Bringing Australian artistry to international markets

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Sydney-based textile design company, Utopia Goods, was founded by Bruce Slorach and Sophie Tatlow in 2012. In the years since, the brand’s unique Australian flora and fauna inspired textile designs have garnered the admiration of interior designers and architects from across the globe. Director Sophie Tatlow shares the process behind their latest endeavours and what it takes to connect with the customer online.

What was the driving force behind the creation of Utopia Goods and how does the team continue to be inspired?

Utopia Goods is inspired by the Australian bush and landscape and a love of the decorative arts.

When we started Utopia Goods in 2012, we wanted to create something that inspired people and acted as a homage to the landscape. We’ve got infinite subject matter and we could keep doing this for a million years with all the plants we have in this beautiful country.

The business is based around commercial fabrics for domestic and overseas interior designers and architects, such as interior fabrics and home furnishings. It’s quite an unusual business model and is more of a project based fabric by the yard approach. As we’ve run a design studio for 22 years, we’re used to doing custom design – everything from fabrics for upholstery to custom-designed silk carpets.

We’ve also got the capacity to handle a smaller line of readymade product for gifting, such as tableware and linen, popular for Christmas and special events.

There are no textile labels around in Australia that are made quite like this.

What is the business’ sustainable journey and where are your products produced?

Our products are made to be long lasting and we create so we are not left with material wastage. Every millimetre of the fabric is reused, where possible. We don’t follow a fashion cycle and the aim is to not overproduce product.

Our fabric is hand printed and crafted in India, honouring the tradition of India’s textile craft. We design with colour, detail and quality in mind.

We’re currently developing wovens and jacquards that are made out of sustainable recycled yarn for commercially based outdoor fabrics.

Laura Brown, Chief Editor of US InStyle Magazine recently posted about Utopia Goods’ face mask initiative on Instagram – can you tell us about the story behind this initiative?

The face mask was an immediate reaction to the events around the 14 of March. At the time we thought, ‘Well the door’s closed, we’ve got to do something really quickly to help people.’ We had this very high value fine linen on hand so we got to work straight away.

Laura bought her masks from our online store – she’s got an eye on the design world 24-7, so she must have seen what we were doing. The discourse around this initiative was completely unprecedented and we saw a groundswell of love from our community.

The masks were donated to essential workers both in Australia and the US. Different people were contacting us and asking if we could help particular groups, so we were sending masks on behalf of different people – it was a bit like a mask chain letter.

We gave away a lot of masks to those who needed them most, and the ones people paid for helped to cover the production costs for the ones that were donated.

What steps were involved in creating the face mask?

As we have the design studio, we’re pretty used to thinking on our feet and troubleshooting, so thankfully it wasn’t actually as hard as I thought it would be.

We quickly made a pattern in a couple of hours and we got the fabric ready for production, a really beautiful breathable fine grade linen and another fine grade cotton gauze lining.

I then rang a couple of contacts and just said, ‘Did you want to help us make a couple of hundred masks?’ Not long after we had made nearly a thousand masks, and the first 40 masks or so sold out online in 20 minutes.

With a global customer base, what are the most important points to consider to ensure customers receive a personalised experience akin to interacting with a brand in store?

I think the packaging and the messaging is really important.

A couple of days ago, I was putting together some fabrics for a customer and I didn’t do my best job as I was hurrying. I thought to myself, ‘I wouldn’t want this.’ When you’re packing or sending something it’s always good to think, ‘Would I want to receive this?’’ If you’re questioning the way something’s done then its best you redo it.

Our messaging is really personal. Even as you grow you need to try to maintain that personalisation and that can be quite difficult. Because our business is based on a personal and ethical response to all the stuff that’s out there in the world, personalisation must be at the very heart of what we do.

I think all your customers have to be treated the same way, whether they’re here or overseas, and thankfully our shipping is great, both import and export.

You have to get back to people fairly quickly, because if they’re looking for something online they’re probably not just looking at you but ten other things at the same time. In the end the person that treats them the best is generally the person that they’re going to go with.

People have relationships with plants – and I know that sounds really weird – but for one reason or another people are really attracted to a plant or a flower, so you’re dealing with a different kind of product. It’s a bit like, sending fabric flowers is a metaphor for sending living flowers. At the moment there’s a lot of gifting happening and especially since this [COVID-19] has been going on it’s become really meaningful.

It’s important to look after people in every way, isn’t it? I think that’s probably the most important thing.

For more information about Utopia Goods, visit utopiagoods.com