A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Brook began her career creating custom designs for interior designers in Los Angeles. She went on to become the senior designer for Tai Ping Carpets, working with projects worldwide. Brook currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California.
Mood of Living Q&A
Where did you grow up?
Brook Peridgon: I grew up in Tampa, Florida where my mother enrolled me in art classes at the age of nine and I pretty much never looked back. I earned a degree in painting and printmaking from Washington University in St. Louis; studied painting in Rome, Italy; weaving at California College of Craft; and surface design at FIDM Los Angeles.
What was your profession before founding your own company? What did you learn in other jobs that prepared you for launching Brook Perdigon Textiles?
BP: Prior to starting Brook Perdigon Textiles, I worked as a textile designer in home interiors for the past 15 years. These experiences have ranged from working with interior designers to help them develop their own print and textile collections to designing custom carpets for a high-end global luxury carpet company. Through each of these positions, I learned the ins and outs of the industry and was exposed to a wide range of design aesthetics. This deep understanding of the interiors market has informed my business from the beginning.
Brook finds inspiration for her designs from art history and cultures around the world.
MoL: What pushed you to go out on your own? What is the mission of Brook Perdigon Textiles?
BP: Going out on my own was something I always wanted to do. I loved collaborating with and designing for others but found that even though the projects and the motifs that I worked on changed, the day to day design work stayed the same. As a culture, we spend more and more time “at work.” I believe that as our careers evolve, they should become our classrooms, giving us opportunities to learn, grow, and be challenged.
The push to start my own company came not only from the realization that I stopped growing as a designer but also from the fact that I wanted a more dimensional work experience on the day to day. By launching Brook Perdigon Textiles, I have given myself exactly that. I constantly push myself to learn more about PR, marketing, and effective business strategy. My personal mission with the business is to grow daily, to push myself, and to strive to expand my own horizon through the work that I do.
Fabrics dyed in India and hand painted in Perdigon’s studio.
MoL: How do you seek to be innovative or unique in the textile industry?
BP: After years of working in the industry, I found that most large design houses and many textile designers regurgitate variations of the same tried and true designs. Originality seems to have taken second place behind the desire for steady sales. As a business woman, I completely understand this logic, however, as an artist, a majority of what was offered on the market left me somewhat uninspired. When designing my initial collection, I wanted to try a different approach and found the industry is hungry for it. I founded Brook Perdigon Textiles with the intent to bring something new and original to the market — something that was simple, bold, artful, and could add personality to a room. As textile design has become overly digitized, I wanted to begin with creating original artwork that actually showcased the imperfections of the artist’s hand making the process evident in the finished product. As the brand evolves, this design aesthetic is something I am adamant about maintaining, along with finding that sweet spot between something new and block buster sales.
MoL: Your designs are rooted in art history. Where do you look for inspiration? What styles of art or artists do you feel most drawn to?
BP: I love looking backwards to look forwards and am always on the hunt for new inspirations. I have a mild book obsession and thus an extensive art and textile history library. I also source and collect antique textiles for reference.
It is truly inspiring to travel and discover. My boyfriend and I travel quite a bit and we always seek out different exhibits and museums as part of our adventures, whether in NYC or a tiny town in Mexico. I am particularly drawn to artists and artisans that do not have academic training and have limited access to supplies. I’m drawn to cultures where art making has been passed down as a trade rather than cultivated in a classroom.
Hand painting textiles.
MoL: What elements of culture are you drawn to and hope to embody in your designs?
BP: I like to look at cultures that are socially unrelated, yet produce artwork with visual similarities. For instance, while I was designing the Mountains of the Moon Collection, I found incredible resemblances within the work of Joan Miro and Alexander Calder and a select group of pygmy women making African barkcloth paintings. Both were creating in the early 1900’s and each of their works embraced a playful whimsy that I was really drawn to. My goal when designing that collection was to create a handful of designs that are unique unto themselves yet express this same geometric personality.
MoL: What challenges did you face becoming an entrepreneur? How did you maintain the courage to persevere?
BP: While I had a solid resume of design and manufacturing experience, I had limited business experience except for a trusty instinct. I read a ton of books on business and I’m lucky to have a wide range of entrepreneurial friends to help guide me. At some point along the way, I read that if you don’t know how to do something, spend your energy thinking of someone who does and then reach out to that person for an in-depth “how to.” Of all of the business advice I received, I defer to that one the most. There were definitely moments when I questioned why I gave up the stability of my full time job, but if I were to do anything differently, I would hopefully end up right where I am now. As a business owner, there is enormous creativity in every step you take and every decision you make. That is incredibly invigorating and I now can’t imagine my career without that component.
Hand painting and testing block prints while in India.
MoL: How have you built the company to be socially and environmentally responsible?
BP: Brook Perdigon Textiles is proud to be part of a movement that carefully considers not only what we make, but how we make it. Our products are carefully crafted to last a lifetime. We support our local economy and community of skilled printers and artisans by printing all of our fabrics in Los Angeles. We are reducing our environmental impact by printing with water-based inks and manufacturing locally, which minimizes our carbon footprint.
MoL: Why was it important to you to engage with the local Los Angeles community? How have you built relationships in the area?
BP: Los Angeles is the largest manufacturing city in the United States and is undergoing a huge Renaissance at the moment. There is a distinct buzz of creativity in the air coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit. It was important for me to be a part of that energy while keeping my experience as a business owner as hands on as possible. The advantage of having our production local is that it enables me to focus on my vendor relationships. Working closely together ensures that we have the same goal in mind: put the best product we can deliver on the market and grow the business so we both will succeed.
MoL: What does Brook Perdigon Textiles have in store for the future?
BP: I am in the midst of releasing our third collection: MERIDIANS, which includes four new original designs that explore shape and design. As the year unfolds, I plan on expanding my wallpaper collection and have an exciting collaboration in the works. One of my bucket list design goals is to collaborate with a larger company. I’d love to work on a line of rugs or ceramic tiles.
MoL: We find that people who make beautiful things are more likely to lead an artistic lifestyle. Do you entertain? Do you cook? Do you have a favourite recipe you can share?
BP: Yes! I love to cook and entertain. I am known for my fried chicken and gravy dinners. Growing up in the south, we had family dinner every Sunday night. My grandparents would come over and my mom would make fried chicken — which we called “Mama Fried”— gravy, mashed potatoes, and lima beans. While I can’t share the family recipe, I can tell you to soak that chicken in buttermilk before you fry it.
MoL: What music inspires you?
BP: Music is a huge inspiration to me. As my music taste ranges from hip hop to bluegrass to the folk music of the 60’s and 70’s, I can’t pin down one genre as the ultimate inspiration. One of my favorite things to do is to discover new artists by shopping for records by genre at used record stores. On the turntable right now is “Tidal Wave,” a Jamaican Reggae Rap record that I picked up on a recent trip to San Francisco. Music lovers hint: Grooves is the best record store in San Francisco.
MoL: What is your favorite book and why?
BP: Such a hard question as I am a total bookworm! Two of my most treasured reads are Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety and Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter. Both authors have the ability to pen a sentence that will stop me in my tracks. Not only are they fabulous storytellers, they are poetic writers as well.
MoL: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs or those who want to pursue their passion?
BP: Recognize and cultivate your strengths and outsource the rest. I think many creative small business owners misinterpret being in control of every single detail of the business as doing every single aspect of the business. While it’s important to hold the reins of the business operations and branding, it is equally important for you to be available and energized to sustain and grow the business. If you are responsible for executing all aspects of design, manufacturing, bookkeeping, marketing, sales, etc., chances are you are not giving the 200% needed to each of those areas.
Recently, Perdigon partnered with TARP to create a painted pool inspired by her Ituri design that was used for a dance performance.
MoL: Why is building a community of female small business owners important to you?
Having a community of female business owners is the best gift my business has given me. I am currently involved in two different groups of women who meet regularly to discuss challenges, accomplishments, and goals. We share notes on production, business policies, and sales. One group of women consists of textile designers who run small labels like my own and the other group includes an interior designer, a ceramacist, a lighting designer, and an artist. We encourage each other creatively and my business would not be possible without the support of these women.
MoL: What is something you know now that you wish you knew before:
BP: I wish I had known more about the hidden costs of running a successful business. The expression “it takes money to make money” is my favorite go to and also the thing that makes me cringe in our quarterly meetings.
MoL: Where do you go for peace of mind and spirit?
BP: I am a dedicated Iyengar Yoga practitioner. My practice is quite grounding and spiritually refreshing — taking a quick class or doing a small home practice often gives me great peace of mind. If that doesn’t work, then an afternoon at the beach or a weekend in the desert are the ultimate cures.
Photography courtesy of Brook Perdigon
Photo: Amy Bartlam