Women That Inspire Us | Juliet Travers

/ Davina Combe / Be Inspired

Kick starting the New Year with the Women That Inspire Us series. It was very exciting to catch up recently with inspirational wallpaper designer Juliet Travers. Her interest and love for wild animals has been her muse and is the continuing theme throughout her beautiful designs. She prints her carefully curated and detailed drawings onto her wallpaper and fabrics, for which she has quickly become renowned around the world.

You launched Juliet Travers in 2013 and your business has gone from strength to strength! What made you want to become and Wallpaper designer and go out alone?

After studying printed textiles at Edinburgh College of Art, I had the knowledge of design, trends and small-scale production but I needed experience in sales and business to get a better understanding of how the industry functioned as a whole. I worked for Cole and Son, Fox Linton and Colefax & Fowler which helped hugely and then I was offered a job at de Gournay. Working for such an elite brand was incredible and I was in charge of all sales in the Middle East, Austria, Germany, Denmark and 11 states in the USA. I flew all over the world and got a real understanding of the demands from each market. I was then promoted to showroom manager in their flagship store in London and it was then that I really gained the business experience I needed. Working with a hand painted, bespoke product was fascinating as customers got to choose everything down to the finest detail so I soon saw a pattern of what clients were asking for. I discovered a small niche to create a hand drawn collection of designs, but machine print them at the highest standard to offer the market a range of statement wallpapers at a more affordable price.

Tell us a bit about your creative process – where do you get your inspiration?

Animals and their origin fascinates me because everything that comes with that including colour, texture, scale, and culture naturally lends itself to wallpaper and fabric design. Going solo, I needed to create something new and exciting and after extensive research I realised an African theme was missing from the market.

My husband grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe and we have consequentially been fortunate enough to travel to various African countries and spend time with the incredibly beautiful and diverse wildlife it has to offer. The catalyst for my debut Safari collection was therefore my passion for Africa, and the fact so few companies at that time had touched on the Safari theme. Luckily for me it’s now a big trend so it was wonderful to get in there early! My second wallpaper range (the Albion collection) is based on a different part of the world that is also close to my heart: the British Isles

The actual design process from starting with an original sketch or idea and developing it into a repeat design for the use of wallpaper, fabric and cushions is such a fun and fulfilling challenge. It takes nine months from sketch to a finished wallpaper collection. I begin to draw in January, visit the factory by early March and begin production early Summer. The reproduction of my drawings is a fundamental part of my USP. My detailed style lends itself to the gravure technique which is fundamentally, an etching into a copper cylinder. Each drawing is separated into layers and each layer is engraved onto a different copper cylinder which holds a different coloured pigment. It’s an incredibly detailed process, but the only one that is able to capture the detail in my original drawings, and recreate them as a wallpaper design.

Once production is complete I then work on the photoshoot, design the new wallpaper and fabric books and then when all my sales and marketing materials are ready I launch it to the public at Decorex during London Design week. Lots of people always ask, ‘when are you launching a new collection’? But as you can see, it’s not straight forward and it’s tricky to juggle with motherhood too so I do it as and when I can!

Describe your design style.

My drawings are very detailed and delicate but also playful. The two collections combine designs such as ‘The Waterhole’ which is more focused on the drawing and detail and then ‘Dazzle’, ‘Nakuru’ and ‘Nutcracker’ are more playful and bold with colour and metallic details. I love offering the market a mixture of the two ideas and it’s fascinating to see which designs are specified for what sorts of rooms depending on client style, taste and room type.

What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome when first setting up?

Being a ‘made in England brand’ is very important to me but with that, comes big minimum orders with the factory. Launching a brand new business and collection with so much stock was terrifying and I just had to go for it but thank goodness, all has turned out ok! The other problem that comes with having large amounts of stock is storage. Mum and Dad helped me out at the beginning and stored a huge amount in a spare bedroom at their home in Scotland and Mum would despatch the orders. However, as the company started to develop and expand, I needed to think about another option as space was running out at my parents house! I therefore sourced a logistics firm in Yorkshire and and they dispatch all orders for us and it works really well.

What would you say are the key attributes one has to have for starting a business?

Stay true to yourself as a designer (you don’t necessarily have to follow the trends) and listen to your gut! Be prepared for many highs and lows and carry out extensive market research to find your niche, believe in yourself and your product. There have been numerous times when I really had to take the plunge but I just listened to my gut instinct and so far, it has been right. If things go wrong (which they will at times) then look at them as a positive and learn from the mistakes and move forward accordingly. It’s not easy going solo (otherwise everyone would do it) but if you put in the hard work and believe in your brand then you will be rewarded.

You have had numerous successes since launching your brand, what stands out as your proudest moments?

My recent collaboration with Dragons of Walton street was incredibly exciting. I was approached by the director, Lucinda Croft, earlier this year and was commissioned to design a wallpaper based on their signature linen blossom design from their best- selling hand painted furniture range. The design illustrates a blossom tree blowing in the wind, created over eight panels that results in three designs in one. The sheer scale was something so new for both me as an artist and wallpaper designer and I’m really proud of the outcome. Dragons are a wonderful company to work with and I hope we get to do it again in the near future.

What direction would you like your company to go in, in the next 5 – 10 years?

I would love to launch more wallpaper and fabric collections and then continue to create more stationery and home accessory ranges to create more of a lifestyle brand. I love to design and to see my illustrations transform into different product types is really exciting. Having said that, this is all going to take much longer than 5 – 10 years as I’m currently pregnant with my second so work will need to go on hold for a while, but that is certainly my end goal for the business!

What is your favourite piece of Davina Combe jewellery?

I am covered in DC jewellery so it’s hard to pick! The three items I never take off is my Knot Bracelet which I got 5 years ago, my Alphabet Initial Disc which was my first mother’s day present from my son 2 years ago and my Palermo Drop Earrings which I get complimented on every day! All 3 are so versatile and look amazing dressed down or for a smart occasion…. Which is why I never take them off!


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