CURTAIN CALL: Add Frédéric Martin-Bernard to the ranks of those starting a side hustle during the pandemic.
After a 25-year career in journalism, the French fashion editor is branching out into interior design with the launch of Window, a service offering curtains made to measure in the Vosges area of northeastern France, a former textile industry hub.
Martin-Bernard grew up a stone’s throw from one of the local household linen factories, started sewing at 12, and studied textile engineering before moving to Paris to pursue his dream of working in fashion.
After leaving his longtime position of fashion director at the daily newspaper Le Figaro in 2019, he felt the urge to return to his roots. “Sewing is a bit like riding a bike — you don’t forget it,” he said.
His first project was a curtain made from a vintage bedsheet sourced at a flea market. Admiring the result, visitors to his apartment started sharing their difficulties in finding curtains, prompting Martin-Bernard to conduct a market analysis on the sector.
He found a big gap in the offer between cheap, ready-to-hang curtains, and custom-made drapes at the top end. Window offers an intermediary solution, with Martin-Bernard taking care of everything from measurements to putting up curtain rails.
Customers can choose between a stock of vintage bed linen and a selection of around 20 fabrics, including linens, wools and cotton jacquards, all sourced from French mills.
“The idea is to work with a limited selection of fabrics, like a seasonal collection in fashion. I order the fabrics from the mills, so I meet their minimum order requirements. That means I can offer lower prices than upholsterers, and that’s how I can afford to produce in France,” Martin-Bernard explained.
“In reality, there is very little in interior design that is still made in France,” he noted.
He works with two textile manufacturers in his native region, who deliver the curtains within three to four weeks. “During lockdown, I worked on my sewing machine on prototypes for the finishings, which are designed a bit like reversible clothes, inspired by my background in ready-to-wear. All the seams are trimmed,” he said.
The launch of the brand on Tuesday, via the website windowparis.fr and Instagram account @window_paris, was initially timed to coincide with the Maison & Objet interior design fair, which has now been postponed to late March.
Martin-Bernard, who continues to freelance for publications including Les Echos Week-end and Icon magazine, plans to open a pop-up in Paris around the time of the trade show, and is already working on a concept for ready-made curtains produced in France using natural fabrics.
Just as the coronavirus pandemic has inspired many people to improve their homes, it’s helped him to reconnect with his original passion.
“Sewing is like gardening or cooking. You have to pay attention to every stitch,” he said. “I remember sitting on my couch during lockdown, embroidering different versions of the Window logo. It felt really good.”