Every week, we’re shining a spotlight on the best small brands we think are worth shouting about. We love our great British high street, but there are so many fantastic independent brands out there making clothes, accessories, homewares and more from a place of passion and love and we need to support them – now more than ever.
From fashion and beauty to homeware and accessories, we’ll be bringing you the best small businesses you need on your radar. This week we chat to Léa Zana, founder of Vaisselle, the artisan tableware brand handmade in Spain.
How did Vaisselle come about?
Vaisselle was born during the first UK lockdown. After a redundancy and recruitment cancellation, I ended up with no career prospect at the beginning of the pandemic. I am originally a footwear designer so I knew I wasn’t going to find a job anytime soon… who buys shoes to stay at home?! So in May 2020 I decided to start a new project. I have been obsessed with ceramics since my youngest age. My grandmother used to take me to all the flee markets in my home town in the southwest of France – as a kid I hated it! But I think there is were my passion started.
With my experience of product development, starting the collection was the easy part. I designed the collection from my home in London and when the border opened in July I flew to Spain to look for makers. I knew Spain has a really rich ceramic tradition, so I spent a month there until I found my makers and Vaisselle was born. [In case you’re wondering, ‘vaisselle’ is the French word for dishes].
What three words would you use to describe Vaisselle?
Tradition, craftsmanship, uplifting.
Who is the Vaisselle customer?
The Vaisselle customer is someone who loves each piece of her interior to be unique and curated, for whom luxury means authenticity, traditional techniques and handmade. All my customers purchase Vaisselle almost as if it was a piece of art they will keep forever.
Where does inspiration come from for your pieces?
The inspiration comes from my childhood in the southwest of France, where gingham – known as ‘vichy’ in French – is everywhere and not just a trend. I also used to travel the world before Covid (this is my main passion), so I picked up influences from Mexico and India for colours, Japan for shapes… I have also lived in Spain before coming to London, so many of my floral designs are inspired by antique Spanish ceramics from the 16th century.
Tell us a bit about your design and making process.
I design everything myself from my home in London, from shapes to patterns to the colour palette. I then have Zoom meetings to my maker to explain each style and the development process starts. They start by shaping each piece in white and try out colours. It’s a very long process, about 3-4 months to get a piece right. As it’s all handmade and hand-painted, we never know how the clay, pigments and glaze will react when we start a new product.
Is Vaisselle striving to be sustainable in any ways?
Vaisselle is made by artisans using traditional techniques – those techniques are intrinsically sustainable. We use local white clay, natural pigments, lead-free paints and glass glaze. All the pieces are dried in the sun (no heater or dryer) and the packaging I use for my retail customers is 100 per cent biodegradable or compostable.
Which Vaisselle piece is your favourite?
My favourites are our new spring plates POPI and LILA – they are cute stripy plates and their names came from my cats.
Anything exciting planned for the brand this year?
Developing the third collection and consolidating our wholesales. I’m not trying to do collaborations or try too many new things at the moment. I feel having a strong base is the focus so I can be more inventive and take risks later.