Ralf Schödel, Head of Home Collection and Elvira Weber, Head of Design, were in India setting up Rohleder’s second showroom at Gurugram. Having been mesmerized by Rohleder’s home textiles at their Bengaluru store, we thought it would be exciting to sit down with them to have a conversation about the making of their quality-rich products, the mill located in Germany and their experience with Rohleder. Scroll down to read our interview with the two charismatic and enthusiastic personalities from Rohleder, Germany.
1. What determined your passion for design? How did you start as a designer?
Elvira – I have been passionate about design ever since I took up the Apprenticeship programme at Rohleder when I was just 18 years old. I have been working for 37 years Rohleder now. I am a huge fan of the beautiful products from Rohleder.
Ralf – As a child, I was very creative and did a lot of painting all through my school days. So, I always wanted to take up a creative job. Like Elvira, I began to work for Rohleder’s Apprenticeship programme when I came across an announcement in a newspaper. Ever since, I have really loved design and have grown up in this field. My interest is not just the design aspect, but also the numerous techniques for the making of a good fabric which is very interesting.
2. What is your definition of ‘good design’?
We are primarily influenced by fashion and by our visits to design fairs held across the world. We also feel inspired by colours around, floral patterns, and geometric designs. However, we always strive to come up with our own style and colours. A good design is something that we would love to keep for years and which would be suitable for a long period.
3. What’s your favourite current design trend?
Elvira – Scandinavian designs are my current favourite trend. They’re quiet, basic and subtle. The colours are not too loud and not too bright. They mostly include geometric designs and I think it’s a trend across the world right now.
Ralf – The Bauhaus theme is something which inspires me.
4. What inspires you?
Elvira - Nature, flowers, animals, old art areas, buildings are just a few of the many things that inspire me. The Bauhaus art movement of the 20 th century inspired a lot of designers in Germany. Clean simple, classic styles, geometric designs are some of my favourites.
Ralf - Apart from the above, I take inspiration from buildings and architecture too. Each customer has different taste when it comes to designs and we always keep our customers in mind before we produce fabrics. They inspire us too. For example, Japan likes neutral colours while Morocco loves bold colours.
5. Can you tell us about the design process at Rohleder?
After we have an inspiration for a design, we try to brainstorm on what type of fabric would best suit such a design. We also try to understand which designer would best be able to do it and we take their inputs and how they want to create it.
Once the design is created on the computer, we convert it to its most practical form to make the design weave-able. After this, the designer decides which loom set up is the best for the design. After the first strike-offs, the designer makes improvements and modifications to this fabric. We then find the best colorways for the fabric.
When the fabric is finally ready, we send it to our laboratory to test it for quality. These tests include abrasion testing, light fastness, crocking test and seam slippage. Of course, our fabrics also have to meet the Blue Angel standards for Eco friendliness and TÜV tests for being Hypoallergenic. Once the development is certified by our lab, we start presenting them to our customers.
6. What makes a good fabric?
A good fabric is a mix of weaving, design, and quality. The structure of textures is also the key. At Rohleder, the quality is the most important thing. A fabric goes through rigorous processes before it reaches the customer.
Some fabrics have around 160 picks per centimetre. It is definitely a time-consuming and extensive process to create these fabrics. Every designer has her own technique and will reinterpret design in different ways.
Our quality lab tests ensure that the yarns are of the highest quality. We also have the best dyeing process as our fabric is made out of special fibre. Even 100 washes will not cause any damage/discoloration.
7. The designers in India love the Olaf Hajek Collection. How did this cooperation start?
Olaf Hajek is a brilliant painter and illustrator from Germany. This is the first time that he has worked with fabrics. With his magnificent paintings, Olaf Hajek carries the beholder into mystical worlds, fills them with opulent flower arrangements, animals and plants that seem to come from botanical and zoological compendiums. Rohleder turns these illustrations into textile dreams that come true. Every single fabric and product of the Rohleder Home Collection by Olaf Hajek is a perfect artwork in terms of design and workmanship.
8. The “Decade Collection” looks exciting. Can you give us more insight into it?
We are proud of our latest “Decade collection”. This is inspired by the Bauhaus movement, which we mentioned earlier. We’ve even named one of our products - “Walter”. Walter Gropius was a famous German architect during the Bauhaus movement. The collection features beautiful colours. We recently showed this at Maison Objet, Paris and at Ambient, Frankfurt and received great feedback.
9. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job at Rohleder?
Every part of the job is exciting, from creating a design to visiting fairs world-wide and interacting with customers. Discussing new yarns, new colours and weaving technologies is very interesting. For example, we were recently at Barcelona looking for new machines and new looms. It is important to look for machines that can do something that’s never been done before.
The entire process of production at the mill is fulfilling. The feedback we receive for the work we’ve done is very rewarding.
10. What do you see for the future of design?
Although the world is becoming more and more reduced, we still try to keep up the tradition of jacquard fabrics. Most of the sofas today are clean and made of solids, we try to set some highlights with our fabulous Home Collection.
You can visit Rohleder's store in Bengaluru at the below address:
107, Prestige Atrium, 1, Central Street, Shivagi Nagar, Bengaluru.
They recently opened their second store in India at Gurugram at the below address:
GS 10, DLF Grand Mall, M.G. Road, Gurugram.
The stores are temporarily closed due to the lockdown. Please check with them on their Instagram handle @rohleder.east or on Google maps.