Felicity Nivison, the woman behind hand crafted linen company “Letto Bello Linen” shares her journey with FOCUS …
How long have you and your family called the New England home, and why did you choose this part of the world to live in?
I moved to the Walcha district when I married my husband, Hugh, in 1994. His family moved here from Scotland when his great, great grandfather arrived in 1840.
Introduce us to your label, “Letto Bello Linen”. What was the inspiration behind this?
As a child growing up in western Queensland, one of my earliest memories is of my grandmother’s beautiful pure cotton sheets, often with hand embroidered monograms.
Post school I studied Interior Design and have always had a love of quality fabrics and design.
“Letto Bello” means beautiful bed in Italian. There is nothing better than sleeping in quality bed linen and once you have, there is no going back. Letto Bello Linen is pure cotton or pure linen in a standard range of sheets, doona sets and now table linen, with custom sizes and designs also available.
On my first trip to Vietnam in 2005, I discovered a bed linen company whose quality was far superior and cotton so much softer than any I had previously seen. Discovering they employed rural women and that they did not supply to Australia, I arranged to meet with them to discuss the potential.
After eight trips, I’d love to go more often and of course, I prefer to visit Vietnam on “design and research trips”, rather than email orders. When I do go, I meet with my women to work on new products and concepts. I have had a couple of motorbike adventures riding through the north east and north west of Vietnam, off the beaten track going to places few tourists visit with our friend and fantastic guide, Hai. I love the spectacular scenery, atmosphere and sights of Vietnam, not to mention the wonderful people and food.
Talk us through the processes from design to manufacturing to distribution of your linen …
At the start I imported some bed linen for my interior design projects; however, I really wanted to do my own range of bedlinen. I have a standard range of bed linen, and now custom orders for non-standard beds, and hand embroidered monogrammed bed linen, especially for weddings, is really growing. Custom orders for table linen is also available, with quick turnaround by airfreight.
After sketching a design, I email it through to my women in Vietnam. The dotted outline of the design is then printed onto our pure cotton or pure linen fabric panels and by motorbike, delivered to the village south of Hanoi. Here it is hand embroidered by our clever women, who work from home or gather with each other to work in a community. After the designs are hand embroidered, the panels are then sewn together to make sheets, pillowcases or doona sets. These are then washed, ironed, inspected for quality and then packed for export to Walcha. Here the items are repacked with hand made ginger and lemongrass soap to give that fresh sunshine, line dried linen smell, ready for our customers to put on their beds. No washing required. There is nothing like sleeping in beautiful fresh pure cotton or linen sheets.
What does it mean to you personally to be able to give back to a community and also produce a beautiful product?
I have been lucky enough to visit my women in their village homes and share meals with their families. They have shown me their skills of embroidery passed down over generations. It is great knowing they can work from their village environment earning a wage, living at home with their families, without having to travel to large cities to find work. Sometimes they are involved in planting or harvest, so the embroidery has to wait. Believe me, it’s worth waiting for. Their work and attention to detail is beautiful. I also work with a group who look after some very disabled and disadvantaged children. Their gorgeous drawings are printed onto my pure cotton panels, with some details highlighted by hand embroidery and then it is made into colourful Bambino range of bedlinen only available through Letto Bello. It’s great to visit these children and to know I am helping to contribute to their care and welfare.
Where can we purchase some of our very own Letto Bello Linen?
“Highland Living” in Uralla is the home store I share with Sonia Repin from Love Bomb Designs. We opened a pop up shop to test the market and then moved into our beautiful shop over the road from the NAB, almost two years ago. Uralla is such a great location with the amount traffic that passes through and is gaining huge admiration.
Our homewares shop also offers an interior design service, with window treatments and soft furnishings to full fitouts.
I take Letto Bello Linen to various Fairs in New South Wales and Queensland, so customers can see and feel the quality and then when they jump online to order, they know what it’s like. Bed linen is something that needs to be felt to appreciate the quality.
Lastly, what to you is one of New Englands Best Kept Secrets and why?
I feel our little towns of Walcha and Uralla with their artistic communities are some of the New England’s best kept secrets. Such incredible scenery with the National Parks, and the individual character of the shops, and products available within. Promoting quality and something different is the key to retail these days. Walcha has its fantastic open air gallery, shops, cafés, pubs, brewery, accommodation and community events where local produce and quality is highlighted. Being a cool climate region, the seasons are dramatic, with all the colour of our beautiful flora.You’ll find the natives are fairly friendly too!
Felicity Nivison, Letto Bello Linen
c/- Highland Living
68 Bridge St., Uralla. 2358
Ph 0412 885 855