MILIEU HAD THE PLEASURE OF VISITING WITH THE NOTED AND PROLIFIC TEXTILE DESIGNER ALICE SERGEANT. HER NEW FABRIC AND WALLPAPER LINES REFLECT HER HERITAGE, HER WORLD TRAVELS, HER LOVE OF ALL THINGS FRENCH, AND HER BACKGROUND IN FASHION.
NOT ONLY ARE WE EXCITED TO SHARE WITH YOU ALICE’S COLLECTION, BUT ALSO OUR CONVERSATION ABOUT HER CREATIVE PROCESS AND WHAT INSPIRES HER DESIGNS.
Alice, tell us about your travels and your Lebanese heritage and how they have helped shape your success in the textile industry.
After my father’s village in Damour, Lebanon, was destroyed in the 70s, my extended family moved to France. My father, however, had already been in the United States at that point, and decided to stay.
When I was eleven years old, my father took me to France to visit my Lebanese uncle, aunt, and cousins. I stayed in Paris for some time and fell in love with everything French. The fashion, the architecture, and the language were what particularly impacted me at that time. From my first visit onwards, I would go to France during the summers. Having a Lebanese cultural background with the French influence was what shaped my early interest in language, culture, and design. One of the highlights of visiting France was taking in what was happening in fashion in Paris. I used to love looking at fashion magazines at an early age and I remember shopping in Paris and finding the Elle magazine clothing shop and thinking it was so amazing.
Lives weren’t as global 30 years ago, and a new country seemed so exotic to me.
What inspires your collections and how often do you launch a new collection?
My collections are usually inspired by a trip that I have taken. I visited Lebanon three years ago for the first time with my father, and the Ottoman architecture and palace of Beiteddine were truly spectacular. The mosaic tiles, inlay furniture, and beautiful arcades were truly inspiring for pattern. I love old architecture and textiles and am always searching for unusual motifs to bring into my textile designs.
Typically, I launch new patterns twice a year.
Your color choices are particularly beautiful. What influences or informs them?
When choosing color, I act on my intuition as to what colors work cohesively and complement my patterns. There isn’t a formula. I just experiment with color and the final selections are purely based on if I love the combination and if it works with the pattern. I am drawn to warmer color stories and have been trying to expand into the cooler colors to diversify my collection.
I always have a pink color story and a blue color story in my patterns.
Any points of interest with regards to production process and how they support local crafts/trades? Where are your fabrics and wall coverings made?
I like to keep things simple with production. I try to use just a few European ground cloths whose textures and weight I like. All of my fabrics and wallpapers are printed in the United States and are mostly hand screen-printed. Several of the patterns are rotary printed. Having my fabrics produced in the U.S. is crucial to me. Quality and consistency can be closely monitored and are of the utmost importance to me.
How has your experience in fashion design affected your textile design and creative process?
It has had a profound impact on my company in general and has given me the experience to know how to manufacture something from start to finish.
I have worked in small fashion companies as well as large, commercial companies and have seen how things are created in close detail.
I studied fashion design at Parsons in Paris and FIT in New York. I worked and interned at very small boutique fashion brands while living in New York after fashion school.
My early experience included visiting antique embroidery archives and seeing the antique embroideries become patterns used in the clothing collections. I also worked with creating color stories for custom woolens and I hand sketched and traced patterns that later become silks used in my collections. I also designed the silhouettes of the clothing collections. My experience as a fashion designer has always involved creating color stories and working with and selecting patterns seasonally for clothing.
Textile design is, in a way, much simpler because you eliminate having to design new clothing styles each season in addition to new color stories and fabrications.
Any words of wisdom that might inspire others eager to launch a concept?
My advice for creatives would be to follow your dreams and passions. I firmly believe that if you are passionate about an idea, you must pursue your goals so that you don’t have any regrets in the future. I have always lived by these ideals and they have served me well. My career has built upon itself over the last twenty years and launching a textile collection was a natural progression after working in fashion and then interior design.
Visit alicesergeant.com to see her collection and to learn more
PRODUCED BY SHANNON BOWERS, MILIEU EDITOR-AT-LARGE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY EMILY KENNEDY