Consciously embracing sustainable practices has not traditionally been a focus for the high-end interiors market, but Jennifer Manners Design set out to make this a key tenet of its business strategy last year – a decision which has paid off on several levels.
The brand, which specialises in exquisite handmade rugs, spent almost three years developing a proprietary process for softening and ‘de-shining’ fibres made from recycled water bottles. The result is a soft, inherently stain-resistant and bleach-cleanable yarn that mimics the look and feel of natural wool. With this, the brand launched its award winning /re/PURPOSE PERFORMANCE rug collection, the very first of its kind – firmly putting eco-awareness on the agenda for luxury interiors.
The passion for this eco-centric approach began on a trip to India when the brand’s eponymous founder, seasoned traveller Jennifer Manners, came across the potential for repurposing tens of thousands of water bottles into fibres that could be used in hand-knotted and handwoven rugs. The team tried and tested a plethora of combinations to soften the fibre and give it a matte, premium feel, mimicking natural wools.
The result needs to be seen (and touched) to be believed. In a stunning example of what can be achieved within the circular economy, an average rug is made using over 7,000 recycled plastic bottles. The studio is continuing to explore how far the fibre can go, and has recently launched a collection of jute-effect rugs and carpets. Sisal rugs have long been synonymous with classic English country design but can be considered fragile as they break down and stain easily. The same look is achieved with the /re/PURPOSE PERFORMANCE fibres, but without all of the inherent stain and durability issues.
Every Jennifer Manners rug tells a story and is brought to life by artisans from Kathmandu in Nepal, and Bhadohi in India. It is a founding principle of the business to engage, inspire and – most importantly – empower these craftspeople. Unique patterns can be handcrafted for any style of rug – hand-knotted, flat woven, handloom or jacquard – thereby enhancing the individual character of any room for which the rug is destined. The weeks and months of meticulous work that go into weaving each item result in heirlooms that will last for generations.
The launch of /re/PURPOSE PERFORMANCE brought a Best Sustainable Product award at the designer trade show Decorex, along with accolades from The English Home 2022 Honours list. It also attracted collaborations with other celebrated British designers, including Salvesen Graham, Kitesgrove Design Studio, Henry Prideaux and Edward Bulmer. Jennifer has been invited to speak at five different design forums, heralding the sustainable era for luxury interiors and demonstrating the benefit of an innovative approach focused on collaboration.
Bringing British design to a modern and distinctive fibre is, believes Jennifer, one of the most exciting ways to marry luxury with sustainability going forward. What’s more, as she says, ‘The studio has maintained the same stringent handmade quality that is synonymous with our brand. We believe that, as long as we continue to marry design with function, it is even easier for consumers to make sustainable choices.’