An interview with KOTHEA’s founder

Notting Hill Carnival 2007 (London, UK)
Notting Hill Carnival 2007 (London, UK) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

London based Lisa Parsons supplies fabrics to the hippest and most exclusive UK designers. The founder of KOTHEA, her Spring2011 collection-in-progress is about to take Velvet to a new level of opulence.

With no time to think I would paint my walls withKelly Hoppen’s “Perfect Taupe”. Her colours are fantastic and, in this case, it does what it says on the tin.

My favourite piece of furniture is … an old chair I picked up in a local junk shop and I had it recovered in one of my fabrics; LeapFrog.

The car’s almost full in that small space I would pack … The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, I’ve just started it and a spot of holiday reading beckons.

Guests to my house are intrigued by … this bizarre surveying tool I have in the corner of my lounge. It’s a measuring stick used with a theodolite and it adds a bit of height and interest to a corner of my room. It also detracts from a piece of my husband’s artwork which, although good, I have to compromise on putting on show from time-to-time.

I am … passionate about my fabrics and design; I am always inspired by many of today’s amazing yacht interiors, Terence Disdale is fantastic.  I would love to be in a position to commission him.

The hardest thing about work is … keeping my beautiful fabrics at home clean whilst having three children and their 30 sticky fingers. Gulp.

In my spare time … I just said I have had a third child; what spare time! I do love yoga though, with headstands being my forte. I have also designed and made many pieces of jewellery. Chris Farrow made this one up to my design, it has 3 rotating rings with a semi-precious stone on which rotate around a larger holding ring also with a set stone.

The trendiest colour is … hmm, trendy. Difficult one, KOTHEA operates at the top end of the market and I would have to say that the desirable colours there have varied little over the last ten to 15 years. Lower down the market it is different.

My favourite designers are … well I’ve mentioned a few already. I would certainly look at Gotham (Notting Hill) for furniture. John Hutton did amazing chairs and I was privileged enough to sell a few when I worked at Donghia in the 90s. Nick & Christian the famous Candy brothers have done some amazing things just look at One Hyde Park.

The best technology is … I suppose I should say Apple but I love my Blackberry as it helps me stay in touch with everyone and everything.

The most iconic British designer is … without a doubt, Terence Conran. His massive influence has probably been understated.

A plug for your company?…We mostly deal with the very top interior designers; not all of them but many of them. That’s the market we are in and intend to stay in. We know it pretty well and we like to think our fabrics meet their needs. A case-in-point is our new velvet collection. Opulent Cashmere and Italian Silk velvet.

Most interesting use of your products? … Some of the yachts they are specified on are pretty interesting! We’ve supplied some pretty interesting pop stars and celebrities (if you are into that sort of thing). One interesting client came through a Mayfair yacht broker and temporarily wanted his ‘fishing boat’ fitted out wall-to-wall with faux leather. All I can say is that it must have been a pretty large fishing boat and certainly not what I had in mind when I think about fishing boats!

Upholstery Linen – Sourcing Luxury Upholstery Linen in the UK

Upholstery Linen
Upholstery Linen

Upholstery Linen is notoriously difficult for interior designers to source. Sourcing linens for curtains is easy enough but often linens are not woven with sufficient strength to score Martindale results that are high enough to warrant using the fabric for upholstery.

Some suppliers can be a little evasive and will quote the weight of the linen as a measure of the linen’s quality. The implicaiton being that the higher the weight the better suited the fabric will be for upholstery. There is some thuth in that implication but you cannot say for certain that a high weight linen is inherently suitable for upholstery. Get the Martindale!

Most KOTHEA luxury upholstery linens have inherent Martindale rub tests of around 20,000 rubs with one range further strengthened to 85,000 rubs for contract usage – 20,000 Martindale being eminently suitable for domestic upholstery.

Furthermore when buying upholstery- (or curtain-) linen you need to know whether or not it will shrink when washed. Linen ALWAYS shrinks. So what you have to find out is whether or not it has been pre-shrunk before you buy it. A common way of pre-shrinking linen is through the sanforisation process.

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Here are the details of our new 2011 upholstery linens that are named Recline, Relax and Restful. We have many others, these are just the new ones:

Name: Recline

Usage: Luxury Contract Upholstery

Colourways: 24

Width:   135cm

Comp:  54% Li 35% Co 11% Pa

Weight: >350g/m2

Notes:   Martindale >85,000

Request Samples

Name: Relax

Usage: Luxury Domestic Upholstery

Colourways: 24

Width:  135cm

Comp: 100% Li

Weight: >265 g/m2

Notes:   Martindale >15,000

Request Samples

Name: Restful

Usage: Heavyweight Luxury Domestic Upholstery

Colourways: 4

Width:  135cm

Comp: 100% Li

Weight: >470 g/m2

Notes:   Martindale >45,000

Request Samples

Fabric Abbreviations, Material Composition On Textile Labels For Interior Designers

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Fabric labels often have abbreviations and some of these generally accepted abbreviations are for non-English words. So here is a handy little reference chart for all you interior designers out there showing what all those pesky abbreviations mean. Please comment if any are missing.

Also reference here is a list of fabric qualities and what they are (eg boucle, chenille, chintz, crepe)

WO – Wool (Sheep by default)

WV – Virgin Fleece Wool

WP – Alpaca Wool

WL – Lama Wool

WS – Cashmere Goat a.k.a. Kaschmir and Cachemire and (incorrectly) Kashmir

WM – Mohair (Goat) Wool

SE – Silk / Seide

CO – Cotton / Baumwolle

LI – Flax / Linen

HA – Hemp / Hanf

CV – Viscose

CMD – Modal

CLY – Lyocell

PA – Nylon / Polyamid

PES – Polyester

PUR – Polyurethane

EL – Elastane aka spandex

ME – Metallic

AF – Other Fibers

Some Italian Translations and Abbreviations:

WP – can also mean baby alpaca Wool

VI – also means viscose

WK – camel hair wool

WA – angora wool

PBT -polyester

EA – elastane

PC – acrylic

PM – polyester

For more information on luxury cashmere throws or to request cuttings please visit  For black faux leather upholstery fabrics try <here> and for mohair velvet and mohair velvet upholstery fabric please follow the links.  Upholstery Linen is also one of our specialities as are luxury  silk velvet  fabrics.

New images on the KOTHEA web site.

Perhaps not the most exciting news you will read today I know! We have been aware for a few months that our web site images needed to improve. We re-used the same images again and again. So we have finally acquired a new image for just about every page, all reflecting the product we offer in the relevent area! Well, at least you can sleep soundly tonight knowing that we are happy. I joke of course.

Coming from the designer/producer/supplier of fabrics angle makes it a little tricky for us. We do not feel it is our job to stage our fabrics on a photo set in a room of our liking. We are not the interior designers, that’s your job! We may see one of our fabrics in a certain way – for example I always associate our faux leathers with bar stools (misspent youth). However you may well see many other angles: wall covering, cushions and so on. So we try not to second-guess you. the interior designer. So, our challenge is to show some of the fine detail of our products without you being able to either see it in 3D yourself or feel it. Tricky. Have a look.

Anyway, we hope you enjoy the photos (along with the parts of the new collections on flickr) and any comments will be greatly appreciated.

KOTHEA 2010 Fabric Collections

Finally! Our summer collections have been decided and we will begin to introduce the new designs and colourways throughout the remainder of this year. We have been inundated with new work in the first part of this year causing our blog posts to be curtailed and our ‘spring’ collection to nearly be an autumn/fall collection. Not that we really do seasonal collections in any case.

I will return later in another post to KOTHEA’s awesome sales figures for the financial year just finished. Most surprising, especially considering we are in the midst of a recession. We had our best ever year and by quite a large margin.

We expect some coverage of the new collections in World of Interiors and Elle decoration but, again, more on that at another time.

Where can you see our collections? Well, we are as elusive as ever but we are starting to digitize some images to our flickr feed (click the images on the right or here). The flickr update is ongoing, there is information on flickr now but some of the images are not final and some images do not have full associated descriptions / product details but we are woking on that this week. Our usual clients will receive the new collections in due course starting in late summer; if you need them more urgently for pressing projects of course we will be happy to oblige. Please get in contact in the usual way.

Not all are in production yet but most sampling is available now.

As a very broad summary we have:

1. New colours of several existing ranges including faux leather;

2. More velvets including patterned and crush;

3. Striped, double-width linens;

4. Upholstery weight linen; and

5. A few more interesting one-off designs in limited colourways like the one heading up this blog post.

What is UK FR treatment BS7176 BS5852 Crib Test?

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Summary: Broad Answer – it is a watersoak plus ‘normal crib 5’ plus cigarette test plus match test. Now read on for the detail.

For contract upholstery fabric in the UK your fabric normally needs to be treated to pass BS 5852 Part 2: 1990: Source 5 (Crib 5). So when you are getting a fabric treated you should ask for it to be treated to that standard. As a designer that is all you should normally have to do.

Now, you have to get the treatment undertaken at a UKAS accredited company. That means they will do it properly. There are a variety of ways of treating fabrics to meet the standard. You don’t need to know them all, that is the job of the treatment house. Just tell them what standard it needs to achieve AND that you will be getting it tested independently afterwards (that encourages them to do it properly). For safety also say that the fabric will be subject to a watersoak (more of that in a minute).

The reason for doing this is that some older treatment methods are ‘legal’ within the BS but they can fail the test. This is because the treatments can contain phosphorous based chemicals that wash out. And the problem with that is that, if a fabric is not inherently fire retardant, then part of the test will involve it being soaked in water. Hence all the hard work put into the treatment is washed away and the test may well be failed.

Some treatment houses do not have some of the more expensive machinery required to undertake some of the treatments. They just immerse in a fire retardant bath of chemicals.

As part of the treatment some treatment companies will also carry out an indicative test. You should get a certificate to confirm this after treatment. This means that essentially your fabric should pass the crib test. But the crib test itself has not been carried out as that takes a while.

You probably need to check with your client/fire officer if they are happy with this indicative test or if they want to pay the extra to have the full crib 5 test done with the time delays that involves.

It’s a fire regulation. You have to do this properly and take it seriously, you would be surprised that several companies do not and the repercussions of not doing it are great indeed.

In summary then and as a minimum you should:

1. Ensure you are dealing with a UKAS accredited treatment company.

2. Say “Please treat this fabric to pass BS 5852 Part 2: 1990: Source 5 (Crib 5)”

3. Say “It will be watersoaked and tested afterwards.

4. Say “Please perform an indicative test at the end of the treatment and give me a certificate of treatment”

Simple enough?

Well, actually no. What I have said above stands as generally true. Most of the UK fabric companies and designers work with Crib 5. However there is a slightly higher level of testing and certification called BS7176:1995. Strictly speaking I would say that everyone should use this standard…but they don’t.

When would you use this? When a bit more certainty is required. The BS7176:1995 test includes the Crib 5 test and also a cigarette and match test and also a watersoak. When specifying the test you would need to say how the fabric will be used e.g. in a hotel, in a prison, in a restaurant, in a hospital, offshore installation, and so on. These types of end-usage environments determine the HAZARD CATEGORY of the test that is undertaken. Additionally you will need to specify the EXACT upholstery foam that will be used in the installation, so the test will mimic the final end-use environment as much as possible.

So do you ask for your fabric to be treated to BS7176:1995 Medium Hazard? Well you can, it won’t hurt. But the treatment will be the same as for Crib 5. Some of the UK fabric treatments houses that we spoke to have not heard of this British Standard, which was surprising.

So really it is ‘simple enough’ as far as the treatment goes. Treat to Crib 5.

Testing is more complicated. Essentially you are getting the fabric tested to ensure it will work in a specific situation YOUR SPECIFIC PROJECT’s SITUATION – as we’ve already said the treatment is the same as for Crib 5.  If you are in a complex environment you should get an expert involved. My understanding also is that if you are planning to sell furniture to the contract market then achieving a BS7176 pass will allow you to label your product as being suitable for certain environments.

Faux Leather Skin – Heavy Contract Upholstery Walling

LONDON, England. 07-DECEMBER-2009 11.30 AM: KOTHEA today announced it has expanded its extensive contract faux skin collections by the addition of KOFAUXLEATHER. KOFAUXLEATHER is a high durability, faux leather: a superb contract fabric with a very high Martindale result. It simply and effortlessly delivers longstanding elegance in all the right bars, hotels and marine environments both as upholstery and as a wall or door covering. It looks great.


Reference: 04-003-378

Colour Shown: Marle

Other colourways: 18

Width: 140cm

Repeat: none

Composition: 100% Cotton basecloth, 94% vinyl 6% polyester coat.

Martindale: 100,000++

Primary Usage: Heavy contract upholstery and walling.

Type of fabric: Faux Leather / Faux Skin


KOTHEA are a Continue reading “Faux Leather Skin – Heavy Contract Upholstery Walling”

7 Marketing Strategies for Interior Designers

Photo Credit: McVitty

Interior Designers need to understand their whole marketing strategy and how each of its 7 constituent tactics work together to grow the business.

This article is a checklist. Go through each of the points I’ve listed and apply it to your sales and marketing in your business. My opinion on what are particularly important marketing communications for interior designers are highlighted in bold and might differ if you target business rather than the public. Let me know your thoughts: The checklist contains links to other resources and there are further articles referred to at the end of this article.

1. Search Marketing – Get your prospect at the time of their decision-making.

2. Online PR – Create Awareness of your brand by getting it mentioned.

  • Industry Portal Representation (eg
  • Social Media (blogs, feeds, communities)
  • Media Alerting Services
  • Brand Protection
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3. Online Partnerships – Link your brand WITH OTHERS IN YOUR INDUSTRY

4. Offline Communications – You should know these.

  • Advertising
  • Personal selling
  • Sales promotion
  • PR
  • Sponsorship
  • Direct Mail
  • Exhibitions
  • Merchandising
  • Packaging
  • Word-of-mouth (your old clients are your best and cheapest salespeople)

5. Interactive Ads

6. Opt-in Email

  • House list emails (your clients and prospects) – look at
  • Cold (rented lists) – not normally a good idea
  • Co-branded (share the marketing load wisely and boost your brand image)
  • Ads in 3rd party newsletters

7. Viral Marketing – Electronic variants of traditional ‘word of mouth’

What do you think?

And as a PS I will follow this up with 2 more articles; one about different ways of engaging (financially) with clients; and a second about using facebook for an interior design business. The first comment, below, reflects a theme running through many questions posed to me: website designers (techies) and ad agencies (space sellers) are trying to get you to part with  your hard earned design fees; I would read a book on digital marketing that comes more from the marketing end rather than the technology end eg “Mastering Web 2.0 bu Susan Rice Lincoln”, that’s a good way to start. DON’T SPEND £10k/$15k on a new web site think about your customers and how they behave, your marketing communications need to latch into their behavioural characteristics.

Photo Credit: McVitty (Designer)

For more information on luxury cashmere throws or to request cuttings please visit  For black faux leather upholstery fabrics try <here> and for mohair velvet and mohair velvet upholstery fabric please follow the links.  Upholstery Linen is also one of our specialities as are luxury  silk velvet  fabrics.


Upholstery Curtain Cushion Domestic Textured Weave

LONDON, England. 02-NOVEMBER-2009 11.30 AM: KOTHEA today announced it has expanded its collections of residential textured weaves to include KOSHAZAM. KOSHAZAM has a striking and complex design which challenges the aesthetic intellect of the most discerning designers.

Reference: 03-037-262
Colour Shown: Red Flower
Other colourways: 4
Width: 138cm
Repeat: 72cm
Composition: Mix
Primary Usage: Domestic curtains and
Type of fabric: Textured weave


KOTHEA are a top-market fabric house based in Continue reading “Upholstery Curtain Cushion Domestic Textured Weave”