“I find my inspiration in Ethiopia,” designer Hana Getachew affirms. “Incredible colors, unbelievable patterns — it’s just endless inspiration.” The owner of Brooklyn-based Bolé Road Textiles, Hana taps into the traditional beauty of fabrics from her native country, and in between visits, develops her own contemporary collections from her New York studio working in collaboration with East African weavers. Her space functions as a creative workroom, housing digital tools for pattern design and tactile sample yarns for color specification, as well as storage shelves for her vibrant product stock. In order to contain all facets of her business in one spot, Hana developed rigorous cataloging systems for it all. “I’m the most organized messy person you know,” she jokes. “…everything has a place; I just don’t usually put it there.” Her earlier career composing interiors for an architecture firm showed Hana the importance of file-naming conventions, which also helps establish a smooth workflow. Hana tries to stay even-keeled, whether facing long-term successes or momentary failures in business — but for her, “keeping cool and playing it cool” seems to come naturally. —Annie
Photography by Hana Getachew
What’s in your toolbox?
The Adobe Creative Suite! Colored pencils and a sketchbook, too. I begin each textile collection with a concept or an idea I’d like to explore. I spend some time sketching the palette and patterns by hand, but from there the design development really happens in Photoshop and InDesign.
Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”
Happy, grateful, inspired, awestruck!
Mostly happy. The amount of sunlight that comes into my studio is amazing. Maybe it’s from my days in art school, but there’s something about a bright space with high ceilings, white walls, and wood floors that I find inspiring and just spurs creativity. And I love having my products all around me when I work. It always gets me thinking of what I’d like to explore or refine next. Every time I walk into the studio, it’s so bright and colorful that I’m just incredibly happy to start my day there. And I can’t believe that I get to do this for a living. I feel so grateful.
What’s on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?
I have an inspiration cork board that is full of images and pieces of textiles from the different regions in Ethiopia. One textile is the Wollo gabi from northeastern Ethiopia, which inspired my current Heritage Collection. Another is a type of trim called Tirisa from the Konso region in southern Ethiopia, which is the inspiration for next year’s summer collection.
I’ve become so enamored of these pieces that on my last trip to Ethiopia, I went on “textile journeys” where I traveled to the villages that created the various textiles. I documented my experience on Instagram and my blog. It was an incredibly fascinating and eye-opening experience to learn the history behind the designs and patterns. It’s a wonderful way for me to learn more about the roots of weaving in Ethiopia as a whole, as well as the rich and unique traditions forged in the various regions.
How do you keep yourself organized?
I’m the most organized messy person you know. I love organizing all my stuff and everything has a place; I just don’t usually put it there. I have a nifty set of IKEA shelves where I house my pillows. I also take those shelves with me to all of the shows or markets that I do. I have a series of bins on top of the shelves where I keep just the pillow covers and additional inventory. I only create small batches so I don’t have to worry much about product storage.
For my design work, I have sample yarns in my studio. There are limited options for colored yarns in Ethiopia, and there is really only one manufacturer that’s widely available. During my first sourcing trip to Ethiopia I bought all the colors of yarn that I could find, which I keep on pegboards over my desk. Whenever I create a new design, I draw from the yarns to specify exactly what I am looking for.
I am also pretty diligent about how I store files digitally, which I get from my experience working at an architecture firm. It’s so important for me to have an organized file structure so I can find drawings and documents easily and efficiently.
If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?
When I was in second grade I was obsessed with the story of King Midas and his golden touch, and I wished I had that power. That’s really never left me. Maybe that’s why there’s so much bling in my latest collection! However, nowadays I’d rather be able to fly. I think every human since the dawn of man has wanted to fly, and I am no exception. Plus, it would really cut down on travel time and cab fare.
What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?
My parents always tell me: don’t get too excited over successes (which is crazy), and don’t get too down over failures. And as much as I have trouble adopting it, I know it’s good advice. This epitomizes keeping cool and playing it cool, which can be really helpful when starting a design business.
As for what I would advise a young designer: patience. I’ve recently been reading about Paul Smith, whose whole mantra is patience. He talks about how, having access to all of the information that we do, it’s easy to compare your company with others or expect overnight success. The goal should really be to take small steps and develop your own path. I’m taking that one in, too.
How do you combat creative blocks?
Actually, I rarely have creative blocks, especially now with my own business. What I experience more often is having too many ideas and not enough time or resources to explore them all! When I start a project or a textile collection, I have so many thoughts and directions that I want to explore. Especially in colorways and patterns, when it comes to my textiles. But I always try to pare down my ideas and edit to what really resonates with the concept of the collection.
Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?
I find my inspiration in Ethiopia. During my road trips and drives through the countryside, and even in the streets of Addis Ababa, I’ll see amazing objects like rugs, baskets, and pottery that really blow my mind. Incredible colors, unbelievable patterns — it’s just endless inspiration. I’ve felt that way for years and it’s so fulfilling to be able to have this line of textiles, to immerse myself in their history, explore their many uses, and create my own unique take on them.
If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?
Paul Smith. I’ve long admired his line of textiles for Maharam and his rugs for The Rug Company, but I’ve only recently learned about how he started his design business — he and his wife grew it slowly over time without any loans or investors. He keeps an amazing studio with tons of objects and artwork. It seems so magical and whimsical. I’d love to pop in and explore it.
What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?
I am currently obsessed with Tidal. I find that when I am working I just hit play on one of their curated playlists and I’m good to go. It saves me the hassle of having to think too long about what to listen to and where to find it. Right now I’m really digging their Prince Michael playlist… I mean… so good. I didn’t know that I needed it in my life, but now I do.