ABOUT : textile designers

Design Director : Iris Wang

Try telling Iris Wang 25 plus years ago that there were more important interests than art and she would have disagreed -- "Then I thought, ‘Art is the only purpose to pursue in life.'" Although she now sees many more paths, she is passionate about how to use textiles to visually communicate, make stories, create and inspire.

Born in 1954 in South Korea to parents who had fled Chinese Communism, Iris Wang, Vice-President of Design & Marketing at Brentano, Inc, cultivated an interest in her Chinese heritage at an early age. At 21, she enrolled at National Normal University, a premier Taiwanese art school. In 1978, after teaching art in Taiwan, Iris came to the United States and began work on her MFA at Kent State University. She completed her Masters of Fine Arts degree in 1981 and began working with an interior designer in Chicago. It was a project involving fabric covered ceiling tiles that sparked Iris's interest in textiles, an interest that eventually grew into Brentano, Inc.

"I really feel like I'm just now starting to design," Iris says. In the past, she explains, it has been a lot of gaining experience and experimentation. She now has a strong sense of her design philosophy, stressing that "form follows function." Iris doesn't want to make fabrics that are simply pretty to look at; she wants to make fabrics that are also products to be used. Hence the Brentano tag line, "beauty + performance." Additionally, Iris is interested in producing rich, quality textiles that are available to a wide array of people. She is at ease talking about how her heritage and love of Chinese literature and art comprise a large part of her resevoir of resources, and her distinctive aesthetic is unmistakable in the functional and versatile textiles she designs. Inspired by classical images, Iris updates them in a manner that renders them accessable and interesting to a wider audience.

After 25 plus years of exploration, Iris believes Brentano has filled a niche for understated, contemporary, historically influenced textiles. All the while, of course, showcasing the balance of beauty and performance.

Designer : Aaron Mensik

Designer Aaron Mensik comes from a multicultural background. Growing up, he was particularly drawn to Czech and Mexican folk textiles such as doilies, tablecloths and costumes. These ornately pleated, beaded and embroidered bold fabrics prompted an interest in pattern, texture and above all, color, that still influence his designs today.

Mensik completed his BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998. Although initially focusing on ceramics, he became increasingly attracted to textiles. Most of all, he was drawn to color, a skill that peers and professors remarked seemed natural to him. After working in customer service for a little over a year at Brentano, he began to design full time.

Mensik's design philosophy is similar to that of Iris Wang. He too is interested in how function and beauty work together. "A function of a lot of things is to be beautiful, to make you happy. It doesn't mean it's cold; it means you enjoy using it." He points out that not only can one feel the artists hand in a textile, but one can also do so much more than hang it on a wall. "It's not like a teapot that can be pretty and functional and that's all. With textiles, you are encouraged to touch them, to cut them up, to manipulate them."

Mensik finds himself increasingly engrossed in his children's toys. Specifically, he's been using their Magna Doodle and Magna-Tiles, hurriedly taking pictures before his children can erase or disassemble his ideas. In addition to the design talent Mensik brings to Brentano, he is an integral part of the community. "Aaron is the yeast in the bread," says Design Director Iris Wang. "He binds the company together and helps it grow."