Exploring Creative Minds: A Conversation with Stephen Elrod and Saana Baker on the Intricacies of the Textile Design Process

Photos by Katelyn Tucker for Nikki Richter Photography

Stephen Elrod, the Executive Vice President and Creative Director of Lee Jofa and Brunschwig & Fils, and Saana Baker, the visionary behind The Textile Eye, examined the intricacies of design and textiles at the Kravet showroom during the San Francisco Design Center’s Spring Market. Their conversation illuminated the profound thought, inspiration, and meticulous craftsmanship that lie behind every aesthetic creation. From the inception of an idea to its manifestation in the tangible world, Elrod and Baker unveiled the secrets behind designing a textile collection. Lee Jofa and Brunschwig & Fils both churn out approximately 10 collections annually, each comprising an extensive array of roughly 40 SKUs.

“Part of our process is picking a design and figuring out what we’re going to do with it,” says Elrod. “In our archive, we have this beautiful 19th century Chinese robe showcasing dragons and floral bouquets. We were looking to do a dragon design, so we isolated the patterning out of the robe and engaged a New York textile designer to paint the design, which is a multi-step process. We then decide how and where we are going to print it and how it is going to be rendered. It takes about a year-and-a-half to two years from initial conception to market.” 

In order to demonstrate the evolution process of a design, the duo compared two images: an archival print and the final reintroduced print. The archival print serves as a starting point, showcasing the initial concept of the design. The final reintroduced print reflects the creative decisions, iterations, and adjustments made to enhance the design and suited for today’s interior designer.

Elrod and Baker also explored Brunschwig & Fils’ newest collection, Celeste, focusing on the Cosmique Print, a toile showcasing a variety of astrological figures, that ignited the series. 

“Brunschwig & Fils has always had a history of doing eclectic things,” says Elrod of Celeste. “The palette is very different, dramatic, and rich.”

As they wrapped up the conversation on Brunschwig & Fils, they delved into the topic of licensing in the design world, particularly in relation to the upcoming collection, Les Ensembliers, set to launch later in the year.  This will be the third collection Brunschwig & Fils has done with the Canada-based design firm. Les Ensembliers presented storyboards to the design team in order to get their vision across. The result: a beautiful collection of printed and woven fabrics for  indoor/outdoor use. 

“We’re very much reliant on them bringing their vision to us,” says Elrod of licensing partnerships. “Les Ensembliers wanted to do an outdoor collection, which we have not done a lot of outdoor textiles for Brunschwig, so it was a great proposition.” 

The pair also discussed Lee Jofa’s eagerly anticipated collection, Garden Walk, highlighting the extensive planning and attention to detail that shaped its development. 

As the conversation drew to a close, Baker raised an intriguing question regarding the merits of digital printing versus rotary printing. 

“We do a lot of printing now digitally,” says Elrod. “But we still do the hand screening and handblock. As the market has changed and production has changed, we primarily do digital printing for fabrics and wallcoverings. It’s a much more involved process than people think, and all of our best mills are using the technology.”

For more design inspiration, check out The Textile Eye by Saana Baker. Offering invaluable insights and trend forecasts, the comprehensive report empowers companies and designers to shape the future of textile innovation.