Upon entering Raoul Textiles, tucked in amid the tasting rooms and railroad tracks where lower State Street hits the Funk Zone, it’s hard to discern if you are stepping into an art gallery or a home.
A mixture of watercolor paintings and tempered photography adorn the textile walls, and the George Smith furniture on the floor is decorated with Nigerian mud-cloth pillows and draped alpaca blankets. It’s a living room meant to be lived in, not only looked at. Indeed, everything about Raoul points to home — accessible yet artistically sophisticated designs, products entirely handmade, and a family-run business.
The Raoul story begins 35 years ago in a Quonset hut, where Sally McQuillan and her husband, Tim McQuillan, began block-printing T-shirts and selling them on the beach in 1981. Her designs soon captured the attention of Nike, Quiksilver, and Billabong, which all hired her for contract work. But by 1999, McQuillan had made such a name for herself that she ended those relationships.
Eventually, her daughter, Madeleine, and son, Gene, joined the team to help produce the designs that their mother creates. It was an expected transition for Gene, who studied textiles at Central Saint Martins of the University of the Arts London and worked with George Smith furniture, which is now a Raoul Textiles collaborator. For Maddy, it was less expected. “It took me by surprise,” she explained. But, after working in textiles for six years, she loves it.
The Raoul textile factory — now located on Los Aguajes Avenue, just down the train tracks from the retail store — is the central core of the business, hand-printing about 20,000 yards a year. From there, the fine Belgian linens are displayed in showrooms throughout eight states and eight countries, their first international showroom established in London in the early 2000s. The Raoul facilities double as both retail and workshop, as interior designers or home decorators can peruse the bright hanging collections and intricate swatches of fabrics that reflect historical motifs or patterns inspired by nature.
“We have a lot of florals and botanicals hand-drawn,” said Maddy. “[Sally’s] interested in patterns from all over the world — Asafo flags, Fulani embroidery, Indian paisleys, Hawaiian pareos, French toiles, etc. — and has a unique way of making them work together.”
Raoul Textiles has been featured in many a fashion magazine, so people now come from all over to stop and see the birthplace of such a remarkable company. “When you see it, you recognize it immediately,” said Susan Owens, assistant manager of Raoul Textiles.
“Personally, I think our business is exceptional because Sally’s vision is exceptional,” said Maddy. “She’s a genius of color and scale, and I think her ability to be inventive outside of design trends is unmatched. And from Sally’s vision stems a commitment to the handmade, traditional processes evident in the quality produced.”
136 State Street, (805) 899-4947, raoultextiles.com