A brand with heart

WAG revisits KD Spain, the Bridgeport-based lifestyle brand of fabric designer Kate Spain and her husband, Pete, who handles the business side of the company. The duo catches us up on their side-by-side work, including details of the new rug collection, eye heart hand, which focuses on sustainable production and was recently installed in public spaces at the Delamar Greenwich Harbor.

To hear — or more accurately see — what’s new with Kate D. Spain, simply walk into the Delamar Greenwich Harbor.

That’s an easy way to check out eye heart hand — what’s billed as the “field-to-fiber-to-floor” rug collection from Spain — since two custom rugs from the collection were recently installed off the luxury hotel’s harborside lobby, working with interior designer Lisa Silver of Silver Contract Interiors in Stamford.

Spain, savvy WAG readers may recall, is the designer behind the KD Spain brand, and Kate works hand-in-hand with her husband and business partner, Pete Spain.

At the time WAG visited the Spains in Bridgeport for a September 2016 feature, we were dazzled by her nature-inspired designs that peppered the couple’s home in the Black Rock section. Her work was translated onto everything from pillows to table runners, rugs to curtains and framed prints to plates.

She had been creating home goods since 2008. When we visited she had recently launched her namesake collection.

Spain, who grew up in Mamaroneck and would eventually land at the Rhode Island School of Design to study graphics, took us into her home-based studio where we got a glimpse into her inspirations and methods that produced collaborations and products for retail giants from Target to Crate&Barrel and companies such as Bigelow Tea to Andrews McMeel Publishing. 

With Pete still handling the business side of things and Kate the design, the Spain effort seems stronger than ever, as we were pleased to hear in an update sent by Pete (of course).

As he told us, through KD Spain, Kate continues to license her original graphic designs worldwide for an array of products.

The heart of the update though was focused on rugs — specifically, the news that Kate and Pete have developed the eye heart hand collection, which they proudly share has been well-received by shop owners, interior designers and customers since its introduction last year at the prestigious International Contemporary Furniture Fair. (Pete noted, as well, that the name can be styled
eye heart hand to emphasize the integral importance of the “earth” in what they do).

In that email update from the Spains, Kate shared how the latest effort began:

“About five years back, I was licensing a design to a rug company. It was a best-selling rug. To our surprise, customer complaints and the return rate were very high. And so, we sent a sample to be lab tested. We discovered it wasn’t actually ‘New Zealand’ wool as the manufacturer had claimed. We decided to step back, to prioritize transparency and to create an ethical rug-making process with a new team of our own.”

The Spains detailed several reasons why these new rugs are connecting with customers:

  No child labor. All rug making is done by GoodWeave-certified adult artisans. Celebrating 25 years in its mission to end child labor, Goodweave is an international leader in assuring against child, bonded or slave labor. Each eye heart hand rug bears the GoodWeave label. Pete participated on a panel about ethical supply chains at Grace Farms in New Canaan last spring to discuss this and how GoodWeave keeps child labor out of overseas manufacturing and improves education, health and labor conditions in manufacturing communities.

Extraordinary materials. The Spains source highland strong wool from one family farm on the South Island of New Zealand. Kate explains: “This wool is perfect for the rugs I design. Its natural whiteness and luster bring contrast to the colors and sheen to the texture. Its long staple makes the construction extremely durable, with minimal shedding, and still so comfortable. Such beautiful wool is a product of the farmer’s commitment to the highest animal welfare standards, sustainable environmental management and to supporting native biodiversity.”

Scientific testing. The Spains assure that the specially selected wool is the only wool in their rugs. Throughout the process, the wool is randomly sampled in India and sent to Oritain in New Zealand for independent scientific traceability testing and verification.

As Pete points out, “The Wools of New Zealand organization estimates that about 500 million pounds of counterfeit ‘New Zealand wool’ enter the global market each year. This has severely damaged the market price and hurt the farmers. And at the consumer level, how do we know what we’re really getting? For eye heart hand, we decided to remove all doubt. If an Oritain test comes back negative, then we don’t use that wool in our rugs. Sure it costs more, but it sets us apart.”

And the finishing touch? Each eye heart hand rug is hand-numbered and finished with a label hand-signed by the designer, the shepherd in New Zealand and by the rug maker in India.

As Kate says, “It’s a real collaboration — from my drawing board, to the farm and the sheep, to the GoodWeave artisans.”

As the Spains sum up their update, looking ever forward, “The eye heart hand collaboration is creating new collections of rugs and additional single-source handmade products that will continue to deliver original designs, luxury quality and proven provenance.”

For more, visit eyehearthand.earth or kdspain.com.

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