During the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Andrew Cussins, Founder and CEO of Sofas & Stuff, drew inspiration from past editions of textile and cloth magazine, Selvedge. Keen to explore connections with artisans who could make unique fabrics suitable for high-end upholstery, he approached the editor, Polly Leonard. Presented with a range of interesting options, samples from a community of weavers, high in the Andean mountains particularly caught his attention.
Polly enabled an introduction to be made with the Centre for Traditional Textiles, Cusco, Peru and its director Nilda Alvarez Callañaupa, and an exciting partnership followed when Andrew submitted an initial order for 360m of cloth to be woven - no mean feat for a textile that is created from hand spun and naturally dyed fibres by many different weaving communities, often far away from each other. The order came at a crucial time for the communities, who were severely hit by the pandemic and the shutting down of Peru’s tourism industry, bringing a measure of financial security during very difficult times.
Located in the heart of Cusco, the ancient capital city of the Inca empire, the Centre for Traditional Textiles, Cusco, Peru (CTTC) acts as a bridge between past and present Peruvian cultural identity. Its origins lie in the 1970s when a group of Quechua women weavers from the community of Chinchero started to gather together to revive textile traditions and earn an independent income through the sale of their textiles in the growing tourist market. The Centre for Traditional Textiles, Cusco, Peru is proactively preserving and reviving spinning and weaving techniques through its research, demonstrations, and teaching workshops. Traditional natural dyeing techniques have been reintroduced into local practice, with weavers learning how various fibres respond to different dyes from flowers, leaves and other natural materials and long-forgotten designs are being woven again.
This unique collaboration with the Cusco weavers reflects the importance Sofas & Stuff places on the value of craft heritage, be it rooted in Britain or, as in this exceptional case, in communities far from these shores, and our commitment to creating furniture with substance and a narrative that takes account of the provenance of materials, the sustainability of different processes involved, and the transmission of valuable skills into the future.