Cover Story

Fashionable table linen is now a thing thanks to Sydney newcomer Thekla

6 Minute Read
Fashionable table linen is now a thing thanks to Sydney newcomer Thekla

Conjured by magazine editor and style sophisticate Francesca Wallace, Thekla makes a bold entrance on the home-sprucing scene for riotous, rustic, candlelit dinner parties that relish life’s little details. The new label turns your table into something that looks plucked from a charming side street of Tuscany. A modern, marvellous take on the quintessential chequered Italian tablecloth, these new home entertaining adornments are being sprawled out across Australian patios with great gusto.

For the summer of reviving soirees at home, these beautiful threads will ensure no table goes bare of a banquet, bubbles and your best company for long. Made with consideration and purpose, each cloth should be encircled by hungry bellies, heaving company, good food and many admiring eyes.

We spoke with the angelic and ever-talented Francesca to learn the story of Thekla, the brand’s impressive sustainability philosophy and how to set the table for the silly season ahead.

I love that it really gives me a creative outlet to explore a really personal side of my creativity.

Why did you start Thekla? Tell us the origins story.

Thekla, like so many newly-launched brands, started during COVID. It was just as we were coming out of the lockdown in Sydney and starting to socialise again when I realised all I wanted was to put on dinner parties with gorgeous tablescapes. As an avid eater, I was used to going out to restaurants multiple times a week, and part of what I loved so much about that experience was seeing how each restaurant designed their spaces. So, Thekla was born!

How hard is it to make a brand sustainable in 2020? Why does it matter in this table linen context?

On the one hand, it’s hard to be sustainable, because it’s always going to be easier and cheaper to make something unsustainably. But at the same time, I’m a bit of a control freak so being able to physically sew these pieces — or enlist the help of other people I knew to help — meant I could monitor the process. So, my path to making Thekla sustainable was partly due to circumstance — as I knew I wanted these to be handmade pieces, which are by nature more sustainable — and partly because I knew I would only bring a new brand into the world if it had the least-bad impact on the environment. I’ve been wanting to start my own thing for a while, and I always came back to the question of why: why does the world need more stuff? So in order to pass that test, my products had to feel beautiful and also long-lasting, not something you throw away or don’t want to keep forever.

What’s your favourite banquet to prep for a festive soirée? 

Oh goodness, that’s a hard one! I can’t go past fresh pasta, though. My partner makes a mean fresh pasta, so we’ll often go the full Italian when entertaining and serve up oodles of fresh spaghetti with a light sauce, salad and focaccia. Paired with negronis and red wine… bellissimo!

What inspired your choice of prints and materials here?

To be honest, for this first collection I just picked what I wanted for myself and went with that. If I didn’t sell anything, I always knew I’d be happy to keep it all, ha! But actually, I was inspired by my travels, mostly. I sourced from all over Sydney and was drawn towards pieces that made me remember special summers spent abroad. Italy, of course, was a big inspiration, which you can see in the ginghams and the stripes. But also, Copenhagen, which is one of my favourite cities, inspired some of the quirkier prints (the orange and red check tablecloth, and the pastel napkin sets). I love that about Danish fashion and homewares: it has an unexpected take on the classic pieces, which is something I really wanted to come through in Thekla.

Tell us about balancing a business with a full-time editorial job. How are you making it all happen?

It’s been a challenge but also really rewarding. I’m doing everything for Thekla on the weekends or at night (or early morning, which hasn’t been as fun) but I love that it really gives me a creative outlet to explore a really personal side of my creativity.

How long has it taken to bring the brand to life? Walk us through the trajectory from ideation to holding a tangible piece of table linen in your hands. 

I actually can’t really pinpoint the moment I realised I wanted to start the brand, but I do remember creating an Instagram almost straight away. From there, it was a few months of fabric sourcing, sewing and figuring out how to build a website and do all the behind-the-scenes admin stuff before I launched. Then after we shot it I basically launched straight away. The rest is honestly a whirlwind. It took on a life of its own and I’d sold out of basically everything within 48 hours. And now I’m working on the next drop, and then a curated Christmas collection, which has been quite busy, but I can’t wait to share it with the world.

How has this year shaped your outlook on home entertaining?

2020 has been a wild ride, that’s for sure. It’s definitely made me re-assess the way I think of my home. I’ve always been house proud and have been collecting bits and pieces for my ‘forever home’ since I was 15, but I’ve learnt that there’s no point waiting to use your ‘best’ pieces or only investing in furniture once you’ve settled somewhere… our lives are a collection of the places we go, the people we know and yes, the sometimes less than ideal apartments we might live in, but why not embrace it? Covid made me slow down, get creative again and enjoy the little things, like a dinner party with two friends or a picnic with my partner, and really appreciate that adding a touch of luxury to the everyday could really lift my spirits.

What’s your favourite piece and how would you dress it on a table for a summer dinner party? 

Choosing a favourite is like choosing a favourite child! I truly love them all. But the gingham red and white check tablecloth is a classic and a favourite for that reason. I also love our lemon stripe napkins and the red and orange check tablecloth, because it really has some personality. But no matter the print, a great table is made beautiful with a bit of greenery, some mis-matched decor (brass candlesticks and enamel jugs, for example) and favourite found ceramics. And lately I’ve been foraging the neighbourhood for great wildflowers, which can really add a little something to a table. Cottagecore, anyone?

When it comes to Christmas and gift giving, who would Thekla be a perfect match for?

Thekla is made for those who want to stand out, so choose a friend or family member who loves doing something differently and gift them your favourite piece. Everything is unique and once it’s gone, it’s gone, so they’ll know it’s super special to them only and that it’s been made with love and care.

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