Anyone who considers themselves a member of the design world knows that there are only two seasons of the year that truly matter: those when the biannual editions of Cabana magazine drop. Ever since its first issue was printed in 2014, Cabana has developed a cult following among design aficionados around the world. While the print magazine is eagerly collected like the design Bible it is, the company has also dipped a toe into product design via a tabletop collection and other design partnerships, as well as a much anticipated new book Casa Cabana (Vendome). But this fall marks a new milestone. In collaboration with Schumacher, Cabana is launching its very first fabric and wallcovering collection.
Hunkered down at her cozy new flat in Milan (which was recently outfitted using nearly every piece from the line), Martina Mondadori, founder and editor in chief of Cabana, has spent the entirety of the pandemic researching patterns, exploring new colorways and textures, and coming up with the linens and velvets, the ikats and paisleys that make up the resulting collection. The globetrotter may have been grounded over the past two years, but her imagination has taken flight. Mondadori tells Allison McNearney about how this longtime dream became a reality, and dishes on which fabrics she’s chosen as her permanent roommates.
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Could you tell me about your inspiration for launching Cabana in 2014?
At the end of 2012, I moved to London from Milan, my hometown, with my two kids. Everything was very exciting, but I started feeling a certain nostalgia for what I left behind, a nostalgia for Italy that was mixed with a nostalgia for my childhood home, which I started to look at with completely different eyes. I think it was a mix of this feeling and of discovering my new country through all the beautiful, stately English homes. I began to rediscover a passion for interiors that I always had, or that I had grown up with, because both my mother and my father had a thing for beautiful interiors and always surrounded themselves with decorators as friends.
It all came together when I started making physical mood boards that were a mix of Italian and English interiors, patterns, and fabrics. Around the fifth or the sixth one, I thought, “I think there’s a book here.” I wanted to use interiors to inspire my generation of globetrotters. And that’s how Cabana really began. I think it was also the right aesthetic at the right time.
Your first collaboration with Schumacher happened in 2016 when you decided to feature nine different Schumacher fabrics on the cover of one issue. It was the first time you had ever featured an American brand. Can you tell me about this decision?
Dara Caponigro, Creative Director of Schumacher, and I came together thanks to our mutual friend, photographer Miguel Flores-Vianna. We looked through the archive, and she picked what she felt were very iconic Schumacher patterns. The covers were so successful and iconic that the handbag designer Olympia Le-Tan created a limited-edition capsule collection of clutches embroidered with them.
Following that experience, how did the decision to collaborate on a new collection of fabrics and wallcoverings come about?
Two-and-a-half years ago, Dara asked me if I had ever thought of doing a Cabana fabric collection. I told her I had been thinking about it from the beginning, but that I never thought the time was right. But it’s been my dream forever. She said, “Well, let’s do it!”
We started talking about it in the fall of 2019, and then the pandemic hit. This has been one of the projects, if not the project, that I’ve been working passionately on across the various lockdowns of the last two years. At the beginning, it was a huge challenge. But looking back now, I think that there wasn’t a better time to do this because I had the time to actually go through various documents, various books, and start creating what was the initial idea for the collection.
Can you tell me about your inspiration and the references you pulled from?
First of all, I thought about the foundations of the Cabana mood. There’s obviously a European inspiration, very Italian with patterns and colors, and then there’s a strong Middle Eastern inspiration, from the Ottoman and Central Asian cultures to the Silk Route. So, through books and the archives of museums like the VMA in London, I started putting together patterns that I liked. Then, I worked with the Schumacher design team to make them relevant today, to make them special and unique.
After we defined the designs, the next step was the colorways, and that was such an interesting learning journey for me. We all have our comfort zone when it comes to colors and palettes—mine are all the warm tones. like terra cotta, red, burgundy, and brown. But when you’re creating a collection, you have to go beyond your comfort zone. The Schumacher team taught me so much about how different parts of different countries like America or England respond in different ways to colors. The finished collection includes a whole other story with blues, light greens, and pink that brought everything together.
Is there any way in which you feel like you pushed the Schumacher team out of their comfort zone?
I think so, especially with certain colorways I insisted on keeping. For example, the Elena Paisley Stripe with the red background. I was really keen on keeping it because, to me, it feels very bold and it feels like a 1970’s mix between a Diana Vreeland room and a David Hicks room. I felt that one was really Cabana.
Are there any fabrics in the collection that are your particular favorites?
I’ve looked at the collection for quite some time now, so I’ve already gone through many different favorites. [She laughs.] But I definitely love the Floralia pattern, especially the wallpaper since it’s printed on sisal, which it makes it very textured. And then I love the look and feel of the Constantine. It’s a very simple fabric, and I used it to make curtains in my bedroom. I love the Ikat, because I have a passion for Ikats, and the Elena Paisley Stripe, as well. I love all of them really!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.