Building a business you adore, with your best friend by your side, as you make time to be present for your growing family ... Could it get any better than that?
If you ask Lauren Emerson and Genevieve Hewson – the founders of Sydney-based textile label Walter G – the answer is “no.” While many would advise against starting a business with your closest friend from childhood, Lauren and Gem are living proof that it can be done – with a healthy dose of success and joy along the way.
With Walter G, they take inspiration from old textiles and new surroundings, working closely with a team of artisans in India to collaboratively produce a tactile range of hand printed fabrics. Channelling the relaxed vibe of coastal living through pattern, fresh colour, texture and nostalgia – their fabrics are designed to be mixed and matched to elevate an interior with both style and comfort. The result? Effortless style with a globally curated vibe.
So if the change in season has you ready to revamp your lounge room with new fabrics and textures, well, you can thank me (and Walter G) later.
What inspired the launch of Walter G?
Walter G is Genevieve Hewson and Lauren Emerson – two best friends who met in Year 7 in Sydney’s North. After graduating Commerce and Design in 2008 and 2010 respectively – they went on to travel extensively, particularly to places known for their textiles – such as South America and Vietnam. Lauren travelled to India to do an internship as part of her degree, and Gen went to visit several times. They completely fell in love with it – and the idea that they could start a textile company was born.
They promptly moved to India for 6 months and immersed themselves, learning everything that they could about indigo and block printing techniques – living in tiny and remote villages. Upon returning to Australia, sadly both of their grandfathers Walter and George passed at a similar time. Walter G is named in their honour – and the business was officially launched at Life Instyle in Sydney in 2012. Lauren and Genevieve believe strongly in maintaining a hands on approach within the business, travelling to India annually and staying true to their passion for the hand block printing process. They describe their brand as lived-in, imperfect, timeless, relaxed, and artisanal. All designs are their own creation, developed hands-on with a team of Indian artisans and completely hand-printed.
What did your careers entail prior to the launch of your business?
We started Walter G when we were both 24, so honestly speaking, prior to that was university and a suite of casual jobs which we used to fund our travel to random textile rich countries around the globe like Vietnam, Peru, Guatemala, etc.
We had little to no experience in running a business and went into it completely blind, without even a business plan. However, this approach tends to suit our personalities, our passion was strong and we thrive in sink or swim situations.
Can you tell us about the business?
Walter G is an Australian-owned and Sydney-based boutique textile house. Taking inspiration from old textiles and new surroundings, we work closely with a wonderful team of artisans in India to collaboratively produce a tactile range of hand block and mud printed fabrics.
Channelling the relaxed vibe of coastal living, through pattern, fresh colour, texture and nostalgia – Walter G’s fabrics are designed to be mixed and matched to elevate an interior with both style and comfort.
Can you share the story behind the wonderful artisans you work with?
We have been working with many of our artisans for over five years and whilst our Hindi is limited, over the years we have definitely picked up enough key words, which when combined with some theatrical hand signing, the annual reunions on our sampling trips are always filled with many laughs, samosas and chai. Most of the printers were taught by their father or mother and the process is learned and handed down from one generation to the next. Their skills are unparalleled and every time we are back in India we find ourselves mesmerised by the hand block printing process.
What is your design process like?
Our design process begins with us drawing or painting a design in various layers, then scanning it into Photoshop where we manipulate the drawings and put them into repeat. From here we send our completed designs to our artisans in India who carve the wood blocks by hand. We then proceed with test printing in different colour combinations. Once we have sample swatches of all the different designs and colour variations, we then play around, mixing and matching to decide on what pattern/colour we will release in which size. It’s all about creating various sub stories within a collection that layer beautifully with each other and timelessly with our past collections.
How do you make a successful business partnership (and friendship) work?
Everyone we know warned us against going into business with your best friend. To this day, people that we haven’t seen in a long time still ask us (with a nervous expression), “Are you still doing that textile thing with Gen/Lauren?”
We think that the reason it has worked for us is the same reason that we didn’t hesitate going into business with each other in the first place: we have exactly the same work ethic, and naturally gravitate toward the same aesthetic and are total textile tragics.
Where luck has played into it, is that our personal lives have tracked very similarly. This has meant that we’ve both been able to support each other and pick up the slack when one has been married, had kids, got a mortgage, gone through family ‘moments’. Had we been in different places, particularly when it comes to motherhood, we feel there would have been a lot of strain on the business. Even if people want to be understanding and sympathetic, it’s not until you really go through pregnancy and motherhood yourself that you can fully appreciate the compromises that you need to make. Also, from the perspective of running a business, our goals are aligned: we want to grow the business steadily, not rapidly so that we can live a balanced life and still be able to be present with our families.
What are a few of your favourite pieces in your collections?
There have been many favourites over the years. Samples regularly go missing from our studio as we each ‘try’ a new look out at home!
Gen – my current obsession is our Luxor design that Lauren did. I have two chairs upholstered in it and would like to also do a bedhead in it and wallpaper my powder room in it. I just can’t get enough of it!
Lauren – I’m not normally a huge green girl but I’m loving mixing our new Saltbush colour way with our Celadon and Saffrons. I’ve recently siphoned some samples home to pick the perfect combination for my guest bedroom!
A favourite for both of us this Summer will be our online exclusive release of Walter G Melamine plates. They are the ultimate kid friendly companion for Summer BBQs at home or by the beach – bright, patterned and unbreakable!
How do you incorporate so many incredible textiles into your homes?
With great ease! Even when there is no space left, we will begin to layer them up. This is really how we design all our collections – with the idea that they can be layered in with new and old. More is more! A designer in Boulder, Colorado just tagged us in an image where she had installed our Luxor Blossom wallpaper on the risers of her clients staircase. There is always room for more pattern in your life!