Balsan opens new showroom in Clerkenwell

Ahead of the launch party for the brand-spanking new London showroom, Hotel Designs caught up with Maninder Choda and Joanna Wood, Balsan’s ‘Elite Team’ for UK sales and design…

Blasan carpet design

An impressive space, complete with fancy glass encased meeting space, extensive basement level working space, and Champagne bar (well, for the launch party at least), the new Balsan showroom is the perfect platform to showcase the brand’s collections and design capabilities.

Located in the heart of Clerkenwell, it’s also perfectly placed for the local design community with large enough windows to pique interest and inspire those passing by.

During the showroom’s opening, it was refreshing to see the French manufacturing company’s take on couture, using sections of its carpets turned into dresses and handbags. Unusual, yes, but not unrelated to Balsan’s fascinating history.

Balsan carpet couture displays

Image credit: Balsan

The company was established in 1751 and began life as a textile manufacturer for the royal family and army in France. In 1857, the company was bought by Pierre Balsan – a keen innovator who grew the business and introduced new generations of the Balsan family to the textile world.

During the early 1900s Coco Chanel worked at the Balsan factory as a seamstress before meeting Étienne Balsan, whom she started dating and who ultimately helped to kick-start her career in the fashion industry.

Louis Balsan took over the running of the company in the 1950s and during his frequent visits to America discovered the tufting technique used to create carpets. As much an innovator as his grandfather, he decided to diversify and invested in dyeing machines and Balsan began manufacturing tufted carpets.

Balsan history showcased in the new showroom

Image credit: Balsan

Balsan moved its manufacturing to a new plant in the French countryside in the early 1970s, but there is still a lot of love for the original building and the company’s history in the region. “You can actually visit the old factory, which has been turned into a museum,” said Maninder Choda. “It’s amazing, it really gives you that nostalgic feel that you’re part of something that has a lot of history behind it.”

“The Balsan family still live on the land where the new factory is,” added Jo Wood, “so even though they’re not directly part of the business anymore, there’s still that link.”

The current factory is in the countryside and produces its own electricity and has a cleaning and filtration system for the water. “A lot of thought has gone into being sustainable and being a green factory,” Choda explained. “We even have our own bees and make Balsan honey!”

Maninder Choda, Hospitality Manager UK & Ireland, has been with Balsan since 2022 whilst Jo Wood, Concept Designer, has been with the company since Sept 2023. They call themselves the ‘Elite Team’ and it’s easy to see why whilst talking to the two of them – they are a true double-act and incredibly supportive of one another’s different skills.

Jo and Maninder at the new Balsan showroom

Image credit: Balsan

One of Wood’s first projects for Balsan last year was creating the ‘red carpet’ for Hotel DesignsBrit List Awards, and she tells us that she loves that no two days are ever the same for her.

Talking about the design process, one of the highlights for Woods is being able to be so creative each and every day. “The design process starts with a brief. A lot of the time we work with specific brands who will send us a mood board and tell us the areas they want carpet designed for and we take that as a starting point. It’s a really creative process, you take inspiration from the bits of the mood board that really stand out to you, and you develop ideas from there. We’re going to be working on an Axminster collection next. Every day is different, I really enjoy it.”

“We realised was that it was important to have a UK designer,” continued Choda.” “Interior designers here want to be able to talk through the creative – they want that direct conversation. Jo is there to talk through initial concepts, to take in any changes during the process and that helps keep the project moving that much quicker.” Which is absolutely what the team is achieving with a lead time of roughly six weeks from order to delivery. “We have so many different technologies aside from the creative process of designing something too: we have a number of different base cloths which all create a different feel that you can do so much with – all the options give our products another dimension.”

The team have just completed Mercure Earl’s Court – a project they worked on with MIXD and Accor. Check out Balsan’s other projects here.

Why not drop in on the team during Clerkenwell Design Week and chat to them, about upcoming projects and ideas? They have plenty of fun things to keep you entertained at the new showroom on Farringdon Road.

Main image credit: Balsan