Soft furnishing generates hard cash for Scottish designer Iona Crawford

A YOUNG Scottish artist and fashion designer has landed a second multi-million dollar deal to sell her range of soft furnishings around the world.

Iona Crawford – who, at the age of 26, already runs her own fashion studio in Glasgow and displays her clothing collections on international catwalks – will see her printed cushions and curtains manufactured and distributed by Indian industrial conglomerate Shri Lakshmi.

It is her second major deal since being signed by top fashion agent Timothy Danser, who spotted her at an event featuring her latest clothing range in New York.

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He persuaded Crawford that her prints would be ideal for soft furnishings and quickly negotiated for US distributor Rio to produce a range of home products.

A graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, Crawford set herself up as a professional painter and clothing designer. Her brand, which she started as soon as she finished her studies, will be five years’ old this autumn, just as her furnishings hit the shops under a new name – “Iona Crawford, Art of Living”. The Stirling farmer’s daughter draws on the Scottish countryside for inspiration.

“It’s been a fast-paced five years but it’s been great,” she said.

“Initially I kept the painting and fashion as separate business streams but I gradually incorporated them by making the prints.”

The Rio contract, which will see the firm wholesale Crawford’s range to up-market department stores in the US, Canada and Mexico, will see a minimum of $1 million (£620,000) worth of goods distributed in the first season.

Now Danser has arranged a similar deal with Shri Lakshmi, an industrial giant that builds weapons and submarines as well as being India’s third-largest textiles manufacturer. It will sell the furnishings in Europe, including Britain, as well as in India, Japan and North America. Crawford said the sales are likely to be even greater than those expected by Rio.

Crawford’s contracts with both companies are for five years and she will receive royalties on the sales. With creative direction over the whole range, she is now busy producing and amending samples for the two manufacturers on opposite sides of the world. Her first ranges are due to be offered to retailers in September.

“I’m flat out now pretty much all the time,” she says. “I’m initially producing biannual collections but that will expand. The big market in the States is the [Christmas] holiday season, so I’m developing a festive range for Rio.”

Crawford’s Scottish-inspired designs are expected to find their biggest market in North America and the two distributors will then use her exclusive ranges to try to expand their distribution networks there.