and designers like Anni and Joseph Albers, architect Le Corbusier as well as Charles & Ray Eames. Similarly, like many designers over recent years, The Memphis group from the 80s has influenced our preference for an optimistic palette and bold graphic designs, from architect Ettore Sottsass to designer Nathalie Du Pasquier. We’re also very much inspired by contemporary artists and designers such as Yinka Iloria, Patricia Urquiola, Peter Haley, Bridgett Riley, David Hockney, Hella Jongerius… – the list goes on!
What did you learn about sustainable materials when choosing materials for the collection?
It was a huge learning curve for us, figuring out how we could manufacture our products in a truly sustainable way. There is so much greenwashing out there, so we took time to visit our factories and research our yarn and supplier accreditations.
Our recycled wool yarns are made with 100% recycled post-consumer textile waste from the fashion industry, with a mix of 70% recycled wool and 30% recycled other yarns. During the development of our recycled wool blankets, our yarn supplier told us we could no longer use some shades of red: they discovered that, when breaking down, these old red garments emit a level of toxin that didn’t pass accreditation, so they were discontinued. We then had to spend time changing our designs with a lot of red in them!
Our lambswool and cashmere yarns are also accredited and traceable, completely natural and renewable, ethically sourced and certified to meet the highest standards of animal welfare, environmental care, and social sustainability.
How did you find the right manufacturing partner?
Both our factories have positive social and environmental principles – a major draw for us. We also really wanted to work with British manufacturers who support and celebrate local communities, heritage skills and worker well-being.
Britain has a rich history of textiles and weaving and we wanted to help preserve that. Working with historical weaving experts, who use traditional and modern techniques, allowed us to develop ideas in close collaboration with textile specialists. That led to an experimental, innovative approach, allowing us to realise a unique and sustainable collection.
What were the biggest challenges for the weavers during the prototyping phase?
One of our textile designs called ‘Dash' was inspired by the overlapping windows and fenestration on the exterior of The Belfron Tower, an iconic brutalist building in London. Even though the ‘Dash’ pattern looks simple, it was hard to work out how to translate the overlapping details on both sides of the cloth. In the end, we dropped the overlap as it wasn’t easily achieved without losing other essential qualities – the end result looks great. Weaving production minimums are always restrictive and costly, so working closely with our mills limited these restrictions and allowed for a more experimental design and manufacturing process.
What methods are used to dye the yarns?
Our recycled wool yarns are actually dye-free, as they’re made from post-consumer textile waste from the fashion industry. Used wool garments are sorted by colour, broken down and re-spun into yarns with subtle colour variabilities, then woven and finished using traditional techniques. This wool is finished and felted, creating a smooth, soft surface.
Our lambswool and cashmere yarns are dyed with non-toxic dyes and are 100% natural, renewable and biodegradable. They are ethically sourced and certified to meet the highest standards of animal welfare, environmental care, and social sustainability.
How would you describe the touch and feel of your products?
Our lambswool-cashmere throws are luxurious and soft. They are a mid-weight throw woven using contrasting yarn weights and thickness to create a soft yet graphic irregularity. A specialist double-sided weave technique creates depth and gives the fabric a three-dimensional quality, as though it was hand quilted. Our recycled wool throws have a smooth, dense handle with a felted feel; perfect for keeping cosy under on the sofa or as a bedspread for extra warmth.
There is a joyful, uplifting energy to your designs. Do you find many contemporary interiors lack colour?
We’re so glad you said that! There is a great community of colourful, joyful designers and clients out there that our work has resonated with, and they have supported us on our design journey. We respect and admire a minimal, neutral aesthetic though it’s not something we aspire to in our designs.
What was the biggest challenge setting up your business – and what was surprisingly easy?
The biggest challenge is juggling all the elements of running your own business and doing it ourselves. We wear many hats and have learnt new skills from building websites to marketing and PR, cash flow and cost forecasting to VAT & wholesale. We’re both trained designers and more comfortable in those roles: we share an aesthetic and values, so it’s always easy for us to design together and know what we do and don’t like.