It's fitting that Lu and TJ's first meeting took place in an empty bedroom.
It was the summer of 2008 at Columbia University. Lu and TJ had just been admitted to a literature department as Ph.D students and were waiting for a lunch order in Lu's newly-assigned, and essentially unfurnished, bedroom. But mutual interests and instant chemistry made the room seem much less empty after only a few minutes of conversation. "I felt I already knew her," says TJ.
The friends had a shared taste for interior styling and design, especially for the bedroom. "Maybe because I only had a bedroom back then?" is TJ's half-joking explanation. The two lived in the same building on the corner of 113th Street and Broadway. TJ lived on the 12th floor, facing Hudson River, while Lu on the 7th, facing Broadway. They both spent a good amount of time in the bedrooms. The bedroom had become a very important place for them. It was where they read, wrote papers, doodled, played ukulele, hung over, and watched movies.
"It's exciting to see new public spaces emerge in the city every year, and somehow it inspires me to think more about my private space, my bedroom. Lots of public spaces are designed to let people slow down and enjoy a solitude moment. I think my bedroom is functioning exactly in the same philosophy. So I need my bed sheet, my curtains, or my desk to be part of my identity." says TJ.
Lu, like a lot of smart introverts, sees the bedroom as the place where she can let her hair and her guard down, and truly unwind. "When you are truthful to yourself, you become more creative. You don't pretend or get distracted. In that sense, how my bedroom is styled is equally important to how I dress when I'm out there, if not more important. My bedroom faces east, so the sunlight leaves earlier. I often looked at how the beam disappeared finally on my pillows," she explains.
When they weren't pondering sunbeams in their bedrooms, Lu and TJ were what the French would call flaneurs - dreamers, idlers, and strollers of cities. Little did they know that their propensity for off-the-beaten-path travel (road trips to corners of America far beyond the tourist traps, backpacking through Europe) would be piecing together the bones of their eventual brand.
The decision to dive into the home textile industry, while slightly daunting, was definitely not abrupt. Because of their shared passion for design, the duo had curated a good number of table linens, shams, rugs, and more during their travels. They were big fans of fabric and makers who pay meticulous attention to details. Their flaneur-inspired life would bring together an unlikely dream team of extremely skilled designers and manufacturers from California, Germany, Switzerland, and Shanghai.
"Flaneur came out of what we always did, and who we've always been," says Lu. To which TJ adds, "Today's consumer knows that a perfect product should reflect the expertise, talents, and dedication of craftsmen from all over the world. Locally made is still very charming, and we actually partner with a number of artisans. But to build a bed sheet that is breathable, durable, soft, smooth, and environmentally friendly with a modern touch, you need to assemble a global crew and let each party play to its strength. And more importantly, you need to keep everyone on the same page as often as possible. It's very interesting. Both Lu and I and Flaneur are on a voyage. You find not only manufacture partners and brands, but also histories and families."
It's fitting, then, that Flaneur's modern approach to the bedroom should be encapsulated in an old Chinese saying: "Read tens of thousands of books; travel tens of thousands of miles."