Frankie and Swiss and a printer name Florence - Image Magazine

 

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Frankie and Swiss and a printer name Florence

Frankie and Swiss and a printer name Florence

This article was first published in the Feb 2021 issue of Textile Image magazine. Check out the full digital version of Textile Image Magazine here.

Frankie and Swiss is a boutique textile printing and design studio based in Melbourne founded by sisters Michelle Francis and Jacqui Redman. They custom print designs onto natural fibre fabrics with the help of their 2-tonne stainless steel digital textile printer. Her name is Florence. Textile Image Magazine caught up with them having survived spending a good portion of 2020 in lockdown in Melbourne and in the lead up to their 10th birthday celebrations.

Sisters Jacqui and Michelle are not your typical textile printing business owners, trading successful marketing and accounting careers in other industries for their brand new start-up Frankie and Swiss in 2011. “Michelle was a keen sewer,” says Jacqui. “One day she was making an apron and decided she wanted to put a pocket on the front featuring a vintage chocolate ad, that we had seen in a magazine. The next day she had sourced some sublimation paper from Officeworks and printed the pocket onto the paper using a standard desktop printer. That was the start, that was the seed”.

 “Like many businesses, timing plays a role. When we first started ten years ago, it was an emerging growth area with many artists keen to see their work on fabric, instead of paper or card.

When we first started, we had the choice of doing garments as well as homewares. Still, we decided to stick to homewares as this was our passion, not to mention we didn’t have any background in apparel and it’s a totally different ball game, ” says Jacqui.

 “Sustainability is also really important to us, so we choose to only print on natural fibre fabrics, using water-based pigment inks so that there is no water used in our production process. Our homewares are printed on demand for artisans commercialising their art in the form of homewares, and boutique events such as weddings and product launches.

 “When it comes to our printing equipment there has been significant developments in technology so these days we run Mimaki TX300 pigment printers. Florence actually retired (was decommissioned) a couple of years ago” explains Jacqui “but she is still in the showroom as she’s a significant part of our history. She was the third member of our team when Michelle and I started out and for many years to follow. Without her, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We were learning as we went and she was sassy, had her own quirks and a huge personality. Florence was named after industry pioneer Florence Broadhurst because we just loved her story and her lust for life, and we try to carry forward these elements in our culture today.”

 “We are positive thinkers who love having fun. In our South Yarra studio, we try to create a nurturing “Alice in Wonderland” like showroom/production environment for our clients to come in and sit down be inspired by how far we can take their design with our range. One of the challenges in working with designers, is translating their vision and product designs into what it can look like when it’s printed. We spend a lot of time educating people about the three main textile printing processes (reactive, dye-sub and pigment) as they all throw out a different look and feel that needs to be matched with the type of product and the vision of the designer. Naturally, the showroom experience changed drastically when COVID hit, and Melbourne was locked down.”

 “For us, the first lockdown in March caused massive uncertainty, not only for the business but for everyone’s safety.  We weren’t mandated to close, but we did close for a couple of weeks, it was really about the safety of the team. Everyone worked from home except for myself and the print operator, and we started making masks for our community and customers, which gave us a sense of higher purpose. By the time the second lockdown came, we were given the option to stay open and make masks by hand, but by then there were many other much larger companies making them on a larger scale, so we decided to support the lockdown and stay home. We are lucky enough to have an industry partner in Sydney to whom we could outsource some of our work, so we could still service our clients during lockdown.”

 “Lockdown also meant that we had to change the way we communicated. Like everyone, we spent hours on zoom and talking to our team and our customers over the phone. We needed to overcommunicate visually and verbally as we are in such a visual and tactile industry things just get lost in translation over email. We also built-in time each week to take some time off and have some fun and different, do a short course in something we were interested in, to break the monotony of being at home.”

 “The biggest thing that got us through lockdown was our mindset. It reminded me of the book “Who moved my cheese.” We tried to roll with it and move with the waves rather than anchor ourselves in. We changed and changed quickly without trying to overthink it. We knew that in the end we wherever we ended up we would pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and build from there.”

 “From where we stand now as we look to 2021 we’re in a good place, and our clients sound happier as their industries are opening back up. 2021 is about implementing the expansion plans that we had for 2020 that were put on hold. We are excited for this year as we are launching a new website, and we are also celebrating our 10th birthday. We are bringing in a new hemp product line as it is seeing a strong resurgence and we are also increasing our range of organic fabrics in response to strong demand. One thing for sure is that after surviving 2020 we are stronger as a team and will take whatever 2021 holds for us in our stride,” concludes Jacqui.

Who is Florence?

Florence Broadhurst led an extraordinary and eccentric life. She was born in 1899 to a farming family in rural Queensland and by 25 she had toured across Asia with a part in a saucy vaudeville troop. After decades abroad, she returned to Australia at age 50, claiming to be an aristocratic English woman. She spent the ensuing years painting landscapes before moving on to portraits of the rich and famous. By 58 she was a darling of the social set. At 63 she declared Australia was afraid of colour and announced a new venture - a wallpaper business. Broadhurst created over 800 hugely popular designs that defined the swinging sixties. Her designs were extremely sought after throughout the world, with long waiting lists for her work. Her extraordinary life led to a tragic end. On 16 October, 1977, at the age of 78, Broadhurst was found murdered in her Paddington wallpaper showroom. Her murder remains unsolved.

“Florence Broadbent Her Secret and Extraordinary Lives” by Helen O’Neill
This deluxe edition of Helen O'Neill's award-winning book is a must for lovers of design. With stunning full-page prints of Florence Broadhurst's distinctive fabric and wallpaper designs, together with gorgeous photographs of interiors from around the world using her amazing patterns.

 

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