Les Toiles du Soleil (The Cloth of the Sun)

"Striped was all we could do! And fortunately, it worked out really well!" says Henri Quinta, the owner and designer of Les Toiles du Soleil (meaning: the cloth of the Sun). Les Toiles du Soleil is the name of the famous striped fabric made near Perpignan, France. It is not only famous in Paris now, but also in Japan and the United States.

The original factory opened more than 100 years ago in a village in the Catalan part of France called Saint Laurent de Cerdans. The town was known for making authentic, handmade espadrilles using vivid fabrics. In 1993, Henri and Françoise Quinta bought the factory. Their most significant motto is "keeping the tradition," and this is the essential element of their success, even in the modern era. They only changed the color and design. They are still using the majority of the original machines for making the fabrics. Even their few new ones are specially designed only for them. They use these new ones only because the old ones are so slow.

The old machines only allow them to make striped patterns. But the Catalan flag is striped, and so stripes are a fitting symbol for Les Toiles du Soleil.

The Quintas make the fabrics with 100 percent woven cotton, trying hard to be as genuine as possible. The quality of the fabrics is imperative. They even invented a new way of storing the fabric. They used to use regular plastic to wrap it up, but now they use wood instead to keep the quality fresh.

And this is how the Quintas attracted the Japanese. The Japanese loved the Quintas' effort to maintain the tradition and high quality of the fabrics, said Henri Quinta. As a result the Quintas already have seven stores in Japan. Americans are less appreciative of these attributes, he said. While they have a store in New York, co-operated with Cole-Haan, it is only open in spring and summer.

I hope that the Quintas keep their valuable tradition going, proving worldwide that they can still be as successful as hipper stores, and showing that hard work and passion for what you do never go out of style.

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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.