After being commissioned to design curtains for a friend of Weeks, in 2004 Blanchard continued to design drapes for other architects through Work Architecture Company, better know as Work AC. “One of the first clients [I worked with] was an art collector who gave me carte blanche. In this project, curtains were seen as part of the architecture. I loved collaborating with architects; there is a need and you [fulfill] it the best you can. I actually like boundaries, making something practical but funky at the same time. Problem solving and dealing with contractors for large-scale textile installations was a big part of the job. We collaborated on more projects and from word of mouth I became a drapery designer/maker.” Gaining recognition for her craft, Blanchard put together her own operation, Elodie Blanchard Studio, in 2005.
Years later, ICFF provided a stepping-stone to Blanchard’s prominence in textile design, this time when she was exhibiting. She met Mary Jo Miller, vice president of HBF Textiles, who asked Blanchard to design a collection for the company for 2014. “She took a risk as I did not have a traditional textile background but she liked my whimsical, functional, artistic aesthetic,” the designer said. Because Miller wanted the collection for NeoCon, Blanchard had six months to deliver the designs. However, the short timelines didn’t stifle the line’s success: the Elodie Blanchard Collection for HBF Textiles captured Best of NeoCon Gold.
From there, HBF proposed a two-year exclusive contract for three more collections. “It was really interesting and fun to work for a contract company that can invest in a larger-scale production,” Blanchard said. “I always loved fabric so to visit mills and get samples—it’s Christmas every day. I felt a responsibility to make a product that would last and sold well for [everyone] involved in that project.”
Blanchard’s approach for designing textiles starts with jotting down the basics: the company’s wants and needs, elements missing in its existing products, and how she can improve upon what it already offers. “Then, I love to tell a story or think about the lifestyle of the end user and what would improve [their daily life],” she continued. “I do some research and I always keep pieces of clothes, pictures, etc. [to start making vision boards] for the collection. And then I design. One pattern can comefrom a conceptual idea or a wool jacket I own or a textile texture from a mill that I like and can be transformed. I can use paint or draw on the computer—it really depends. I like to be effective and not give extra work to the mill, so I usually print all the patterns in different scales and piece it together on a piece of furniture to see what works best. The color work is what takes the longest. You have a thousand different colors and you have to pick seven; it’s the most stressful part.”
HBF’s relationship with Blanchard continues to flourish. Since her first collection in 2014, she has designed four lines for the textile producer in addition to styling photography and doing color consulting. “I am pretty specific and [the way my product is shown] is really important to me, so styling the photographs of textiles to fit the concept is as important as the [actual] product. [With HBF] I am involved through the entire process. [The team is] down to earth. Dan Chong [HBF president] expects greatness and is really excited about growing HBF and making it progressive. It’s a chance to be part of that family.”