Edited by Karen D. Singh -- Interior Design, 3/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Lori Weitzner vividly remembers meeting Jack Lenor Larsen for the first time. Having just returned from living in Europe, she'd mustered the confidence needed to do a collection of her own, but she lacked the opportunity. So she decided to interview for the position of design director at the company now named simply Larsen. "I wanted the job because it was with Jack Larsen, the only person I knew in the textile field doing contemporary, artful, and thoughtful products," explains Weitzner—who's now the principal and creative director of a firm called, of course, Lori Weitzner.
Back then, Weitzner recalls, Larsen sat silently behind his desk for the entire interview, chewing on a piece of yarn and looking away. Unnerved, she presented her professional wish list: her name on the fabric tags, autonomy in creating collections and selecting mills, credit on all collateral materials, and freedom to work on other, noncompetitive projects. Finally, Larsen looked her in the eye and said, "That's fine, Lori."
Larsen doesn't remember that moment in 1992 exactly the same way. Instead, he explains that he hired Weitzner to strengthen his company's textile offerings in the residential and hospitality markets. "Lori worked more independently than any other person," he says, adding that part of her appeal was an approach different from his.
"I try to imbue products with a perceivable sense of craft, revealing the materials and construction. I'm a craftsman, working organically," he says. And while he'd spent decades pioneering new fibers and methods—playing off a penchant for doing what he didn't know how to do yet—she would be more market-driven, he felt. Their differences even spilled over to production. As he puts it, "I've worked with makers in 60 countries, many of them third-world. Lori did whole collections with one (happy) mill."
Due to her enthusiasm and persistence, her collections were larger than average, with unusually long color lines. Her Solace velvet, with its embossed botanical pattern, is still one of the most imitated in the industry.
"I start with visualizing the big picture. Then I apply the type of construction or weave necessary to achieve the look," Weitzner says. That's partially because her background is in painting.
"Considering those differences, plus a generation gap," Larsen adds, "we get along remarkably."
Larsen, 111 Eighth Avenue, Suite 930, New York, NY 10011; 212-647-6900; cowtan.com. circle 354
Lori Weitzner, through Bergamo, 256 Washington Street, Mount Vernon, NY 10553; 914-665-0800; bergamofabrics.com. circle 355