An Interview With Iván Meade

Article by Michelle Heslop. Photography by Sarah MacNeill and Al Smith. Please contact MHV Magazine for specific image credits if more information is required.

Iván Meade knows no limits. As principal designer and founder of Meade Design Group, this internationally acclaimed interior designer and design blogger has launched a stunning new fabric line. With less than five fabric designers in Canada, Meade is the first to launch his own line on the west coast. A culmination of fifteen years in the design industry and an expression of his personal aesthetic of timeless European methodology with a sophisticated, modern edge, his fabrics are a personal narrative, with each pattern representing an important part of Meade’s own life experience.

Born in Mexico, Meade lives in Victoria, B.C. and has been working internationally for almost twenty years. He has received international and critical acclaim for his work in graphic, interior, and industrial design. Meade Design Group’s work has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, Style at Home, BC Home, and Design Edge, among others. MHV was thrilled to sit down with this Renaissance man and find out what inspired his fabric line, what it means for his clients, and what the future holds for Meade Design Group.

What inspired you to create a fabric line?

I wanted to give something to the public that was truly original. I realize that there are very few original ideas anymore but I designed my fabrics through my own distinctive interpretation of design and my own narrative history. Every pattern that I design is inspired by my personal life and my family’s stories so no one else could have that, it is truly unique and original.


In the design industry, how does having your own fabric line set you apart?

People often wonder why I have a multi-disciplinary design studio that merges graphic design and interiors. In order to be able to produce the fabric designs we have to have an understanding of graphic design and graphic design tools. These tools help us to understand the scale and proportions of the graphics in the fabrics and how they are going to be used in the space. I am confident in my knowledge of both disciplines now and can comfortably merge the two to create custom designs. I have the tools and the team to put designs together in this multi-disciplinary way and I think this is the edge that sets us apart.

What is the theme to the patterns in this collection?

When I was designing this line it was very important to me that both the patterns and colours all worked together in a harmonious way. Not only within my own line, but it was important that my patterns and colours work with other fabric lines as well. I used only six colours that have a timeless appeal. These are not fashion colours, I wasn’t interested in the pantone of the year, my colours are not based on trends. Trends fade but carefully crafted design lasts forever and that is the goal for my line of fabrics.


Who is your target market for you new line? How will people access them? 

Interior designers will be my primary market for my fabrics given the connections I have made over the years. We have very good social media relations at Meade Design Group so we are definitely planning to use social media to get the message out. In 2007, I launched a design blog that was named one of the best 25 blogs in the world by Designs-n-Deal. I have interviewed over eighty designers in seven years and feel I have established a wide-reaching network of designers.

What kind of feeling do you hope people take away from the line as a whole? What type of response do you hope to illicit?

My intention and my hope is that people will feel moved and enjoy the fabrics in their own way whether they feel nostalgic or some reference to their own personal history. I hope that my narrative can connect to others’ narratives. For instance, one of my patterns, vista hermosa, is inspired by the tile patterns in my grandparent’s neoclassical home in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. It is nostalgic for me and the pattern is simultaneously geometric, feminine, and modern. I hope that people will feel emotional connections with the fabrics or at least I hope that they illicit some type of emotional response.


These fabric are highly personal. Does any one of them have a distinctly special story for you?

All of them are a part of me, my history, so they are all very special for different reasons. I have been using theGrabado pattern in my studio for six years – it is printed in gold foil on my letter head. It is an homage to one of my favourite artists, Matthäus Merian (1593-1650) and is a pattern that has been used in much of our branding so it is especially notable to me. Grabado is a bold choice, with our largest repeat available, it requires book matching and makes a beautiful statement. I have always wanted to see it in a fabric and now it is finally getting the attention it deserves.


So would you say Grabado was your jumping off point?

Yes, ten years ago I was looking for a crisp white fabric with brown accents and I just couldn’t find it. Now you see a lot of fabrics with brown and white but it still isn’t exactly what I was looking for. I asked my seamstress to custom sew it for me because I had a particular design in mind. That was it. Since then I realized I could design exactly what I want specific to each project. I didn’t want to feel limited or confined to what other designers were using. Everyone has their own interpretation of design and I didn’t want to adopt someone else’s interpretation of design, that would be a compromise.

There are many talented designers out there and I have used many of their fabrics in my projects, but I want my designs to reflect my own personal interpretation. My own fabric line allows me to be authentic; I have created the opportunity to sell my own personal interpretation of design.


How is the fabric line going to impact how you do business with your own clients? 

We have had an incredible response so far and I have already used the fabric in multiple projects. My clients say that my originality is why they hire me; I like to think outside the box for each client. Having my own fabric line allows me to start mixing my fabrics into every project. I don’t like the idea of having a signature style, I have never liked that. This is why the fabric line is both contemporary and traditional in many ways so it can merge with other designs and accompany other styles.

All of my patterns work together so I want to use my own pattern designs in most projects but not necessarily all of my fabrics. For instance, I am currently using two fabrics from my line and merging them with designs from another line. I am complementing my designs with someone else’s designs and it’s a beautiful union. I carefully considered the colours of my line so I know they can work with other lines of fabrics; this is very important in the industry.

What kind of attention has the international press release brought your firm? Who do you hope to reach?

Interior design magazines will be our primary opportunity for people to see what we have to offer. As far as I know only three other Canadians have designed their own fabric lines and I think they are in Toronto. It is new territory and I am very proud to be the first designer to launch a fabric line on the west coast. I am excited to bring the west coast to the global market and show them the unique aesthetic we have to offer.


Speaking of the west coast, that is a stunning feature photo of the woman draped in your fabric on the coastline. A beautiful blend of west coast and high fashion. Was that intentional?

Definitely intentional. The fabrics are so beautiful that you can make dresses or shirts in them. It shows that good design isn’t restrictive. For instance, an alluring design for a window treatment could also be a beautiful fabric for a dress. We are making a carpet for the studio in silk and wool from the Grabado design. Once you have a pattern that works, it can translate well, it should work for anything.


You mention a custom swatch that will actually work better for designers?

Swatch books are both very practical for sampling fabrics and impractical in the restrictive way it is bound. It is impossible to put certain fabrics together in a traditional swatch. It is impossible, for example, to place the first fabric with the last. So we designed our samples in a ring by colour – so you can open the ring, get the fabric out, and put it next to the other fabrics or you can rotate them on the ring to put them together. The large sample swatches often just confuse and overwhelm clients with options. With my new ring swatch you can select individual fabrics to show clients without taking the entire swatch.


Who are the lucky designers that have your new swatches?

Currently, a design studio in Victoria in the design district, a show room in Vancouver, Seventy-Seventy Design Headquarters in Calgary, Atmosphere Design Lounge in Saskatoon, and a design studio in Mexico.

How would individual designers get your swatches?

They can purchase them and we will send them out. Everything is manufactured in Canada and the USA so unfortunately we cannot offer them for free. Quality is very important to me. I wanted to reflect the level of quality I expect in my own home. The fabrics themselves are in the same price range as any other designer fabric.


Our pillows and scarves are a bit more costly based on the fact that they are made by hand in Canada. Like a Hermes scarf, the scarves are all hand sewn. I had three scarves made by my seamstress as a test to see how I wanted the final product to be made. We chose the sewing style where you don’t see any points at all. I could manufacture in China or Mexico but supporting our local community is part of the culture at Meade design. I want to support those people who still do these fine crafts by hand. There are less and less people able to support their craft and I want to do my part to keep them alive. My mother would often say “find luxury in what you touch every day,” and this became a deep-rooted philosophy for me that I attempt to reflect in my designs.


Is this the beginning of something bigger?

We are thrilled to announce that we have been invited to do a carte blanche design for a boutique hotel in Mexico. They have requested a unique brand experience and because I have expanded our capabilities we are able to offer a broader service now. They have requested that I design distinct fabrics for their hotel, everything from towels to chairs to window treatments so I am excited to take my team in that direction.

Did you envision designing on this scale when you started Meade Design Group? Or has this developed over the years?

I always had visions of growing and evolve but people always told me that work on this scale is only for the big designer names, the very well-known designers, with their own television shows. But I continued to develop my brand and am always asking questions. Ten years ago I was asking fabric reps how difficult is it to design fabrics. We didn’t have the technology then or the capabilities that we have now. Digital printing has become more affordable and accessible to do custom design like this. Although, designing my own fabrics was no small task, the line itself took two years to develop. Almost one year in just testing alone. I wanted the right fabric, the right quality, the right manufacturing. I didn’t want to go too elite, too expensive, but I found a perfect balance, it is a simple, elegant collection that has meaning.

I have been through some personal life-changing events and that has gotten me to where I am now, it has all been an important part of my narrative. I just decided I wanted to do something fulfilling, something to make me happy. I was very keen to develop my own line and I wanted to do it right. When people said I wouldn’t be able to do it, I saw that as their limitations, not mine. You can only put limitations on yourself. I just don’t see limits. People say you live on an island, how are you going to expand? But I have clients in Costa Rica, Mexico, Australia, Edmonton, Calgary. We’re global now, we have to embrace this, there are no limits.