Getting to know Nerida Hansen
Recently you launched the May Gibbs collection. How did that come about?
The licensors for May Gibbs contacted me early in 2019 and asked if I would be interested in licensing her art. Of course I was absolutely honoured and jumped at the chance. I was so excited to work with the fabulous young textile designer Ellie Whittaker from the Gold Coast to curate our yardages for the first collections. She is very nostalgic about May Gibbs, and with buckets of talent for fabric yardage design she was the perfect choice to help me realise my dreams. Together we set about carefully transforming years-old art into luscious patterns. We are now working together on new designs for 2021 and plan to keep the May Gibbs spirit well and truly alive through incredible textiles. It really is a privilege.
Was that your first foray into fabrics for patchwork and quilting? If so, how did you identify that market?
Nerida Hansen Fabrics started in digital printed fashion textiles, but over time so many people expressed interest in using my mid-weight cottons for quilting. It was always on my mind, and the more I learnt about patchworking and quilting the more excited I was to enter the industry. In the early days I did not produce the volumes to warrant full screen-printed collections, so it was just a matter of waiting until I had enough growth and was confident enough that I had market interest in my designers.
How do you hope to expand into that market?
When I went to International Quilt Market in Houston last October I was so incredibly excited to see all the young quilters creating modern patterns, and I fell in love with the industry. It was also an incredible surprise to have an overwhelming response to my quilting ranges by sales representatives and the major distributors, and I found myself having to choose between who was going to represent me in the USA.
I chose EE Schenck to be my distributor; the company has been in the game for 70 years. I am thrilled to have 23 sales representatives across all states delivering my ranges to boutique stores since late last year, with the support of such an experienced and well-known company in the industry.
I am also crossing my fingers that I can have a vendor booth at Quilt Con in Austin, Texas, in February 2021 so I can meet the thousands of young quilters who flock to that event each year. I am already working with a fabulous young American quilt designer, Lo and Behold Stitchery, which has started working with my collections.
In Australia I am delighted to have formed a great alliance with the amazing embroiderer Janet Sansom. I am just loving my relationships with quilt designer Xanthe from Wife Made, and Sarah from Piccolo Studio. Both girls worked day and night to help me build an incredible stand at the Houston fair and I am looking forward to working with creative Australians to get our quilting collections out to market. I am my own distributor and wholesale rep here in Australia so we will be working closely with quilting stores and, of course, have all our fabrics online for quilters to purchase directly through our online store.
What initially sparked the idea for Nerida Hansen Print & Textiles?
The idea came to me when I was a buyer-in-training at Target. I was buying licenses from Mattel and Disney for children’s bedding and I saw an opportunity to license independent designers. I approached Target but they didn’t think that mums would want that. I am a mum and I wanted it. I left Target and started representing independent artists. Laura Blythman was the first designer I licensed for bedding in Australia and her bedding collection sold out for Spotlight. I knew then I was on the right path. Currently I have about 20 designers and 12 core designers. Each one presents four collections each year. A lot of my artists would not have the confidence to sell their work, so it is our job to sell it and get them recognition.
How is Nerida Hansen Fabrics embracing the home-sewing market?
Slow fashion and making your own clothes is so great! In 2020 we are launching a made-to-order section. People love the custom approach to a product. Digitally printing for fashion means we are not stockpiling fabrics. The made-to-order will first be trialled in-store. It complements the slow fashion movement and encourages a limited range, restricted quantities and reusing product. Once you’ve got the pattern, you can reuse it, reducing our dependence on fast fashion.
How would you describe your own style?
Sometimes I feel like I am still trying to find my style. I really look forward to finding it. Funnily enough, I am drawn to neutrals, silver and pink. I really want to explore my own style and be as courageous as the artists I work with.
Who inspires you?
Different people inspire me for different reasons. One of the advantages in this industry is that it is female-centric. I don’t come across the same challenges as some women do in other businesses.
There are two businesses that I admire for setting the benchmark for bravery in design and they are Gorman and Kip & Co. As I go on my journey, the safer I am, the less successful I’ve been. I definitely look up to those two businesses and the people behind them for being brave.
Within the industry I really admire the journey of some of the US-based surface designers such as Caroline Suzuki, Lisa Congdon and Lillian Farag. They have their own very strong stance on who they are and what they stand for. Caroline and Lisa have strong political and social justice views and use their success to facilitate change. They do it very well. All three work tenaciously in building their brand and relationships.
Who would you like to work with?
It is really challenging to identify who is the next artist I’d like to work with. Some artists have barriers and find it hard to see their work on other products in the market place. May Gibbs has shown me that nostalgia can mean instant success. It is a joyous experience to see these old designs reborn. The next big thing eludes me, but I really want it and it will happen. One thing I know is that I’ll love it — I never produce anything I do not love!