The Story of Jan de Luz

The setting sun spreads across the vineyards like spilled wine, its glow providing the last warmth of day before retreating into the hills. I fell in love with Carmel Valley the first day I laid eyes on her. Surveying the sunlit mountains, the vineyards stretching into the distance, I realized, if I didn’t know better, I could just as well be in the Basque country I grew up in. I felt her warmth and her invitation to come and live among grapes and the orchards and raise children in the sun.

Perhaps it was the provincial elements of the valley that attracted me to the place I felt certain I would, one day, call home.

Around 1980, I came to San Francisco to visit a friend. The two of us took a holiday down the coast to Carmel-by-the-Sea and ventured out into the valley, where I fell in love. I spent 15 days helping to plant a vineyard, getting acquainted with the soil, the air, the landscape and looking for cowboys.

I had dreamt about America. It was my first time here and I knew it; I knew if this was not merely another dream, one day I would live here.

I needed no other introduction and no other invitation to move. Ensconced in the business of fine hand-woven linens and antique furnishings and architectural elements, I knew by instinct, by what I saw in the valley that I could bring my Mediterranean world with me.

There is a land between sea and mountains in the southwest of France that has countless traditions handed down through the ages. One of them involves the history of cattle blankets, the mante à boeufs. I had decided to revive an antique loom to recreate this cloth that one could find only in museums. This is how it began.

Hundreds of years ago, the farmers of France used a smooth cloth, hand-woven on wood3n looms, to cover their cattle for protection against sun and insects. To signify the seven Basque provinces of the southwest, the fabric bore seven stripes across and unbleached background. Their color identified the village; their width indicated the wealth of the farmer.
I found this fascinating; the art, the allegory, the linen and the legacy of the antique loom. Sequestered in the basement of a grand 17th century home built in the heart of the Basque country by Louis XIV for his bride I set up my loom. There, for six months, I practiced the craft of weaving fine linen and cotton in the tradition of my ancestors.

I created linen for myself – for my own artistry – but people became interested. Passerby, stopping in to admire the estate and to witness the weaving, came away with tablecloths made from this renaissance of antique traditions. I was in business.

I mix fabric with antiques because these are what I know very well.Jan de Luz

I formally opened one shop and then another. Every two to three years, I established yet another fabric boutique. By 1992, I had 11 eponymous locations throughout France. Most of my shops featured antique furnishings, another pursuit and ideal complement to the linen.

I mix fabric with antiques because these are what I know very well. At first, I used the antiques to display fabrics and to decorate the shop. But people inquired about buying them. I sold them, willingly, and I bought more throughout France. The further I investigated the antiques, the more I realized that no one seemed to be doing monumental pieces for building houses or doing something special to the architecture.

Another business was born.