Madison Three-Seater

Tracing its pedigree back to 1780, Fleming & Howland is a family business that is an expert at creating handmade, bespoke chesterfields. Having worked solely in leather for most of its history, the company has just announced that it will launch a range of fabric collections for the first time.

Marking a step towards a more contemporary aesthetic, the use of wool also means that Fleming & Howland’s bespoke pieces will now appeal to new audiences, mainly the contract market. “Wool is a perfect material for heavy use,” Paul Fleming, MD of the company says. “It is naturally fire retardant and stain resistant, contrary to popular belief.”

George Berkley Sofa

For a company that has traditionally only worked in leather, you would think that the transition to wool would be a bit of a challenge but according the upholstery team, wool is an upholsterer’s dream material. “You find that it forms the shape you are looking for without over stretching the wool,” one of Fleming & Howland’s in-house upholsters tells us. “It almost hugs the shape, so can result in crisp lines and will cope with almost any shape you are looking for unlike leather.” While with leather it is necessary to be conscious when designing frames on how the lines will look especially the pleats, folds and sewing lines, wool enables the designers to be less inhibited when creating new frames. “The wool is surprisingly strong so lends itself to tacks and hand sewing,” he says. “For the cutter, wool is very user friendly and will again keep its shape during the cutting and sewing process.”

Wool has naturally strong fibres, being taken from an animals coat, and as a result is long-lasting. “If you think of well-made tailored cloths in wool,” suggests Fleming, “they get great wear over time, no sag, and keep their tight lines in the shape. Leather can get quite stretched over time. It has no bounce back into shape.”

David Hume chair

Fleming tells us that they worked with top British mills to create their range of mixed fibre wool. “The real secret to creating beautifully rich colour is in this blend,” reveals Fleming. “Up to seven different coloured wools can be used in the recipe for each yarn.” For Fleming, it is this process that gives the wool its unique and rich texture. “The blended wool lubricated with a little water and oil is run through a series of combed rollers that tease the fibres one way and then the other,” he explains. “Whilst providing alignment and conformity, the process also rids the wool of any last impurities and ensures the finished fabrics are smooth and soft to the touch.”

Each bespoke piece takes approximately 18 man-hours to complete and the range, which includes the Victoria love seat, Barbican sofa and Havelock Ellis library chair, will also be available in leather and linen, with bespoke fabrics available upon request.

Related Links:
Fleming & Howland - company profile

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