Fabric of Her Life

Photograph by Caroline Bonarde
Above: Nathalie at her Chelsea, London home.

Tucked along a quiet street in the Chelsea neighborhood of London is the intriguing fabric design studio of a Greenwich continental, Nathalie Gimon Farman-Farma. Nathalie, who was raised in France before moving to Greenwich, attended Greenwich High and then Brown University. She left editing at the New Yorker to marry and settle in London, where she and her husband, Amir, are raising their two children. But fabric would soon become a passion and be fully realized in 2015 under her alluring banner of Décors-Barbares.
“It just means outsider,” she explains of the studio’s name. “I love the Ballets Russes, and it was considered barbaric—the music, the dance, the colors. I like that idea of being just outside the bounds of good taste, of being a little challenging.”

Nathalie’s studio is brimful of enchanting fabrics—on display, covering couches, chairs, pillows and lamp shades—in colorful florals, stripes and patterns. There’s the feel of a textile museum. As she pulls out Turkmen robes, Russian pinafores and other colorful cloths, she explains how she’s inspired by the folk costumes worn in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Russia. “I’m very interested in nineteenth-century peasant wear—they mixed ribbons and prints, because that’s all they could afford, and created beautiful outfits. They put so much of their soul and culture into these clothes. [Fashion] is one of the basic expressions of human creativity—like poetry or painting. Costumes are one of the expressions of culture. So, I’m very moved by this.”

Nathalie reproduces designs from these fabrics, as well as from collected books and costumes, with great artisanal care at a textile mill in Alsace. She has garnered attention from Vogue, House & Garden, Architectural Digest and Bazaar as well as interior decorators around the globe. Nathalie sees her American customers as “looking for a more custom product, something that is a little bit more artisanal. They’re giving more thought to where they’re sourcing the fabrics for their home.”

Left: Inspiration is everywhere in Nathalie’s Décors-Barbares studio.
Right: Nathalie has brought the look of Décors-Barbares into her own London home, as featured in the new book, Haute Bohemians, available on Amazon.

Growing up in the center of France near Lyon, with an early love of fashion, Nathalie would search out her French grandmother’s closets for tea dresses. She also had a storytelling Russian nanny and grew up reading Proust and Russian literature. The final influence—Persian—came with her marriage to Amir, who is of Iranian descent. “That’s what I’m trying to show, the mixing of influences and how it’s all somehow linked.”

There are few fabrics from Eastern Europe, Northern Asia, Russia or Iran. “If your imagination wants that part of the world in your home, then look to me and maybe you’ll find something that suits you and your expression.

“It’s like a spice in a spice cabinet. I’m trying to focus on being a certain set of spices, which is not for everybody or every room.”



Standing Tall

Above: Clay-fashioned maquettes that anticipate the design

New York’s Central Park is about to welcome, albeit belatedly, the first women to its roster of twenty-two male statues. The statues will immortalize two suffragists who fought long and hard for women’s right to vote—Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. “Can you imagine, the only women they have are Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose and Juliet (with Romeo)—no real women!”noted Greenwich’s Coline Jenkins, the great- great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Coline, who is dedicated to keeping the legacy of her ancestor alive, has played a major role in “breaking the bronze ceiling” by convincing the commissioner of New York’s Department of Parks and Recreation, Mitchell Silver, to “redress” the lack of women statues. Coline walked us through this historic decision and how it’s scheduled to play out in Central Park.

Former professor of philosophy, Dr. Myriam Miedzian set out to correct the gender imbalance in 2013 by forming a committee to select and fundraise for a female monument. Stanton and Anthony were selected. Coline was enlisted due to her success in having rescued a composite sculpture of Stanton with Anthony and Lucretia Mott from the basement of the U.S. Capitol and restoring it to its rightful location in the Capitol Rotunda.

In November of 2014, Coline watched New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver give his first public address. After hearing him say, “I believe in equality and equity,” she approached him and asked if he knew Central Park has no statues of women. “No,” he replied, “I’ll look into it.” Lifting a long-standing park moratorium on any new statues, the commissioner informed Coline and her committee that they had been granted a site.

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund Inc. (of which Coline is a vice president) was granted a significant site at the Central Park West and West 77th Street entrance. The location is across the street from the New York Historical Society, where Theodore Roosevelt sits astride a horse. Coline recounts one of Stanton’s last imploring correspondence to Roosevelt: “Surely, there is no greater monopoly than that of all men in denying to all women a voice in the laws they are compelled to obey.”

Former U.S. Commissioner of Fine Arts Diana Balmori is helping to form a statue design committee. Coline hopes that the statues will take their place as early as 2017 (the 100-year anniversary of women receiving the right to vote in New York) and certainly by 2020 (the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment). Currently the committee is raising the half-million dollars needed. “We’re looking for support from those wishing to be a part of putting the first female statues in one of the most famous parks in the world. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, ‘Failure is impossible.’”