Bouclé is back: be inspired by Coco Chanel's suits (or your granny's sofa)

What do Coco Chanel’s iconic skirt suits and your granny’s old sofa have in common? Bouclé, that’s what. This nubby, teddy bear-alike fabric first came to popularity thanks to none other than fashion’s first lady herself.

In 1954, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel started to use this looped fabric on her jackets, and the rest is fashion history. Often copied, never – it could be argued – equalled, her genius lay in the menswear cut she employed, and the addition of a chain running along the seam ensured that the jacket always draped perfectly.

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As so often happens, decor follows dresses, and multi-coloured as well mono-toned bouclé and textured tweeds were massively popular furnishing fabrics in the 1950s and 1960s too. Manufacturers such as Knoll offered bouclé as an option on Eero Saarinen’s classic Womb chair and ottoman, where cosy and comfort were the key words.

“These fabrics have been around the whole time,” confirms Eamonn Harrington, who is the sofa buyer at Harvey Norman in Ireland. “But customers are becoming more daring with texture and shapes, so they appear to be more prominent.” Plus, Harrington says, “consumer taste is driving design so the resurgence of these fabrics and shapes is a result of this”.

There’s another good reason why people are moving towards textured fabrics on their sofas, too. “Lifestyles are demanding something hard wearing,” he says. It’s a dead cert that it’s a lot easier to disguise mucky paw prints, cat fur and yoghurt stains on a textured fabric. “They are often more easily maintained or cleaned,” Harrington confirms, adding, “often, they are more forgiving on stains than some of the velvets, so they are popular with families”.

While lots of bouclé comes in solid hues, one of its biggest advantages as a furnishing fabric is that so many options come with flecks of other tones woven in. This, for a home decorator, adds an interesting layer.

“Consumers have moved away from matching each piece, and are combining different styles, ranges and materials,” Harrington says of the traditional approach most of us employ when buying a couch for the sitting room.

If your main sitting room piece is a three-seater in a bouclé fabric, then identifying one or two of its fleck shades and picking up a statement chair or complementary two-seater in that colour is a smart idea. You can use the same idea for your curtains or other soft furnishings too, and this will tie your room together far better than differently-sized pieces in the same hue. Plus, you’ll add a little design nous too. Heck, who doesn’t want that?

So, while we might understandably have our heads turned by the trend-based bright and shiny on occasion, there’s a reason why the originals almost always re-emerge – because they’re not called classics for nothing.

Kirstie McDermott is editorial director of ‘House and Home’ magazine

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