Absolutely Mama meets Larissa Cairns, owner and creative director of interiors and clothing company The Linen Works
Words Helen Baron
When did you realise you had a passion for design?
I have had a lifelong passion for decorating and designing. I come from a family of painters, musicians and writers and it was a great blessing to have so much encouragement as it gave me the freedom to be creative from an early age.
Where do your inspirations come from?
Creativity can be found in all pursuits and escaping from ordinary influences helps me to see things from a different angle and remain inspired. I am a bit of a globetrotter and it is a great feeling to spin episodes of my existence into a new linen collection. I love finding places that are unknown yet delightful; places to swim, picnic and wonder. Here is where the distracted thinking is replaced by intuitive contemplation. Travelling gives us a chance to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and nothing encapsulates the beliefs behind The Linen Works more than that.
How do you start your design process?
Just focusing on the time I spend at my desk wouldn’t accurately represent the effort that goes into creating new pieces; the design process usually starts long before a moodboard is put in place. Thereafter the texture and weight of the linen required will define the best European mill to work alongside. Sketches turn into samples, tweaking and tweaking the small details until they feel just right.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Launching into the largest luxury department stores in the UK (Harrods, Selfridges, Conran, Liberty’s, Heal’s) all in one year has been an enormous realisation and a real testament to the quality of the brand we created. The lovely comments we receive from our customers… sometimes even a thank-you letter will make my heart melt.
You don’t have children of your own but you have expanded the business to include childrenswear. How have you found this latest venture?
The inspiration for this new collection unfolded from memories of my childhood, while waiting impatiently as my grandmother finished the stitches of my new summer dresses. I wanted to capture that natural childlike simplicity and candidness. I really hope we can continue expanding this range as it is such a pleasure to design.
Are there more plans for the business?
The main focus is to continue on refining our customer-centric approach, making the shopping experience as easy as possible. A physical shop in London is almost certainly our next big step.
How would you describe your home’s interior scheme?
I have a fondness for the rural styles seen in England, Italy and France. I like to capture the essence of these quiet places and pull it all together with a certain nonchalance; displaying furnishings that show their age, personal quirks and utilitarian objects that are as beautiful as they are useful.
To what do you attribute your success?
Working with linen and the skilled craftsmen who transform this wonderful fabric into the products we see today makes us feel good regardless of financial rewards. This network of people who share so passionately the beliefs and ethos of our brand goes a long way when quantifying what success means to me.
I also like to think I see new opportunities and the possibility for improvement where others may not and have a discerning eye to turn that potential into reality.