Q: What is your design training and background?
A: I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise in 1981 with a fashion design emphasis. While attending, I learned about draping, pattern making, how to work with a variety of fabrics as well as the history and evolution of design.
Q: What are your design influences?
A: A lot of my initial training and aesthetic came from working with fashion designer Jessica McClintock. I worked in the Couture division, and ended up being her assistant. This position introduced me to an array of amazing fabrics, laces, and trims, and most importantly reinforced the idea of romance. Jessica said once said to me "Romance never goes out of style". That sentiment influenced my design aesthetic and ultimately what I did with Bella Notte.
Q: How did Bella Notte Linens get started?
A: I had been designing and manufacturing a jacket line for 3 years called Marin Wear whose primary fabric was Polar Fleece. This was the mid 90’s when polar fleece was just basic ski cover-ups. We used it more as a fashion coat fabric. It was lightweight and warm, and our styling changed how it was used. It did well, but after a period of time I became tired of using fleece. I ended up purchasing some linen fabric, which I love, and some coordinating silk, and made jackets with that, but the buyers still expected fleece from us. With the leftover Linen, I decided to experiment with sewing up a few bedding pieces, I washed them, and they were beautiful and became incredibly soft! I had young kids at the time, and the idea of beautiful, washable bedding was ideal for our lifestyle. I thought it was incredible, so I took it to a local furniture store and asked them to sell it on consignment. A short time later they called and requested to take it to Highpoint, the national furniture convention, and I agreed, not knowing what it was. After Highpoint someone contacted me wanting to rep my collection, so I put together a line of 2 or 3 other colors of linen with the coordinating silk and found some antique fabrics to accompany them. I wanted my linens and velvets to match the silks I was using so I contacted a local garment dye company and convinced them to try and dye the bedding for me. Though they only dyed clothing at the time, they agreed to try it. We were both surprised that the results were so beautiful. We began to expand from there: I created a larger collection, went to market, hired more reps, and refined our brand. The timing was right because bedding was starting to become an extension of people’s lifestyle , before it was an afterthought, but now became a design decision. The demographic also wanted more machine washable products.
Q: Were other bedding manufacturers doing anything like this with garment dyeing?
A: No, nobody was doing garment dyed bedding at that time. So we were able to create a unique brand with this technique. The inviting textures were always a priority, and the soft color palette also drew people in. The garment dyes are also more eco-friendly than conventional dyes.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: I read a lot of design magazines like Elle Decor and British Elle Decor, which have a nice aesthetic, and a less buttoned up look. I also read a variety of trade magazines, go to museums, and anywhere I can be inspired by color, such as in nature. Also Pinterest is a great digital resource now.
Q: You’re family is involved in the business and you have tried to establish a family atmosphere within the business?
A: My family was always involved and supportive because I started the business in my garage, and then my husband Bob who was in construction and his foreman Mitchell became my partners in the business. It was always our belief that our family priorities were more important than the business priorities. My mom worked for us and helped with every aspect of the business, eventually taking over the role of office manager. We also hired our daughter Taylor right out of college.
Q: What makes Bella Notte unique?
A: I think because of my fashion background, and the qualities of dressmaking, we have created products that have a special tactile quality, and have obvious inherent added value. The color palette has always been soft, harmonious, and inviting. The textures have a wonderful hand, and it all comes together to create a product that is well designed and that our customers respond to.
Q: What does the future hold for Bella Notte?
A: I have been thinking about that, because there is a lot of nice bedding out there. Our differentiator is the attention to detail. We have been knocked-off which can be frustrating, but a knock-off inevitably becomes diluted in the end. We just need to stay true to our high design standards and not succumb to the pressures to have a less expensive product that is less quality. That approach does not work with our unique manufacturing process. We use local craftspeople, local suppliers, and we employ time consuming techniques. Most of our products are cut sewn, and dyed it the US, which leads to noticeably higher quality.
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