A Designer Breathes New Life Into Old-World Fabrics

ART + CULTURE | BY | September 20, 2018
A Menlo Park, California, textile designer draws upon her cultural heritage to breathe new life into traditional fabrics.
A Menlo Park, California, textile designer draws upon her cultural heritage to breathe new life into traditional fabrics.
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halini Bitzer brings a world of inspiration to her textile designs for her company, India Silk Exclusive. Working out of a studio in Menlo Park’s Allied Arts Guild in California, Bitzer draws upon global heritage and influences (her father is German, her mother Indian and her husband is Moroccan) to create her coveted fabrics. Rendered in a range of colors, patterns and textures, her designs are sold in a plethora of high-end showrooms in America and Europe.

Bitzer’s success seems almost inevitable, given the artistry that’s in her blood. In the 1960s, her grandfather started a silk importing business in Bangalore, India. Her mother–who attended design school in Germany, where she met Bitzer’s architect father–continued his legacy. “We lived and had an office in Baden-Baden, a small town near the Black Forest, and seeing the confluence of East and West in everything from doing business to the creative use of colors was a big influence,” recalls Bitzer. “As an adult, I spend a lot of time in Morocco and that culture has also become an inspiration.”

Before entering the world of textile design, Bitzer cut her teeth in the fashion world, working at Italian Vogue. From there, she began her own design business, importing pashminas from Kathmandu, Nepal, and then making them her own with custom embroidery. “It was important to me to have my own experiences and ideas rather than being purely influenced by my family,” she says. By the time she did join the family business, she felt ready to add something new as opposed to simply learning the well-established ropes.

That fresh approach has helped Bitzer make a name for herself in local design circles and beyond. Some of her trademarks include bringing a present-day touch to old-world fabrics and patterns, from sumptuous silks to 18th-century-inspired florals She gives an example, saying: “When you put an intricate embroidery on something matte, like a natural organic linen or cotton, it still feels exotic, but in a more modern way. On the other hand, if you take a more ornate fabric and embroider it with a dry yarn, it’s suddenly not so traditional looking.”

While naturally drawn to bright colors (a trait apparent in the fabrics that enliven her studio, which also serves as a retail space), Bitzer has also become an expert at making more plain fabrics feel vibrant. “So many people want neutrals these days, and I can work with that, but there needs to be texture,” she says. “Texture adds life.” Bitzer’s versatility has earned her an impressive roster of clients, including Donghia, Suzanne Tucker and Zimmer + Rohde. She has also branched into the luxury hospitality category, most recently designing drapery for the Rosewood Sand Hill resort in Menlo Park.

But at the end of the day, Bitzer remains entranced by the embroideries she first dabbled in as a fledgling designer. “I always return to them,” she says. “There’s such a richness to taking old antique pieces and making them feel contemporary. History is what gives a fabric depth.”

PHOTOS: JEN SISKA

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