THE INTERVIEW: Established in the 1960s by Tom Warwick, Warwick Fabrics has become a fabled name in Australian textiles. Now jointly managed by his sons Cam and Leighton, the textile house continues to go from strength to strength and has become one of the world’s leading fabric and textile wholesalers. It has grown to include showrooms in Australia, the UK and New Zealand, with an extensive international network providing premium products to industry specialists.
A commitment to continual innovation and outstanding service has been key to Warwick’s success. Never were these two pillars tested more than in 2020, when we were all forced to find new ways of connecting with customers.
We’re delighted that Warwick Fabrics will be returning to the Melbourne Exhibition Centre in July 2021 for the 18th edition of Decor + Design, Australia’s No.1 Interiors Trade Event. As we prepare for the physical return of the show, we talked to Cam Warwick about how 2020 changed the industry, what customers have been buying, plus why it’s important for them to return to Australia’s leading interiors trade exhibition in July…
Warwick Fabrics has carved out an impressive niche in the Australian interiors industry, as one of our most successful textile houses. For those unfamiliar with the company’s design ethos or history, can you give us a quick overview?
Thank you, that is kind to say! We are a second-generation family run business, continuing to meet the evolving needs of today’s competitive global markets by constantly updating collections and pushing boundaries. Dad founded the business in the sixties, offering a range of vinyl and velvets – everyone had a velvet furniture piece in their homes back then! 55 years on and my brother, Leighton, and I are still driven by the desire to be at the cutting edge of fashion trends, continually seeking to design products that inspire people to redefine their interior landscape through our Melbourne based design studio and offer exceptional service with our state of the art warehousing facility.
Today, Warwick’s extensive collections range from classic prints to fashion-forward and contemporary weaves that are complemented by our finished goods brand Weave, an artisanal collection of unique cushions, lush throws and timeless rugs.
Our mission is to fulfil a promise of innovation, quality and service, now and into the future.
2020 sent all of us into a tailspin. How did Warwick Fabrics navigate the curve ball(s) of Covid-19? What were your main challenges?
2020 really highlighted how important it is to have a flexible business model. Within two weeks, we had to move 100 employees from being office or customer-facing, to working from home. This included two call centres, national sales staff and head office support.
To be honest, we were pretty traditional with our office setup, so this forced us to reconsider systems and procedures. Now the Warwick office will probably never be the same (for the better). It showed us our systems can be used remotely (with a few minor changes to systems and technology), and the importance of surrounding yourself with the right staff.
Our staff across the board really stepped up and showed they value the business as if it were their own, and truly made the best out of a difficult situation.
Our marketing and design teams needed to refocus to become completely digitally based, rethinking social strategies and release timelines. The releases needed to be meaningful and reflect the current situation impacting our industry, and what we were all going through. Our sales teams very quickly understood the value of correct contact details, pivoting from seeing our customers face-to-face, to email and phone-based support.
Our call centres, accounts team and internal sales had the biggest system change, and off the back of our learnings, we are upgrading our national phone system so we can answer a call from a laptop, making us completely mobile.
Our biggest and most important lesson though, was that everyone can do their job remotely and the business can continue to run and support our customers, as long as our stock is available, and our warehouse is able to function. Our warehouse team did the tough yards last year with split shifts, under harder than normal conditions. We were incredibly grateful that we were able to function throughout, offering support to our customers that were also able to trade through.
What buying trends are you seeing right now from your clients in both the residential and commercial spaces? Are there any designs from your collections that are proving particularly popular?
Textures: 2020 brought textures that create a cocoon-like interior that exude a soothing aesthetic. This was especially important with the shift in the home dynamic, with homes having to work harder than ever before, being home-offices one minute and soft relaxing spaces the next. Commercial spaces continue to try to emulate feeling like a home, but with higher importance placed on technology, ensuring high traffic areas meet the robustness and safety factors needed for the changes being implemented into the public space fit outs.
Boucle is still a growing trend. Fabio is our heavy commercial, Italian made fabric that is constructed with a hybrid of fibres, including cotton and wool, delivering exceptional quality and durability, while still being soft to touch. Fabio can be used to create a cocoon-like interior with dimensional tactility, to evoke a sense of calm in the home, or to bring warmth and sophistication to commercial spaces.
Australian Made: Although we have always prioritised Australian Made fabrics within our offer, when COVID-19 hit last year, Australian Made became more important than ever.
The consumers’ trust level in Australian Made products grew to a new high, pushing a greater demand for this category, with the consumers’ focus shifting to making informed purchases and the decision to buy local when they can.
Esperance and Caraway are our new Australian Made collections. Eclectic patterns meet refined sophistication in the Esperance collection, offering a diverse range of designs that can be used alone or together, across both domestic and commercial interiors. Alternatively, Caraway reimagines the romantic and traditional with a combination of floral, damasks and geometrics – there is a pattern for any domestic upholstery application.
Bold Statements: To counterbalance the texture and calm, having a statement piece helps make any space personal. Seen in hard surfaces, either through wallpaper, large-scale artworks or in soft furnishings through fabric choice. Fabrics that may have previously been a little too adventurous for anything other than a cushion are now being used for statement chairs, ottomans or a wow factor piece.
Botanical prints fit this trend perfectly, especially for those seeking to bring the outdoors in. Our new original design from our talented designers, Zanzibar, has been inspired by classic botanical illustrations, capturing a variety of tropical leaf patterns. The intricate detail and jewel-toned colours are brought to life by the rich velvety texture it is printed upon.
Zanzibar is robust in durability yet soft to touch and beautiful in design – the trifecta for both residential and commercial use.
The theme of the Seminar Series at Decor + Design this year will be ‘Designing a New World.’ Moving forward, what do you think is important for furniture makers and interior designers to consider?
Mindful and guilt free design: Everyone has slowed down in the last 6 months, giving our overactive minds the luxury to stop and think about what is important – be it personally or from a business perspective. Consumers are now thinking more before they purchase, balancing needs over wants while working to a ‘less is better’ attitude. When they do purchase, they want their purchase to tick more boxes than previously. Multi-functional spaces need furniture to work harder than ever, without sacrificing on style, budget or environmental impact and country of origin ethics. I think this plays into the hands of the Australian Made market, with the more consciously aware consumer trusting in locally sourced and made to order customisable products.
Digital evolution: Technology is continuing to make an impact, be it within the design process or how your customers hear your story. Digital tools will enable customisation, shorter lead times for development and new ways to digitally present customisable furniture opportunities to the end consumer. There will also be a shift in the development of treatment options and items that offer a sense of protection and reassurance – items that have always been commercial, such as fabric treatments, air filtration and alkaline water systems, will be redesigned so that they are camouflaged within a home, rather than the usual commercial aesthetic.
After a virtual show last year, we’re delighted that Warwick Fabrics will be back exhibiting at Decor + Design at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre in 2021. Why is it important for you to return to the show this year? What can trade visitors expect to see from you?
Our relationship with Decor and Design has been long standing. Face-to-face shows give us the opportunity to see our established customers, plus meet those new to the industry. It is also nice to stand alongside like-minded brands to show what we have as an interior design industry.
Although we do expect COVID-19 to have made some differences to the events landscape, we hope the essence of D+D remains unchanged. We are excited to be showing our brands WARWICK, LINIA and WEAVE in 2021.
WARWICK will be bringing our latest release of patterned and plain fabrics for upholstery and drapery in a collection of qualities, including some of our favourite and timeless classics.
LINIA showcases the earth’s finest fibres; assembled, intertwined and refined, bringing a selection of elegant and exquisite premium blend fabrics. We work closely with the world’s best mills, crafting ranges that boast effortless style and sophistication in a selection of organic colours, textures and finishes.
WEAVE rounds up the trio of ranges we will have on display. Our ready-made interior decor brand features a compilation of contemporary cushions, textured throws and timeless rugs. Our Summer 2022 collection will bring you an array of textures, patterns and colour palettes to get your creative juices flowing!
Don’t miss the chance to see Cam and the team from Warwick Fabrics at Decor + Design 2021, 15 – 18 July at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre!
Entry to the exhibition is free but limited to trade only. Subscribe now to receive an update when visitor registration opens, plus the latest news from the world of interiors.