The appeal of passementerie

By Michael Cohen
June 11, 2020

Michael Cohen, Samuel & Sons managing director, shares his enthusiasm for decorative trimmings

Samuel & Sons was founded more than three quarters of a century ago by my grandfather. We see our business as not only being a design resource, but also here to challenge the view that trimmings can only be used for classical interiors. The art of passementerie dates back to fifteenth century France, when decorative hand-sewn trimmings were originally designed to disguise the seams and edges of wall hangings, bed hangings and draperies. By the late twentieth century it was widely used by interior designers but only for a particular style of interior design, one that was more traditional, classic and sophisticated.

Today we see trimmings used everywhere, from tassels on dresses and skirts to furniture and home accessories. More and more designers are using passementerie in creative ways to adorn luxury hotels, restaurants and bars as well as in residential. The finest example perhaps is the over-the-top members club Annabel’s in London. Redesigned by Martin Brudnizki, it’s a place of opulence and glamour. The abundance of texture, pattern and colour here is elevated by the layered use of trimmings. The backs of chairs, the edges of cushions, mirrors and curtains are all embellished with borders, tiebacks, fringes and tassels, creating a lavish, maximalist look in every room. It’s a testament to the fact that more really is more.

Fringing is making a comeback and we have noticed increased use amongst contemporary designers. From thick bullion fringing to tassel fringing – there has been a growing demand. It’s a versatile product that will work equally well on a chair, pouffe, lampshade or cushion and provide not only embellishment, but texture, colour and depth. Our trimmings collection has over 10,000 unique products, making a multitude of applications possible. It’s exciting and inspiring to see contemporary designers embrace what was seen previously as a traditional design element.

Regardless of your style, any item in a home can be transformed by the use of trim, whether that’s simple piping, cord or more intricately designed border or a lavish fringe. Designers, particularly those working in the residential sector, are often looking for ways to add unique personal touches, or incorporate existing loved pieces that they can update with the use of trimmings.
Traditionally seen as a finishing touch, we are seeing trim being viewed as important, or even more important, than the fabric itself. Simpler and less expensive fabrics or ready-made pieces can be lifted and embellished with layers of trim to create extraordinary and often surprising design elements. Passementerie paves the way for customisation, designers are embracing that and experimenting with deeply layered and colourful fringes on cushions, curtains and furniture. Years ago, we would have seen trimmings used sparingly on the edges as a small decoration element, but now we are seeing fringes and borders covering the entire face of a cushion in gorgeous layers.

Samuel & Sons trimmings collections are designed with innovative and intricate techniques at the heart of each design, including quilting, laser cutting, applique, printing and a large amount of handwork. Our contemporary collections are full of surprising materials, from wood, wool, velvet and silks to glass, grass, shell and leather, attesting to the fact that trimmings aren’t just reserved for traditional interiors.

Ajoutée is a luxurious collection of hand-knotted tiered fringe, combining silk threads with glass beads in a beautiful selection of colours that have been inspired by Venetian glass. The luxurious and contemporary Hair on Hide collection consists of borders, in which geometric patterns are formed through refined fur swatches on subtle leathers, resulting in great depth and a rich, natural colour palette. Then there is Optix – a sophisticated collection of appliqued plastic, geometric borders incorporating origami folding techniques, resulting in a three-dimensional finish. Perhaps one of the most innovative collections is Lucente. Drawing inspiration from the time-honoured tradition of hand-forging (one of the oldest metalworking techniques) and inspired by iron casting. This is a lustrous collection of nailhead, grommet and metallic trimmings. It brings the craft of hand-forged and hammered nailheads together with natural linens, woven braids and fine Italian leather. It is a collection that fuses the traditional with the modern.

Design inspiration, showing how designers are using trim, can be found on the Samuel & Sons Gallery