Sara McCarthy Kennedy, Textile/Surface Design ’03
As design director of wovens at P/K Lifestyles, a division of P/Kaufmann, Kennedy creates textiles for licensed products for brands like Kelly Ripa Home, ED Ellen DeGeneres, and Tommy Bahama Home.
As told to Jonathan Vatner
Our business leading up to 2020 was shrinking. People weren’t spending as much money on their homes. When COVID hit, people started nesting, and all of a sudden there was this insatiable appetite for fabric. Every segment of home had an incredible year. Fabric retailers couldn’t keep our lines in stock.
On the other hand, the design process became more insular. Pre-COVID, I’d be traveling, going to museums, art shows, and trade shows. With the shutdown, I was a bit paralyzed—my eye wasn’t getting the stimulation it needs. There was so much anxiety and fear, it felt frivolous and insignificant to be worrying about design. That being said, I still had to do my job.
I was watching Netflix and Amazon like everyone else, devouring series like Bridgerton and The Crown, and getting inspiration from the Regency era. It was a time of opulence and decadence: bouquets of flowers, fruit, ribbons, pattern overload.
For fall ’21, I did a lot of nostalgic designs based on The Crown. I was inspired by Balmoral, the queen’s Scottish ancestral home, full of timeworn things rooted in the past. I did a tartan plaid that’s very fresh and a design that looks like a distressed rug. I also created playful and fun designs based on Bridgerton. The French had a popular woven construction called a liseré, with yarns running along the warp to create the pattern. Sometimes they’re silky and can feel outdated, but I made it 100% cotton so it has a dry hand.
Pre-COVID, homes had gotten simple and zen. People didn’t want a lot of textiles; they wanted a cool rug and white walls and midcentury furniture. Now there’s an explosion of opulence—a bit over the top, but my eye really likes it.
Featured photo (top): Kennedy took inspiration from the decadent fabrics and interiors of Netflix’s Bridgerton. Photo courtesy of Netflix.