Searching the globe for the most uniquely crafted fabrics, Melissa Newirth’s online store, Cloth & Goods offers gorgeous artisan-made home decor with a contemporary point of view. Her company takes a serious case of wanderlust and translates it into stylish design, all at a click of a mouse. But looking a little bit beyond the digital realm, we found a studio in Portland that had our whole team drooling. Lofted ceilings, clean lines, and white brick walls, the Cloth & Goods headquarters serves as inspiration for any workspace. We caught up with Melissa to find out more about her studio and her online company.
What are the founding ideas of Cloth & Goods?
Our core principle is to develop products made by crafts people, by hand, who work with traditional methods and make them modern – you then have the best of both worlds! We don’t want to work with mass production, we want quality control, to support artists and small companies.
You are a textile collector, what do you look for when you source a fabric for your store?
I look for pieces that have character and that are in excellent condition. You can see quality in the process by which it’s made – in how the textile was woven, dyed, the weight, texture, color, design, and most importantly, how it has worn over time. I don’t like stains but holes can sometimes be patched up depending on if it adds to the charm.
Which place in the world is a hidden gem for finding gorgeously made fabrics?
Japan, without a doubt, has the most incredible indigo – it is a gem for craftsmanship, refinement, and beauty. Aesthetics are part of their everyday values. Although they have some of the most beautiful fabrics, it’s a challenge to find width there. We also love Africa for more of a rustic weave and, of course, parts of Europe.
Do you have one that is your prized possession?
I have a few prize possessions. I try not to get attached to any and I tell myself there is more around the corner. I have let go of some that I wish I had not.
You have such an amazing work space, what went into having it look the way it does?
The bones of the space were there so it made it easy to design, plus it is a small space. I needed functional pieces for work purposes, yet wanted everything to look beautiful for a showroom/studio. I knew that I wanted it to look rustic and modern, true to our founding ideas for Cloth and Goods.
Tell us a little bit about the vintage pieces you have included.
I designed the workman’s table and had it made – I wanted a table at a standing height, so I found an old door, had a friend rework it, and then took it to a metal smith for the powder coated legs. It was also important that the table could move, so we put casters and locks on the legs.
The photography is of photographers that we represent. I try to hang at least one piece of each in the studio so people can see it in person. The black, white and natural print of a dock is a called “Later On” by Joanne Fielder- it is one of my favorites, you can find it on our website.
The chair and task lamp are all pieces I have found.
Cloth & Goods is mainly an online store, what crucial lessons have you learned along the way?
Starting an online store is not easier or cheaper than starting a brick and mortar store. It can take a longer time to develop a customer base. We have been lucky for all of the press we have received but it is challenging for people to have to find you in a sea of websites and online stores.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own online business?
Have a strategy and believe and love what you do. You’ll have to come up with creative ways to have potential customers find you. Social media is a great way to build your brand but it’s not necessarily the best tool to find new clientele.
You sell all sorts of crafted pieces- from pillows to photography. Do you have any new pieces or collections coming in soon?
Yes, we have lots of new stuff that we are excited about! We just finished shooting a whole bunch of new products, our photographer, Lisa Warninger, is working on them as we speak and will be up on the site soon. We will have a collection of all types of natural materials- pillows from Africa, Indigo from Eastern Europe, and a new black and white series which is my favorite. I am also designing a line of pottery working with a ceramicist. We’ll be introducing a new color palette for Spring/Summer.
Cloth & Goods has seen a lot of success since you started it in 2012, what are your next steps?
We have had a lot of inquiries from around the world to do wholesale. It is hard to do that with our small runs, especially since we work with vintage materials. I am in the researching phase of creating a wholesale line, while still keeping our beliefs and integrity; it’s a whole new “animal”. I also have a potential partnership in the works, which would be very exciting. So stay tuned!