Gemma Moulton vividly remembers one of her first jobs, at a silk mill in Sudbury, the small weaving town in Suffolk where she grew up: it launched a career defined by a love for textiles. Years later, having launched a business making bespoke curtains, a mill from the same town asked her if she’d want to work with a silk mill. Moulton suggested she help them recreate fabrics from their archive. “It felt kind of full circle,” she says. So much so that in 2022, her company, East London Cloth, entered a new era as a specialist fabric merchant. 

Today, at the Vyner Street shop in Bethnal Green, Moulton still sells her signature “café curtains” (made to measure from £55), as well as simple Irish linens (from £49 a metre) alongside new and revived fabric designs. Her showroom is light and lofty, furnished with vintage mirrors, chests and table lamps. “It’s like a second home… but bigger,” she says, sitting perched on a magnificent 3m-long bench. 

Key tassels, from £28
Key tassels, from £28 © Kasia Bobula
Wallpaper samples, key tassels, £28, and curtain ties, £88
Wallpaper samples, key tassels, £28, and curtain ties, £88 © Kasia Bobula

Currently pride of place is her first collection of jacquard fabrics, named Spitalfields after the London district where the 17th-century fabric patterns were first designed and then produced. David Walterss, the Sudbury silk mill that first approached her, spent 18 months adapting the designs for contemporary production. The collection, in antiqued pink, blue and yellow stripes with flowers, includes the cotton Sofa Stripe I (£198 a metre), the Spitalfields Stripe silk blend (£360 a metre) and the Brant’s Trellis (£255 a metre). 

But it’s not all recreations. Sottofondo (or “background noise”) is a new design channelling 1980s Italy. There are reversible Taffata Stripes (£215 a metre), “sorbet-toned” sateens (£190 a metre), as well as richly coloured ikats (£148 a metre) that are a “heavier weight and good for upholstery”. 

Inside the Vyner Street studio
Inside the Vyner Street studio © Kasia Bobula
Indian block-print notebook, £95
Indian block-print notebook, £95 © Kasia Bobula

Customers are always eager to hear about the provenance and process behind each fabric, says Moulton. Among them are Will Fisher and Charlotte Freemantle of London-based antiques dealer Jamb, who used East London Cloth for sofas and curtains in their redesign of the 300-year-old Aldourie Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, which is available to rent. 

For those without a castle to renovate, Moulton works with local makers to stock small gifts and accessories. A Hoxton bookbinder has wrapped Italian notebooks in colourful antique fabrics (from £75), while the new range of passementerie – the French art of elaborate trimming – includes key tassels (£28) and curtain ties (£88). New for autumn is a range of one-off door curtains in reclaimed materials. One hanging in the showroom combines Indian block-printed fabric with green silk from a Norfolk antiques shop.

East London Cloth Taffata stripe, £215 per metre
East London Cloth Taffata stripe, £215 per metre © Kasia Bobula
The “sorbet-toned” Sateens, £190 a metre
The “sorbet-toned” Sateens, £190 a metre © Kasia Bobula

Outside on Vyner Street, neighbouring galleries and studios attract a cool art crowd. There is hardly a trace of the area’s former life as the heart of textile production, a tradition established by French Huguenots that thrived until the 19th century, when silk manufacturers moved out to Suffolk. In that sense East London Cloth is a homecoming for Moulton’s delicately woven silks. A full circle, again. 


Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article