Fiona Pouchard works under the name Savoir Chair and is also part of Sit Collective, a group of independent upholsterers based in Leytonstone, East London. The group met while studying and formed the studio in November 2017. The space is mainly used for individual projects, but the Collective’s belief in supporting each other often leads to collaborations on larger commissions, such as our sofa. The studio also acts as a gallery - currently on display is a series by Frances Easter Brennan who works under the name From the Dark Room.

‘The sofa is covered in a fabric called Blue Lagoon from Bute's Alchemy range which launched this year. I chose it because this sofa is going in my husband’s studio and his company’s colours are dark blue and yellow. Usually we get commissions from clients so it’s up to them to decide – it was hard having free reign to choose! Bute have a fantastic selection of different textures and colours which are very durable so perfect for upholstery. They use natural fibres - this range is 61% Merino, 33% Pure New Wool and 6% nylon - and share my ethical ideals. I love their story - they were founded in 1947 by the 5th Marquess of Bute to provide employment for service people returning home from the Second World War.

The sofa originally had buttons on the seat as well as on the inside back and arms. My husband was keen to keep them but I wanted it to have a more modern look. We discussed it with the girls in the workshop and agreed no buttons on the seat would give the sofa a more contemporary and individual feel. There’s two layers of foam under the fabric and the top one had holes in it to allow the buttons to sink in a bit so we had to replace that. You don’t know what it’s going to look like, so it's a risk and that’s quite scary. There was a lot of sewing on this sofa which is a job in itself so it can be quite daunting. The fabric is completely tailored, so if you get something wrong you’ll only know once you’ve attached it all! I’m really happy with it; obviously there’s always bits that you think you could have done differently, but that’s how upholsterers always feel.'

'I used to work in marketing for a hotel in East London. I worked a lot with designers and artists and really enjoyed that. I did it for almost ten years, then had children and couldn’t work part time. Upholstery is something that I’d thought about years ago, but it was hard to know when to make the jump – it’s a big thing going from a job that you know how to do to something you don’t know at all. I started by doing a weekend course, loved it and then did a full course. We all finished studying pretty much at the same time, except for Alex who has years of experience. Being part of a larger group like SIT is super helpful. It means that we can share ideas and help each other with tasks when someone doesn't have much experience. All of the other girls contributed to the completion of the sofa.

When you look at the courses, it’s mostly women whereas 20 years ago it would have been mostly men, and in fact traditionally most upholsterers were men. Dorothy Gates – she’s passed away now - was one of the first women to be recognised by the upholsterer’s guild. She wrote several books. We’re super collaborative, we all help each other with advice, we bounce off each other. And then if there’s bigger jobs coming in we can do them as a group. If one of us took the job it might be too big. And we’re all independent. You can decide to take one chair or more, you can decide not to take anything – it’s flexible, you’re in control.’

Shoreditch House

You'll find Shoreditch Design Rooms just a ten minute walk up the road from our East London House.