Our Filosofia: A Conversation with Viktoriya of FOLD Santa Barbara

FOLD supplies table linens that have a gorgeous handmade and minimalistic appeal. We love the way these versatile designs can elevate a table setting to something truly special: whether you’re hosting a dinner party or just sitting down to lunch. FOLD is a one-woman show, completely operated by its founder and visionary, Viktoriya. 

We sat down with Viktoriya over oranges, fresh bread and a midday glass of wine to discuss her philosophy — and the many ways it overlaps with our own. During our conversation, we discovered a mutual love for linen, sustainable living and thoughtful design. 

Filosofia: Thanks for meeting with us, Viktoriya. We are so excited to feature you as our first blog interview. Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background and the beginning of FOLD?

Viktoriya: I started FOLD almost three years ago. As much as I like to say that it was for some higher purpose, it was really out of desperation to find part-time work. My daughter was just 4 years old at the time, and both my husband and I worked full-time. My job was in Santa Barbara while his was in LA. It was hard to maintain a good life/work balance and raise a child.

I had a pile of fabric, I had a sewing machine and I knew I could make something. There was a Christmas holiday market coming up and I decided to make hostess gifts — specifically, napkins and dish towels. So, I went through my pile of fabric and started making those. I had a positive response to what I made and I also enjoyed the experience. In June 2016, I had a business license and left my career at the University of California at Santa Barbara to pursue FOLD.

 

Filosofia: What about your life before FOLD? What other factors brought you to the point of being able to start your own business?

Viktoriya: I’m originally from [Donetsk] Ukraine and I moved to U.S. in ‘98. In college and well into my adulthood, I was drawn to languages; my education is in linguistics. I finished my degree at UCSB in literature. I’m passionate about language and that comes in handy when I write my own copy and product descriptions.

I’m the youngest of seven. Five are girls. With seven kids, people don’t have a lot of money. Growing up, we had a lot of hand-me-down clothes — and we tried to make them our own or tweak them to how we wanted them to look. We always had a sewing machine out — it was a normal scene in our house: the sewing machine set up and ready to go. But I never thought of myself as an artisan because it was such a normal thing.

I got away from practicing sewing as I got older. I discovered later that i wanted to get back into it. I had an idyllic dream to get back into making my own clothes. It was a part of me that I always cherished, but I never had the time do to it. I always collected fabric and researched it. In the end, I decided to stay away from making clothes as part of FOLD and stick to table and kitchen linens. I love working with linen. Ninety-nine percent of my products are linen — I think it’s beautiful. It had its second coming because it is so relaxed, it goes with the vibe in California. It’s durable. As a plant, flax doesn’t require a lot of irrigation or chemical treatment. It is also very sustainable and it’s one of the oldest fibers around. To work with a material that has such heritage and appeal makes it a pleasure to work with.

When I first started FOLD, it was a very simple model. I would make things and I would sell things. That was it. Probably a year into it, I received some inquiries and requests for rental linens. Now, I have napkins that people can rent and can accommodate up to 200 guests, and I continue to grow the rental collection. In addition to offering linens for purchase or for rent, FOLD is growing into a burgeoning resource of ideas in table and food styling, photography, and visual storytelling.


Filosofia: What are a few words to describe your own aesthetic or that of FOLD’s?

Viktoriya: I would describe my own aesthetic as eclectic minimalism. I’m always editing my own home. I tend to gravitate to things that are both purposeful and beautiful — not just one or the other. I am very influenced by the simplicity of Scandinavian interiors and lifestyle, the calm and muted color palette, rich textures and occasional punctuation of color.

This aesthetic definitely informs the products I make for FOLD. I do employ some of the traditional techniques in textile treatment such as embroidery and block printing, but most of the time I just leave the fabric alone. If I do embroidery, I do the most basic type. There isn’t a whole lot of patterns in FOLD’s inventory — mostly solids and neutrals, and if it is patterned, it’s either a simple stripe or check. I want to continue in that vein. I know a number of approaches that I could explore, but I want to  explore the most pure and simple iteration of the traditional techniques. In the future, I might experiment with the modern takes on patchwork and color blocking.

Filosofia: You mention you use “found and hand-printed” fabrics on your website. Can you expand on that a little?

Viktoriya: Most of the time, I just have a feeling that it’s good quality. One of my fabric suppliers are from Europe, other times I go to the fashion district and use the “touch and feel” technique to see what has the markings of a quality linen textile.

As far as found, I do have a number of napkins that are entirely vintage. Those are included in the rental collection. I research ways to keep them fresh. A lot of times vintage linens can look dated, yellow or have stains. I work very carefully with gentle soaps and detergents without bleaching them or destroying the fiber. I source from estate sales — Santa Barbara is a goldmine for this. It’s historically a mecca for art collectors, style aficionados and artists. I’m fortunate to have that all readily available to me when I am on the hunt for special vintage pieces.

Filosofia: Have you experienced with dyeing the fabrics at all?

Viktoriya: I’m a beginner natural dyer — I’ve experimented with it before. However, I’m very cautious about making table linens from naturally dyed fibers because the color is very unstable. Even though people can appreciate that quality, there’s a chance that some customers won’t like the instability of the color. My products need a longevity — and a tablecloth isn’t always like a beautifully dyed dress. It needs to sustain being used and washed often.

Dyeing also a very resource-intensive process, with the amount of steps to prep, rinse and extract the dye from the plants. It can include gallons and gallons of water. I don’t think that it’s good for the environment. While natural dye is better than a chemical dye, it’s not as eco-friendly as some people assume. There’s room for improvement for sure. It’s an ever-changing, evolving practice.

Table setting

Filosofia: Fascinating — and so important to keep in mind. 

Because many of your designs are DIY, handmade or utilize vintage fabrics, they have a very sustainable, eco-conscious appeal. Can you speak to that aspect of FOLD?

Viktoriya: My hope is that more people will start using cloth products in their kitchen and dining experiences rather than paper and disposable products. That is essentially what I’m trying to encourage … I’m trying to make products that will appeal to everyone and their everyday lives.

In addition, I want to give people ideas how to use them — and not only on the table and in the kitchen. You can use a napkin to wrap your produce instead of using a plastic container or bag. It’s breathable and maintains the longevity of the food. If [my daughter and I] go to the park, or to the pool, we’ll bring the napkins for keeping snacks.

In regard to my vintage tabletop pieces, they are appealing because they were something that wasn’t produced to oversaturate the market, but something that survived generations. It has a nostalgic appeal, it was made and used and passed down. In that way, it is sustainable because of its continuity and longevity.

Filosofia: Where do you find inspiration for styling?

Viktoriya: We live in such rich and abundant visual world, and I draw a lot from magazines, blogs and Instagram, but my biggest inspiration is my natural surroundings. I’m inspired by the seasons even though Santa Barbara barely has any. Still, there are subtle differences through the year and I try to stay attuned to that. I always keep a pair of shears in my car to collect branches or flowers that I come across.

Practice is a very important styling tool and inspiration. If I just keep doing it, I get better at it. I do it mostly for my own brand — I had to practice because I didn’t have a stylist or a team to do it for me.

I keep the environment as a guide: Is the setting a backyard? A restaurant? I’ll try to go with that whole, overall vibe. My styling approach is always simple, always something that people can recreate themselves. I hope it’s inspiring people to look at something and say, “Oh i can do that too,” as opposed to them thinking, “I could never do that, it is too fancy [or] inaccessible.” I want things to be user-friendly. Don’t get me wrong: there is a time and place for elaborate, three-types-of-knives type of table settings, but it is rarely my own — or most people's — reality. As a stylist who is often given free rein on a project, it is easy to get carried away adding elements, and I try to practice the restraint and remember to take things off — leaving negative space, space to breathe and allow for the eye to relax.

Filosofia: We love the concept of the Cookbook-ish events — there’s nothing quite like sitting down to a beautiful dinner with a bunch of people you love. What draws you to hosting these dinners?

Viktoriya: I am the only person behind my business, everything happens to be aligned with what I want to do as a person. Selfishly, a lot of business decisions are made because it’s something that I would enjoy. In the very beginning of it, I really wanted to get inspired to cook and entertain more — just to get comfortable with hosting and not make excuses. If I pick a date and invite a bunch of people, then I can’t back out of it. People crave that [community] — they would get involved if only they had a gentle nudge.

It grew into something that I didn’t anticipate. In the beginning, I wanted Cookbook-ish to be the platform to showcase my skills and practice them with real people, using FOLD products and styling them in different settings. I was growing tired of lifestyle photoshoots that were overly staged and had a very limited purpose. I was so pleased to watch my cookbook club became a platform to showcase what others wanted to contribute beyond the dishes they prepared  — from floral design to wine pairing, from photography to graphic design, in real time. I want to continue that to cultivate that talent around my community and around my brand by being supportive of other people’s talents.

Filosofia: What advice do you have for people who might want to organize their own dinner party?

Viktoriya: I say, don’t think that you have to do it alone, or try to do it all yourself. Don’t think you need to have perfectly clean house with all the right things. Delegate what you can and assign tasks. People love helping, but they don’t often know what they can do — just delegate as much as you can.

Also, try to spend more time on the details. Try to find something that makes a person feel special, beyond the food and simple logistics of the evening. Think a fresh, unexpected sprig of something personalized by their plate — not just a generic bouquet from the grocery store. Include things that reflect you; don’t be afraid to incorporate your own style. Focus on those details because they actually go a long way.

 
Photo Credit: Lerina Winter