If your heart skips a beat at the sight of rattan furniture, then you are going to love Vincent Sheppard’s Lloyd Loom furniture. Made of kraft paper twisted around steel wire, the paper covered wires, acting as threads, are fed into the loom to produce woven sheets of material with a rattan look. The Lloyd Loom woven material offers a smooth, snag free texture, providing more cushioning than rattan. Adding to its appeal, the chip free paper surface can be easily coated in unlimited colours and treated for durable indoor and outdoor usage. The beautiful finish combined with the comfort, durability and versatility of Vincent Sheppard’s Lloyd Loom furniture has made it a popular choice for both the luxury hospitality industry and retailers.
When this gorgeous Lloyd Loom furniture by Vincent Sheppard caught our eye at IFFS in Singapore, we had to know more about this fascinating weaving technique. Now celebrating their 100-year anniversary, the Lloyd Loom weaving technique’s history began in 1917 with American furniture designer, Marshall Burns Lloyd, known for his rattan baby carriages. As rattan became less available and more expensive after World War I, Lloyd looked for an alternative to rattan and founded the Lloyd Loom technique of weaving thread made of kraft paper twisted around a thin steel wire producing a woven material with the appearance of rattan. Unlikely did Lloyd realize that his solution would revolutionize the furniture market.
The Lloyd Loom patent was purchased by UK furniture manufacturer, William Lusty, in 1922 moving production of Lloyd Loom to the UK. Lloyd Loom furniture became wildly popular in Europe throughout the 1930’s sought out by luxury hotels, restaurants, tea houses and cruise liners, such as the Zeppelin. From commercial popularity, the demand for Lloyd Loom furniture expanded to private residences, making Lloyd Loom a household name in Europe. With the onset of World War II, the UK Lusty factory was destroyed in an air raid in 1940. Despite the end of the production factory, Lloyd Loom furniture’s popularity continued for decades appearing in stylish scenes with celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe sitting on a Lloyd Loom chair in the London airport with her husband, Arthur Miller. In 1992, Belgium based furniture manufacturer, Vincent Sheppard re-established the Lloyd Loom technique moving production to Indonesia in 1995. Since then, Vincent Sheppard has become the worlds’ most prestigious producer of Lloyd Loom furniture providing a balance of traditional styles with innovative applications, while keeping the Lloyd Loom weaving technique unchanged now for 100 years. Read our exclusive interview below with Vincent Sheppard’s’ managing director, Coralie Claeys as she describes how they plan to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Lloyd Loom weaving technique as well as the company’s 25th anniversary.
Interview with Coralie Claeys, Managing Director of Vincent Sheppard
TL: How will Vincent Sheppard be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Lloyd Loom weaving technique, and what are you most proud of in celebrating Vincent Sheppard’s 25th anniversary?
CC: For the occasion of the 100th anniversary, we have asked a Brussels-based creative duo, ‘We are Oskar’, to give a modern interpretation of four of our most iconic Lloyd Loom chairs in a series of four images. The result will be an out-of-the-box, festive photo series celebrating the character and unique look of our Lloyd Loom furniture. We will present these unique images on the different furniture fairs in the upcoming months, as well as in our renewed showroom.
In the 25 past years, we are most proud of how our company has been able to reinterpret and reinvigorate a traditional, natural material, in such a way that we have been able to keep the material alive. Lloyd Loom furniture was a real hype in Europe in the late ‘90s and beginning of the 21st century, but the abrupt end of the hype has caused many Lloyd Loom furniture producers to close their doors. By constantly challenging ourselves and the material, we have been able to present new, surprising designs that showed consumers that the material was still very much up-to-date and modern.
TL: How was Vincent Sheppard originally introduced to the Lloyd Loom string?
CC: The original founder of Vincent Sheppard, Vincent De Schaepmeester, was intrigued by the smart use of the material and the story behind it. Since a bombing in the second world war caused the end of the large production facility of Lloyd Loom furniture in Europe, the production of Lloyd Loom had gone quiet in Europe. Vincent was determined to breathe new life into this unique and traditional material by creating a new, up-to-date Lloyd Loom furniture collection which would reintroduce the material to the European public.
TL: How has the Lloyd Loom weaving process evolved since Vincent Sheppard reintroduced this weaving technique in 1992?
CC: Actually, it hasn’t changed at all. The Lloyd Loom weaving technique was very progressive and new when it was first developed, and the qualities of the technique have made it unnecessary to evolve. The weaving machines that we use now are still the same machines that we used 20 years ago. The Lloyd Loom weaving technique is a traditional technique that has been taught from one generation to another in Cirebon, Indonesia.
TL: Why was Cirebon, Indonesia selected as the location of Vincent Sheppard’s production?
CC: Indonesia is a country known for its rich tradition in weaving techniques and in rattan bending. The skills of the local craftsmen in Cirebon are amazing. We greatly value craftsmanship and want to preserve the tradition of weaving in the area.
TL: How does Vincent Sheppard’s furniture collection, using the Lloyd Loom weaving technique, compare to traditional rattan wicker furniture in terms of durability, comfort, and longevity and weathering?
CC: Lloyd Loom weave was originally used for baby carriages because the traditional wicker that was used before wasn’t very soft to touch, and wasn’t as strong and durable as it should be. The advantage of the Lloyd Loom material, is that it is a combination of kraft paper and steel wire, makes it very strong. Furthermore, the paper doesn’t scratch or break like traditional wicker does. And finally, a very nice quality is that the paper is easy to paint. Traditional wicker is only available in a natural color, because paint won’t hold long enough on the wicker itself, Lloyd Loom furniture can be painted in literally any color. The material is thus more versatile, more durable, and more comfortable to touch, since it won’t scratch or snag clothing.
TL: Using kraft paper as the exterior material for the Lloyd Loom technique, can the Lloyd Loom furniture be used for outdoors as well as interiors? If so, how is the paper treated to allow this?
CC: Lloyd Loom furniture can indeed be treated to be used outdoors. Vincent Sheppard has a complete collection of outdoor Loom furniture. To withstand all weather conditions, the material is glued in a special way, and treated with an extra coating, so that moisture cannot penetrate between the paper. It is however advised to place the furniture inside during rainy or snowy periods. Today, Vincent Sheppard also has a synthetic outdoor collection. The Lloyd Loom material is imitated as closely as possible with synthetic material, which is suited for literally all weather conditions.
TL: As a global leader in the Lloyd Loom furniture manufacturing, you supply some of the worlds’ most prestigious hotels and restaurants. What qualities does the hospitality industry admire most about your products?
CC: Most importantly, the traditional material gives the designs a very timeless elegance. Compared to private interiors, durability is tremendously important in the hospitality industry. Not only does the furniture need to be of outstanding quality, but the designs also need to be timeless in order to last for a long period while appearing very contemporary. That is something that we have always strived to achieve in our design aesthetics. Furthermore, quality and comfort are key, and this is also something that we generally score very high on. The Vincent Sheppard brand is for many professionals a guarantee of good, trustworthy designs of high quality.
TL: Are there any new hospitality projects that you can tell us about?
CC: One of the most recent ones is a project in Sicily, Italy: ‘Dimora Delle Balze’. This is a wonderful boutique hotel where you can escape the world around you and live a dream for a few days. It’s also often used as a location for wedding parties. You’ll find many inspiring images on their Instagram account: @dimoradellebalze.
TL: Where is the design team based and how do you collaborate with designers outside of Vincent Sheppard?
CC: The majority of the designs are created in house by our own small design team. To expand our horizons and keep an open vision, we periodically collaborate with external designers. This always gives a fresh look on the materials we use, and is also very inspiring for our own design team. One of our latest collaborations was with Alain Gilles, a Brussels based designer who has developed a new outdoor collection, ‘Wicked’, for us.
TL: The original Vincent Sheppard designs, such as the Butterfly, Chester and Edward portray a nostalgic style and form one might expect in traditional rattan furniture of the colonial era used in gardens and sunrooms. Alternatively, the more recent designs combine material such as metals and woods with the Lloyd Loom fabric and suggest a modern day living functionality? How have the styles, form, and functionality of the Lloyd Loom furniture evolved over the last 25 years?
CC: Trying to reinvent our material and coming up with new styles and designs is very important for us. Since Lloyd Loom furniture is a niche product, it’s a constant challenge to keep the furniture modern and exciting. Our traditional pieces are still very popular, but appeal to a certain public. Our more modern designs on the other hand make the material very accessible and have a wider appeal. It is our goal to introduce Lloyd Loom furniture in various designs, so that consumers with all kinds of different design aesthetics can find something of their liking.
TL: Working with a traditional weaving technique, how is Vincent Sheppard’s design team inspired to create unique furniture for the future?
CC: In the last few years, Vincent Sheppard has been experimenting a lot with new materials as well. We like to use our experience with Lloyd Loom furniture to create new designs with other unique materials. We do see that those collections in other materials are growing quickly and seem to please a lot of people. However, we still believe that Lloyd Loom furniture remains very present-day and that we can keep renewing that line as well. Especially in combination with some new, unexpected materials, and by challenging the traditional ways that the material is used, we can keep creating new, surprising designs with this unique material with its rich history.
TL: What new Lloyd Loom collections can we look forward to in the future?
CC: We keep an open eye for any new trends and tendencies in the furniture world, for indoors as well as outdoors, and try to anticipate on that by creating unexpected designs. Vincent Sheppard will keep presenting collections of high quality and great seating comfort, in which natural, durable materials play a lead role.
Photography provided by Vincent Sheppard.