Marking Soane Britain’s 25th anniversary, the new ‘Egyptomania’ collection draws on the richness of one of the world’s most ancient cultures. Spanning fabrics, furniture and lighting, the collection takes influences from thousands of years of Egyptian history, and includes a collaboration with the artist Yasmin Hayat, an expert in the art and geometry of the Middle Eastern and Arabic world.
Lulu’s interest in Egypt stretches back to her teenage years, when a visit there inspired her to study Egyptology and Ancient History at University College London. Since then, she has developed an abiding admiration for the architecture and design of the region, encompassing the art of the pharaonic dynasties, the influences of the Hellenistic and Roman worlds, the traditions of the Copts, and its latest incarnation as part of the Arab world.
The fabrics of the new collection neatly illustrate the breadth of influences at work: the delicate texture and irregular lines of ‘Papyrus Stripe’ recall the natural fibres of this ancient form of paper, while the monumental chevrons of ‘Elephantine’ resembles the hieroglyph for the letter ‘N’, a sign which was used in pharaonic tomb paintings to depict the Nile. The interaction between flora and water, another regular feature of ancient tomb paintings, is expressed in the romantic, cascading flowers and leaves of ‘Filigree Flower’, though the pattern’s immediate inspiration is drawn from an 18th-century Ottoman sash, and a 20th-century interpretation of the ubiquitous Egyptian Date Palm is behind the graphic woven design of ‘Leopard Palm,’ which was inspired by a glimpse of a palm fabric in the 1963 film ‘The Leopard’.
The graphic, geometric theme of many of these patterns continues into the collaboration with Yasmin Hayat, whose Syrian heritage and training at the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts have led her to develop a unique blend of Arabic, Western and Indo-Persian traditions in her own paintings. While looking through the Egyptian fabrics in Lulu’s own collection, the pair decided to develop a leaf-like design found in an Egyptian tent border – this is now the intricately symmetrical ‘Rumi’ linen. The geometry of more modern Egyptian designs has influenced other fabrics, including the bold and colourful stripes of the ‘Thebes’ weave and the elongated hexagons of ‘Date’.
This reinterpretation of tradition for the modern world expresses itself equally in the new furniture and lighting of the ‘Egyptomania’ collection. The pyramids make their appearance in an upholstered stool based on a Victorian antique, and in a charming brass shade that can now be added to the classic ‘Argo’ light, while the pharaonic deity Hathor gives her name to a wall and floor light featuring a Cupid’s arrow, the sign of her Greco-Roman counterpart. The iconic Egyptian palm appears again in the ‘Palm’ wall light, where a popular Soane design in brass is reinvented in jesmonite, unfurling fan-shaped palmetto leaves in an elegant arc.
As Soane celebrates 25 years of working with some of the finest makers in Britain, this collection continues and develops that heritage, with beautiful pieces in the company’s existing metal, timber and rattan specialities, as well as new ones in tile making and jesmonite casting, which appear for the first time in the ‘Egyptomania’ launch.
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