The Colors of Authenticity

 “We fell in love with this industry at first sight,” says Henri Quinta, the designer and owner of the textile company Les Toiles du Soleil. His passion for making cloth has roots in his childhood. “From when I was a young child, I loved colors. My favorite present was color crayons.”

Now Quinta never lets anybody else create, design or select the colors for the fabrics and products his company produces. He is the only designer of Les Toiles du Soleil(which means "the cloth of the sun"). “I create the design and select the colors," he says. "And then workers do some work and so do machines. Every canvas involves some handwork.”

Henri's wife, Françoise Quinta, manages Maison Quinta the Les Toiles du Soleil outlet in Perpignan, France. “Every fabric tells a story," she says. "Each fabric reflects own region. If it is Collioure, it would have the color of the sand in Collioure. We are bringing the region to the fabrics.”

It is a unique approach, and that is what the Quintas are proud of. They want to establish authenticity as much as possible by drawing on the colors they find in their region of France.

The Quintas have one shop in New York, one in Paris and five in Japan. She said that they would love to spread their business, but they have to be very careful. They do not desire their business to be a huge, bland corporation. They want authenticity not only in their products, but also in their way of doing business.

In the meantime, are there really many people who feel gratitude for what the Quintas are doing? Henri Quinta mentioned that the Japanese are more appreciative and care more about the authenticity and high quality of their products than Americans do, and that may be the reason that the Quintas have many shops in Japan and only one in the United States. They are going to launch one more shop in Japan in November.

The original factory opened more than 150 years ago in Saint Laurent de Cerdans, a village in the Catalan part of France, on the Spanish border. The textile industry expanded in that region. But by 1993 there was only one factory still operating. Henri and Françoise Quinta bought it.

They were both decorators, but decided to change their journey. “The previous owner had only sad colors (gray, brown, black, etc.) And then we started to make stripes,” says Françoise Quinta. “My husband deals with creation and I stay in the shop, so I know what clients want.” Their imperative was to keep the traditional fabric, while adding vivid colors and striped designs. Today the Quintas take credit for saving the Catalan textile tradition.

Even in New York, people seem to want striped cloth. It's a good thing because that's all that Les Toiles du Soleil makes.

“We did not have choices because our looms can only do stripes," Henri Quintas says. "People have to understand the sensitivity of the fabrics and appreciate what we do. And workers have to fall in love with the fabrics so that they sell them with their hearts.”

Frederic Abribat, the owner of the shop Les Toiles Du Nord in Perpignan, France, sells the fabrics, napkins, table clothes, etc., from Les Toiles du Soleiland other fabric factories. According to Abribat, the products made by Les Toiles du Soleil last 20 years longer than polyester fabrics with similar designs.

Until about three years ago, patterns with flowers and fruit from Provence were in fashion, Abribat said. With the changing of the times, Catalan stripes have come into vogue.

Les Toiles du Soleil’s color comes from the thread; other fabrics can be printed. And Les Toiles du Soleil uses 100 percent cotton, while other fabrics are made of polyester or acrylic.

“People use them for the big occasions such as wedding, birthday, but you have to be able to afford it,” Abribat says.

The prices of Les Toiles du Soleil fabrics are 7 to 15 euros more expensive than other factory products, but people can see the differences even at glance – and when they touch them.  

Pascale Legrand, a customer at Maison Quinta, said that she is definitely willing to pay more for getting high-quality products from Les Toiles du Soleil. The Legrands live in Reims, France, and whenever they come to visit Perpignan they shop at Maison Quinta, she said.

“I can get other fabrics anywhere, but I like Les Toiles du Soleil because it’s authentic. Even though it is more expensive than some the other products, I appreciate the quality.” She has used the fabrics for a tablecloth and for a bread bag.

During lunchtime, Quinta’s phone never stops ringing. Representatives of shops from Russia and Japan want to talk to him about their partnerships and the products. He has to be in love with his fabrics and color and he sure is. He hardly takes a rest as machines in the factory make colorful fabrics. You can see the sweat, true passion, and heart he puts into his work. Even today, they are keeping the Catalan culture going in a little town, Saint Laurent de Cerdans.   


About the Program

Fifteen college students came from North America to Perpignan, France, in June 2011 to produce these videos and stories. To find out more, read a welcome letter from program director Rachele Kanigel, meet the program faculty and explore the 2010 website.