iris wang portrait
Courtesy Iris Wang/Brentano

For Iris Wang, Major Collaborations Show Persistence Pays Off

The founder and artistic director of fabric brand Brentano established the family fabric brand on gentle strength and passion for design.

More than 30 years ago, Iris Wang and her husband founded Brentano in their garage with eight fabric patterns. Today the fabric manufacturer produces more than 250 commercial designs, largely inspired by Wang’s surroundings growing up in Taiwan. From a manufacturer’s perspective, she says she takes pride in growing talent in-house and, when she’s hiring, is more concerned with a young designer’s character and attitude than in which design school they attended. “Techniques you can teach, but what’s in people’s heart you cannot,” she says.

She’s also a designer who understands things from an individual practitioner’s point of view. Wang has always set her sights on ambitious partnerships, but her first came as she led her own company in a collaboration with design giant Gensler on the 2020 launch of Brentano’s Framework Collection. Wang credits her unique focus on one element in particular— water—with making her work attractive to the global firm. “Waters are always very soft, but they always win; they always get to where they want to be.”

Persistence was also critical; Wang routinely sent new products to one designer at Gensler over a period of years. Eventually the idea of collaborating came up. Even after that, it took about five years for the idea to turn into a reality.

Courtesy Iris Wang/Brentano

The effect of her methodical efforts can also be likened to that of water— specifically droplets, she says. “Water has this tremendous soft strength,” she explains. Infusing these balanced principles of gentle strength, passion, and focus into the work is a philosophy she is now passing on to her sons who will someday take over the business.

A palette of Brentano fabrics
Alchemy (left and above) is Brentano Fabrics’ fall 2021 collection. The new line of textiles extends the company’s 250 commercial designs. Courtesy Iris Wang/Brentano

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