Couture (|kuːˈtjʊə|) noun. 1. the design and manufacture of fashionable clothes to a client’s specific requirements and measurements.
Not in Aiveen Daly’s world is isn’t. Seemingly unwilling to be defined by such a narrow dictionary definition, the Irish-born creative decided to apply the techniques (quite rightly) to upholstery and, in doing so, has gained a well-deserved status as the UK’s most sought-after specialist upholsterer. No longer are precise pleating, refined beading and encrusted crystals things of the catwalk; they’re the sign of a truly bespoke home. Her eponymous brand bridges the gap between craft and art, with each of her furniture and home designs showcasing a sartorial-inspired take on traditional upholstery techniques.
Founding the company in 2005 following a successful career in marketing, Aiveen discovered her passion for design completely by accident after enrolling in some part-time textile courses. This search for something new peaked her interest and resulted in a change of direction – a year-long upholstery degree at London’s Metropolitan University.
There she discovered a talent for taking centuries-old pieces of furniture and updating them with some of her now-famous techniques. The designer began to approach design in a new and unique way, choosing to experiment with many different styles rather than perfecting just one. She honed her impressive design skills, for which she has no become renowned. Unknowingly gaining invaluable experience for her future company, the future textile specialist’s love for upholstery was born.
Describing the catalyst behind her trademark style, Aiveen explains, “I have always been interested in textiles and upholstery seemed like it was a bit ‘stuck’ in terms of design. It [had become] more about what fabric to use rather than what to do with the fabric which interested me greatly.”
So, she started experimenting with upholstery, using different methods and applications to push the boundaries of the industry’s conventionality. Now, her genuine passion for design mixed with years of expertise land her as a frontrunner in the upholstery trade.
Of course, it all returns to couture. Couture works as a major inspiration for the designer, who uses her free-spirited approach to her craft in order to create truly remarkable pieces. Utilising various fabric-manipulation techniques along with beaded, embroidered and embellished decoration, Aiveen’s work is often more comparable to a runway show than to a traditional furniture suite.
“We are always devouring the fashion pages and watching the fashion shows live online for inspiration,” Aiveen says. So much so, in fact, that the company often use the same suppliers as some fashion brands. Specialist metal ornament manufacturers, feather designers, embroiderers and beaders all feature in Aiveen’s little black book as well as that of the Alexander McQueen and Burberry teams (who use similar hand-dyed feathers and metal clasps and buckles respectively).
Aiveen works closely with clients to create bespoke commissions, often collaborating with top interior designers and architects across the globe to deliver on even the most extreme requests. Many upholstery companies would shy away from creating such intricately bespoke pieces, some of which can take up to 12 months to create, but Aiveen finds joy in the process. “It is wonderful to be involved in slow, methodical processes,” Aiveen says, contradicting today’s tendency to mass produce, “I love watching commissions come to life. It is always so surprising and we learn so much from every project.”
Her experience is vast but, despite receiving covetable commissions which would make the mouths of her peers water, much of Aiveen’s portfolio can’t enjoy the exposure it deserves. “Most of our best projects are strictly confidential as we work with really high-profile clients, so it is difficult to shout about all of the fun stuff we have been involved in,” Aiveen explains. A new range of pre-designed pieces (her ready-to-wear collection, if you will) are a merciful window into the talents of this designer.
More than 11 years from its conception, Aiveen Daly is now working with a global clientele, offering its owner’s unique sense of style across the world. But, still, the concepting, the developing, the crafting, the stitching, the pleating, the finishing all happens in a North-West London studio. (Even the furniture frames are home-grown – the brand collaborates with an English-based father and son team.) Simple raw frames are taken to the studio, where they are meticulously transformed by Aiveen’s small but dedicated team.
While Aiveen clearly has a strong connection to the city, with the continual growth of a now very successful empire, that could all one day change. She says, “London is a fantastic location for design but who knows what the future will bring!”
While the future is admittedly unknown, it is looking very bright for Aiveen Daly. Upcoming projects boast locations from Shanghai to New York and, of course, in London. But what is it Aiveen herself wants from the future?
“I would like to continue to push the boundaries of upholstery and experiment with new techniques and materials to create really interesting focal pieces for interiors,” she reveals. If her past creativity is anything to go by, the upholstery world best get ready.