In the world of textiles and home décor, John Robshaw is known as a bit of a superstar. His block-printed textiles have been spotted in the homes of people like Brooke Shields and President Barack Obama. Inspired by the relationships between culture and art, John’s traditionally-made textiles are a glimpse into bustling Indian cities, Asian architecture, and busy Portuguese markets. His wanderlust-inspired design aesthetic has taken him around the world and influenced the unique and iconic line of block-printed textiles that he’s so well known for.
We first met John about two years ago on the night of our Grand Opening party here at k colette. He was kind enough to fly in from New York to celebrate with us and even arrived wearing a shirt made from our custom ‘John Robshaw for k colette’ block-printed fabric. Despite his world-renowned name, John doesn’t have an ounce of diva in his bones. In his work and in his life, John has a true interest in people. His travels around the world have introduced him to individuals from all walks of life, “By producing my textiles abroad, I get to become a minor character in the lives of the people I work with, and I can take inspiration from what I see and do there. I go to their weddings, celebrate their festivals, I get sick with them, I develop relationships with the people who are teaching me,” says John. He also works with Aid to Artisans, an organization that creates opportunities for artisan groups around the world where livelihoods, communities, and craft traditions are at risk.
When we arrive at John’s SoHo showroom and offices, we sit down at a long table in front of a huge board that is filled with the current collections and upcoming season’s designs. We’re incredibly excited to get a sneak peek at new fabrics and designs that aren’t out yet, and John walks us through them, pointing out patterns that are particularly important to him and sharing stories about their inspiration. John spends several months of the year in India overseeing production, experimenting with new techniques, and working alongside the artisans who create the fabrics. The majority of his inspiration comes from his travels, the people he meets, the fashion they wear, the architecture, the colors, and the vibrancy of life in these places. “I love Pondicherry with its rainbows of Ashrams and temples. Cochin is also a charming former Portuguese trading post with lovely architecture. The local markets are inspiring, you find odd handmade gems that you would never see exported,” he explains.
When John shows us into his personal office, it’s like stepping into a tropical wonderland. A giant palm takes up almost half of the space, incense burns on the desk, and bamboo woven shades on the windows cover the view of a grey Manhattan. Beautiful hand-painted furniture sits below a wall covered completely with inspiration – photographs of women in beautiful saris, Asian architecture, Indian jewelry and illustrations, letters from friends, and even the turban that John has worn in some of his advertising materials. Getting a glimpse at the things that John finds inspiring reminds us that his commitment to traditional printmaking, his love for travel, and his love for people are at the heart of his beautiful designs.
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