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Brentano’s New Clearwater Collection Is Inspired by Paintings of Water

July 18, 2019

Inspired by the purity of water, Iris Wang transformed her artwork into Brentano’s new Clearwater Collection of fabrics.

The pursuit of inspiration can be elusive. At times, it escapes even the most creative types; at others, it flirts with our imagination and lingers long enough until the right moment presents itself.

For Iris Wang, founder and design director of Brentano Fabrics, the latter scenario proved true for the company’s latest launch, the Clearwater Collection.

In fact, the creative spark for Clearwater came to her years ago through multiple sources of inspiration, but the journey involved a few twists and turns along the way. Like a series of seemingly disparate rivers eventually feeding into a larger body of water, so were the people, places and events that led to Wang’s newest creation.

“I have a background in painting and fine arts, and out of all the environmental issues [we face], I’m somehow most concerned with water,” Wang explains. “Many years ago, I read an issue of National Geographic that talked about how people in India had no access to clean water, and I also have a friend whose daughter studied at MIT in their water engineering program, and her inspiration was to go to areas like that and really help them [improve water quality], and I was really impressed by that,” she recalls.

A trip to Tunisia made a strong impression on her as well, where she took in the view of the Mediterranean from atop a high cliff.

“The ocean water there—if you look at the reflection, the colors are so amazing. It’s just beyond description,” she says. Likewise, a trip to Venice with its tranquil canals and reflections off the water’s surface made an indelible mark on her. “Those scenes are buried really deep in my mind,” she says.

Then in 2014, Wang returned to Taiwan where she reconnected with a former college friend and classmate who had established himself as a successful painter. The focus of his work centered around water, rivers and natural scenery.

[Inspired by the water: Europe’s First Underwater Restaurant Open]

Visiting his studio, Wang’s interest in water was piqued again, so she asked her friend if he would produce a painting as the basis of a new design for Brentano. He agreed initially, but the timing wasn’t right, so the collaboration fizzled before it began.

Back to Fine Arts Roots

Meanwhile, Wang remained fixated on the theme of the purity of water and mulled it over. “One of the things I kept thinking was, ‘How do I express the idea of water being clear and still, cleansing and pure?’”

One day—wanting to give birth to this concept—Wang said to herself, “OK, I will paint this reflection of water that’s in my mind.”

From that point, things moved quickly. Going back to her roots in painting and referencing some photographs to help with composition, Wang put brush to canvas and went to work, often spending many late nights in Brentano’s Wheeling Studio.

The resulting pieces of art she created are unembellished interpretations of her aquatic theme that form the basis for Clearwater. “When I did the painting, it’s very literal. You can see the reflection of the water and then the reflection of the weave that’s kind of shimmery. But when you make it into a piece of fabric, certain colors are more representative of the painting while other ones are more textural,” she says.

[Read also: USGBC Opens Call for Proposals for Next Version of LEED]

While the process of abstracting an idea between two mediums like canvas and textiles can be challenging, that wasn’t the case with Clearwater.

Clearwater at a Glance

The Clearwater Collection includes 21 patterns, eight of which are indoor-outdoor, representing Brentano’s largest release of its kind to date. Six of the patterns are constructed of eco-friendly material as well.

Three notable patterns from the new collection include:

1. Fontaine

Mimicking reflections of light as it hits the water from dawn through dusk, Fontaine is an upholstery pattern that’s the heart of Brentano’s Clearwater collection. Fontaine is one of many pieces inspired by the travels of Wang’s travels.

Painted first as a watercolor, Wang worked diligently to turn her vision into a beautiful and serene fabric.

In 11 scenic colorways, Fontaine is a beautiful centerpiece for contract, hospitality and residential interiors.

2. Caspian

An edition to Brentano’s indoor/outdoor fabrics, Caspian is a fluid, inky, watercolor design that gives this thoroughly modern stripe a sense of fun and sophistication.

Woven with dependable Sunbrella yarns, this upholstery is further enhanced by its performance qualities: boasting 100,000 Double Rubs (Wyzenbeek, Wire Screen), bleach cleanable, a stain-resistant finish and with excellent lightfastness.

Offered in six brilliant and versatile colorways, the alluring waves of tones in Caspian make for a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.

3. Reed

Made with individually braided threads of 100% Solution-Dyed Polyethylene, the intricate basket weave of Reed gives texture. This indoor/outdoor upholstery has an abrasion resistance of 100,000 double rubs (Wyzenbeek, Cotton Duck) and is bleach cleanable, making for a reliable and easy-care application for a handmade look.

Available in eight colorways, Reed brings a crafted touch to interiors.

I Hear Design Podcast

Brentano Founder Shares Her Tips to Stay Creative

All designers face the pressure of creating something new—remaining relevant in an ever-changing design industry. In fact, it’s a common theme running through the showfloor here at NeoCon 2019. Iris Wang from Brentano has her own thoughts on this topic and shares her process with Christoph Trappe as well the new Clearwater Collection. 

Mill Partner Gets It Right

When it came time to convert the painting into a woven pattern, Wang says she chose a highly technical textile mill here in the U.S. that specializes in textures.

“Translating a painting into a textile design requires a really good mill who understands how to do it,” she explains. “This mill is quite amazing at interpreting patterns. Some mills are good at textures, but this mill is great at patterning. They also have constructions that enable contract performance, so it not only has a beautiful composition and color, it also met all the contract standards for wearability, pilling and colorfastness.”

Typically, she says an initial design concept might go through five or six revisions or more before the final design is signed off. Not so with Clearwater.

Wang recalls how the first version of the Fontaine pattern, the centerpiece of the collection, came back perfect. She had no changes for the mill, which in her experience has been an indicator of the most successful launches.

The pattern maker at the mill delivered the product on budget and did such an incredible job, Wang invited her to NeoCon this June to share the credit. “I told her this is as much as my work as yours because she was able to express it exactly the way I painted it,” Wang recalls. “There wasn’t that much of a difference except scale.”

Working with the mill on this collection ultimately resulted in advanced weave constructions and more additions to Brentano’s renowned eco-friendly fabrics. New performance fabrics include Lutra, an indoor/outdoor solution dyed acrylic velvet, and Triton, an all-season, indoor/outdoor ink-safe faux-leather.

At the end of the day, Wang hopes that Clearwater will be a signal to the market of Brentano’s ability to create beautiful patterns in vibrant colors and rich textures with an attention to detail that makes it standout.

“We’ve made this collection very complex; it’s very painterly, and you don’t see that a lot on the market,” she observes. “I don’t know how people will receive it, but we all love it. We’re very happy with it.”

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About the Author

Robert Nieminen | Chief Content Director

Robert Nieminen is the Chief Content Director of Architectural Products, BUILDINGS and i+s, sister publications of Smart Buildings Technology. He is an award-winning writer with more than 20 years of experience reporting on the architecture and design industry.

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