Self-described as an ordered bohemian, Matthew Williamson magnifies that state of mind for his SS21 Obeetee rug collection. Williamson credits India as the crucible for his designs, but inspiration for his Obeetee collection is international. His twenty plus year catalogue of saturated colour, tropical motifs and exotic birds (peacock fan tails and feathers are recurrent) is reimagined with a punchy urban palette in eight designs and two grades of weave: hand-knotted and hand-tufted.
Williamson says he looks at the shape of a rug as a painter would a canvas, but his initial career as an award-winning fashion designer means the rug is as much a mannequin on which he projects his vision of fashion for the home as it is a canvas. Williamson’s shift to interior product design and a residential and commercial interior design portfolio is not so much a pivot as it is an inevitable transition. He acknowledges that interior design always lurked beneath his fashion career. His initial entry into rug designing was at the beginning of the millennium when he was still a full-time fashion designer.
The Obeetee collection is available in hand-tufted wool and viscose, and luxurious, hand-knotted rugs that take Bhadohi-based weavers nine months to complete. Sunset Dreams and Sunrise Haze were inspired by the village of Cala Deià on the Spanish island of Mallorca where Williamson has a second home. Oh So Sisco alludes to ‘San Franciscan rainbows’, but the pattern riffs on the popular fan motif from the Art Deco era’s obsession with Egyptian Revival lotus fans. His update switches the motif to a rainbow peacock fan. Atlas Big Sky references Moroccan architecture, while Iris Ikat suggests the Indonesian technique of resist-dyeing. In the round version of the rug, Iris Ikat becomes an image of the iris of a giant eyeball. (Interesting side note: Williamson’s mum was a receptionist in an optician’s practice, and, he says, the ‘peacock’ at parties when he was growing up). Majestic Trinity transforms a trio of peacock feathers into what resemble a school of one-eyed fish; Leopard Love pays tribute to the pattern of the endangered big cat, and Cross My Palms is a repeat of tropical palm fronds.
Williamson once remarked his fashion was meant to ‘make women feel like peacocks.’ With his move to interiors and rug design, the opportunity to strut your peacock stuff is available to one and all.