An Albany Fabric Designer on Success and Timeless Style
Fabric designer Gretchen Bellinger shares the principles and philosophies that have guided her company through the last four decades.
Photo by Francis Dzikowski, Headshot by Keith Claytor
“Good design is like a string of pearls. There needs to be both cohesion and a clear point-of-view to hold it together,” says Gretchen Bellinger, president of the Albany-based textile design firm that bears her name.
The 41-year-old business, guided by Bellinger’s precise vision, is certainly testament to that. A sense of simplicity and elegance are intricately woven into its enduring aesthetic.
These principles explain why Gretchen Bellinger, Inc. has persevered. “Our collection speaks to those who approach design as a reflection of one’s self,” says Bellinger, whose fabrics have been selected as part of the design collections of major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
An inherent design sense has led to the creation of timeless fabrics such as the Limousine Cloth® broadcloth, which has been part of the collection since the company’s earliest days.
“At a time when it’s all about here and now, ancestry is vitally important,” reveals Bellinger. “It’s about taking inspiration from the past, understanding its root, and translating that into fabric that is relevant and true to the source.”
The past, specifically Bellinger’s ancestry, ultimately influenced the company’s location. Her ancestors initially settled in Fort Plain, NY. Like her mom, Bellinger attended Skidmore College.
The designer gets nostalgic as she reflects on past projects. Although many favorites spark her memory, it was a project for the British Airways Concorde that was most instrumental in securing Gretchen Bellinger Inc.’s position in the industry.
With a portfolio of notable projects behind her, the designer — whose fabrics are only available to the trade, through designers or architects — explains that artisans, such as the many who lost their jobs in the wake of the recent economic crisis, were vital to establishing the Bellinger design ethos. Because of this, Bellinger seeks out independent mills and artisans who are unique and under-supported.
When asked what that means to her, Bellinger responds, “Personally, it means everything.”