Luxury with a capital “L” this week as we delve into the world of gorgeous, touchy- feely, colourful velvet bespoke cushions! My guest this evening is Helen, founder of Luxe 39, who makes to order these delightful cushions and she has an amazing array of over 100 colour options! Hi Helen …
Hello. My name is Helen Gilbert. I’m a 40 something mum of 2 boys living in Clapham, London.
What inspired you to set up your brand “Luxe 39”?
In 2017 I was working in marketing recruitment in the city and was struggling to balance home life and work, especially in school holidays. At the same time we were at the tail end of a house renovation, finally at the interior decorating phase, and I couldn’t find velvet cushions of the quality I wanted. I decided to dig out my sewing machine and make cushions for myself and started to mix various velvet colours together to make double colour cushions. When friends saw these dual cushions they asked if I could make some for them and the idea just came together that I could work for myself and set up a luxury velvet cushion company.
I’m interested in the origins of brand names – so what does “Luxe 39” stand for?
The name ‘Luxe 39’ took a bit of thinking. I wanted a name with a matching domain which was tricky as by 2018 so many domain names were already taken so I came up with the idea of adding a number into the brand name and as we live at number 39 that was set. I played with brand names which included the word ‘cushion’ but worried that would limit the company in the future. I arrived at ‘Luxe’ for it’s double meaning. Obviously it refers to the luxury nature of the velvet fabric we use in all our cushions, but it also is a play on ‘Lux’ which is the measurement of illumination and references the way cotton velvet bounces light, making the colours appear really vibrant. And so luxe39.com was born.
With 9 cushion size options, square and rectangle, over 100 colour options, plus cushion covers and draught excluders – there is such a variety to satisfy almost every house decor! Which colourways seem to be the most popular this year?
I keep a tally of the most popular colours and it is interesting to see the gradual shifts of popularity over the years. This year Mustard Yellow is rising in popularity. It is a gorgeous bright yellow and very like Pantone’s colour of the year, ‘Illuminating’. The single colour which defies fashion and remains most popular is Burnt Orange and the double colour cushion which sells the best is the really colourful combination of Burnt Orange with Bright Pink.
Velvet cushions are so luxurious and sumptuous! what do you like most about working with velvet?
I love the depth and richness of colours you get with velvet. Even neutral shades are truly beautiful in this fabric and that makes it great to work with. It took a bit of trial and error to successfully sew velvet as it ‘creeps’ when you sew two pieces together, but I’ve had quite a bit of practice now and have it mastered.
Caring for velvet cushions – what are your recommendations on keeping them pristine?
The velvet used in all our cushions is 100% cotton pile and it is actually easy to care for. Cushions need plumping every few days and this effectively keeps the dust off them. Try to avoid dropping food or drink on them as they can’t be machine washed, but if spills do occur then we recommend blotting with a lint free cloth. We don’t recommend rubbing velvet as you risk flattening the pile which is the unique thing about the fabric. Velvet can be dry cleaned if all else fails.
As you are based in the UK, are your products available to purchase overseas?
Our products can be sent anywhere in the world and we’ve shipped as far as Australia. We used to sell a reasonable number of cushions to European customers but that has noticeably dropped away since Brexit as the cost of shipping has at least doubled and I think customers are wary of the risks of buying from the UK at the moment.
How long on average does it take to make a cushion from scratch?
There a a few stages to making a cushion and all are relatively time consuming. First you need to cut the fabric precisely. Next you need to finish the raw edges before carefully sewing in the zip (which can be made a feature of with our option of a contrasting zip colour). The sides then need sewing and pressing to ensure the seams are crisp. We overstuff all of our cushions with larger cushion pads to ensure they stay plump so they have to be carefully inserted, and then we take a lot of care to package the cushions to make sure they arrive looking like a gift – so start to finish on each cushion takes longer than you would think.
Have you had any unusual or extravagant or different colourway cushion requests?
I started the website with the colourways which I thought would go together but a lot of the options now online came about through customer requests, and some of these have become my favourites. Mustard and Bright Pink was requested by a customer and I really wasn’t sure of the combo, but when I made it I realised it was utterly stunning and it is now a popular choice online. Also, simple colour combos came about from customer requests such as the two tone options of Silver with Dark Grey, or Navy with Royal Blue. When the orders were made I thought they may be a little boring but they are really stunning in their simplicity.
A percentage of profits from the business are donated to mental health charities – why is it important to you to support these charities?
I worry that mental health provision in this country has been neglected and underfunded for a really prolonged period and was already at breaking point even before Covid. Having grown up with a parent with mental health problems I know how essential it that support is there at the time it’s needed so that’s why it’s important to me to support mental health charities.
Growing up, did you always want to have a career in textiles or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?
My previous career wasn’t in either textiles or interiors, but actually the skills I gained in marketing recruitment have been surprisingly transferrable. Business development skills are useful in most jobs, and the understanding I gained of digital marketing has been incredibly useful in setting up an online
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I work from home (before it was the thing everyone did) so I live most of my life in jeans. I have a favourite pair of Paige jeans which I bought 10 years ago as a treat after losing my baby weight. They no longer make the exact style so I buy replacements second hand on ebay with varying luck. You just have to hope that the jeans haven’t been shrunk in the tumble drier at any point, or altered over the years.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I love clothes from COS as they take classic styles and add a slight twist. I don’t find that patterns suit me but COS do some beautiful colours which mix and match really well. Now I think about it, I dress a lot like my cushions, either wearing a single colour or colour blocking two contrasting colours.
What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?
I fancy treating myself to a ‘Me & Em’ dress once we can go out again as they’re expensive but are cut and sewn really well. Again they are quite classic but often with a twist like a grosgrain stripe sewn into the side seem. As a seamstress I appreciate the construction, but I really haven’t got time to make clothes for myself.
Boots or Shoes?
It’s trainers and sandals for me as I like the laid back vibe and comfort of both. I like wearing quite tailored clothes and relaxing the look with my footwear as I hate feeling too ‘dressed’.
Links you would like to share:
We have accounts on both instagram & facebook @luxe39london.
Hmmm … dear reader, spoilt for choice when it comes to colours …. what would you choose? !
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Luxe 39/ Helen Gilbert