Discover the untold stories of Linen Tales' birth, Boris's unwavering passion for art, and the inspirations that have shaped the brand's essence over the past decade. Joining us for this insightful conversation is none other than our esteemed brand ambassador, Vaiva Rykštaitė, a talented author with ten published books to her name. Together, they uncover the heart and soul of Linen Tales, celebrating ten years of artistry, and the joy of transforming houses into homes. Happy reading!
In your childhood, your father traded linen. What do you remember from that time? Did you decide to continue your father's business out of desire, or did you want to do everything differently?
This question turns out to be therapeutic :). My father traded linen, and what I remember from that time is that he was never at home. Constant business trips, travels for work. Our house was filled with linen products, but my father was absent. So, when it came to following the 'linen path,' I didn't want to continue my father's business. It was just the way circumstances unfolded. As for doing things differently, I always wanted that and tried to do things differently everywhere I could.
My father ended his 'linen career' in the early 2000s when the European Union lifted quotas on linen from China, and within a few months, the market was flooded with very cheap linen from the East. Lithuanian linen producers started to decline and shrink. I actively started working with linen only in 2010 (wow, time flies!).
Before starting Linen Tales, I worked in the hospitality industry. We created probably the first 'conceptual' B&B in Lithuania - the 'Old Market Guest House.' It had six rooms, each reflecting a different section of the market: vegetables, fish, flowers, etc. To the creative concept, we added free Wi-Fi (which was a rarity in Vilnius in 2008), and it turned out to be a recipe for modest success.
Another project I was actively involved in was the NGO artnews.lt. Personally, I felt a lack of digital publications about contemporary art processes in Lithuania that would be accessible from anywhere, so I had to create one myself (it was 2009, and niche print media in Lithuania was just starting to explore the internet). Over time, this activity grew into art book publishing and sales at artbooks.lt, a portal about art processes in the Baltic countries called echogonewrong.com, workshops for art critics, and eventually, art criticism awards, which took place for the first time this year.
After diving into these projects, I was looking for new ventures, and the linen business seemed easy enough. All I needed was to take my father's accumulated know-how and contacts and blend them with youthful optimism and a desire to do something differently.
At that time, the shelves of linen stores in Vilnius were decorated with shiny plastic-packaged, stiff, dull-colored linen. What if we sold it without the plastic wrapping, tied it with a beautiful ribbon, used brighter colors, and added some softness? That's exactly what we did. We opened the first Linen Tales store as an experiment in my living room, and after the first summer, we were convinced that we were on the right path.
You actively take an interest in art. Is business also considered art? Or do different rules apply if we look at it philosophically?
We can look at it from different angles. On one hand, we can argue that business is art. It requires creativity, innovation, and specific skills. Like artists, entrepreneurs make decisions, solve problems, and create something unique. This could involve developing strategies, creating products, or shaping organizational culture. All of this demands a certain level of creativity and aesthetic judgment. From this perspective, business could be seen as a form of art.
On the other hand, business is a distinct field with its own rules, principles, and objectives. The main goal of business is to satisfy the needs of customers and stakeholders (e.g., shareholders). This is often related to practical concerns such as profitability or increasing efficiency, which are not the primary concerns of art. Of course, creativity and innovation are valued in business as well, but the focus is on achieving specific business goals rather than artistic self-expression.
Allow me to freely paraphrase the famous 19th-century art critic John Ruskin: "An artist is not the same as a businessman*. The businessman is concerned with doing something well, while the artist aims to create something beautiful."
*He uses the word "craftsman," which I allowed myself to equate with a businessman.
What is good art? How do you distinguish it?
I really can't provide you with what good art is. Every year, countless books, dissertations, and articles are written on this topic, and there is no universal answer that everyone agrees upon.
I base my judgment on my very subjective opinion. Whether I like it or not. If I do, then it means that this art is good for me. But for someone else, it might not be as good. But that's their problem, not mine :)
Having a "trained eye" probably helps – since my school days, I have been exposed to a lot of art. I attend exhibitions, fairs, subscribe to magazines, browse the internet and social media, and once in while, I attend some art history/theory courses.
Of course, sometimes there are doubts about whether a particular art is "good" or worth attention. Then I seek more information about it, spend more time thinking and analyzing, and sometimes I simply ask for advice from acquaintances who are art specialists.
In my eyes, the image of "Linen Tales" appears as quietly elegant and reliable. However, I would like you to personally describe how you see it and how you want others to perceive this brand?
It seems that now it looks just like its creators :). I think at first glance, Vaida and I may appear quietly elegant and trustworthy. However, we would like to further elevate the brand's image and showcase our internal, artistic side :). Within the company, we talk a lot about aesthetics (quality and sustainability are a given).
I envision Linen Tales products as aesthetically pleasing items that enhance our everyday life. When you wear a scarf, use a linen napkin at the table, or clean up with a linen cloth instead of a disposable paper towel, it adds a touch of beauty to our daily routines.
I wish for Linen Tales to be associated with aesthetics in everyday life.
How much are you involved in the creative processes of "Linen Tales"? Do you still make decisions about the density and colors of the stripes on the fabric, or have all the tasks been handed over to professionals?
Let me say that I am not quite a professional :)))? Just kidding. I believe I am still involved much more than my colleagues might want :))
I am no longer directly involved in the creative process; that responsibility is expertly handled by my colleague, Vaida, who is the brand's director. My contribution mainly lies in setting the direction, bringing in ideas or insights from time to time.
How many linen shirts hang in your wardrobe?
What challenges do you face as a Lithuanian linen brand abroad? "Linen Tales" products are available in various charming boutiques worldwide. Was it difficult to achieve this?
The biggest challenge when working with foreign partners is conveying our production philosophy to them. The majority of our products are "made to order," meaning we produce them only when we receive an order. Foreign boutiques are used to placing an order and having the products delivered from the supplier's warehouse to their store the next day. We believe that warehousing a large assortment is not very sustainable. Therefore, our biggest challenge is explaining to customers that their order will be made specifically for them, which might take slightly longer than they are used to.
Now our products can be found in 35+ countries worldwide. It was indeed challenging to achieve this. There were (and still are) many long business trips, sleepless nights, and anxiety. But when you see your products in a stylish boutique in Brooklyn or a sought-after concept store in Tokyo next to a brand like AESOP, it all makes the effort worthwhile.
What will "Linen Tales" never be?
Never say "never" is one of my mottos :). So, I can't answer this question.
About fifteen years ago, at least from my perspective as a young girl, linen seemed to be worn only by art teachers. Later, I embraced it myself, and now even Cate Blanchett adorns herself with it on the red carpet, making it seem that linen is everywhere. Can there be too much linen? And what do you think the future holds?
Indeed, linen is everywhere now. Both slow and fast fashion brands have linen collections. Furniture and interior design stores present their products made of linen. It's a kind of joy and a curse.
Consumers no longer need to be explained what linen is, that its care is not complicated, and a few wrinkles give the garment extra charm. The demand for linen products is increasing, but the land area suitable for growing flax for weaving is decreasing globally. Additionally, due to climate change, the amount and quality of flax grown per hectare fluctuates significantly (flax is very sensitive to climate change; too hot or too much rain can affect its growth negatively).
High demand from consumers and poor (or insufficient) yields create price hikes for linen and force flax producers to make more compromises in quality.
I believe that in the future, linen will remain a niche product, and it will become even more expensive. Fast fashion brands will have more blends with linen (linen/cotton, etc.), and 100% linen products will dominate the higher-end clothing categories.
Imagine the best possible success scenario for "Linen Tales" over the next five years.
When we started Linen Tales, we didn't even think about the next year. We just wanted to do what we liked, what we believed in, what brought us joy, and what we could take pride in. I believe that if you do something valuable to yourself, there will be people who will appreciate it – it could be colleagues who join you and help you create "that valuable thing," it could be customers who pay for "that valuable thing," or it could simply be admirers who support you with kind words. We were fortunate that along the way of Linen Tales, we found dedicated colleagues, customers, and admirers. The plan is to maintain and nurture all these components, so that in five years, there would be even more of them.