Modern Batiks and Family Legacy: an Interview with Aaron Hoffman

 With over 90 years in the fabric industry, Hoffman Fabrics continues to grow and thrive while remaining committed to quality and continuing their family legacy. Hoffman Fabrics is well known for tropical prints and batiks both traditional and modern, as well as screen prints and cutting edge digital prints. While we’re inspired by the unique fabrics Hoffman produces year after year, equally interesting is the strong family ties and culture behind the brand.

To help us learn more about Hoffman Fabrics, we chatted with Aaron Hoffman, head of the Me+You modern batiks division. Aaron is deeply involved in every step of the Me+You batik process, from design to manufacturing (including taking his wife and children to Bali to teach them about the process and meet the local artisans who make the fabric) to marketing. Read on to see what Aaron has to say about being part of the new generation of Hoffman Fabrics and what them unique in the quilting world.

Aaron Hoffman at QuiltCon 2017 via @me_and_y0u on Instagram

Pink Castle Fabrics: Can you start by giving us a little background about the start of Hoffman Fabrics?

Aaron Hoffman: My great-grandfather, Rube Hoffman started Hoffman Fabrics in 1924 in Los Angeles, CA. Originally he specialized in selling wool to department stores. In the 1950’s, my Grandpa, Walter Hoffman and Great Uncle, Flippy spent time in Hawaii where they surfed a ton. They wanted to be able to work for their father, but also hang out at the beach so they introduced Aloha or Hawaiian prints into the garment industry. In the 70’s, their surfing took them to the island of Bali where they discovered the art of batiking. We partnered with our team in Bali, and introduced the quilting and home-sewing industry to batiks. Hoffman was the first, and will always be the finest in terms of quality, art and color of our batiks. Today, my Dad, Tony Hoffman is the CEO and my aunt, Robin Hoffman is the CFO. I work with my cousin Hailey, and we make up the 4th generation of the Hoffman Family. We strive to be the leader in innovation in our industry as we pave the way for digitally printed fabrics and continue to perfect batiks and screen prints.

Aaron Hoffman and family at Quilt Con @me_and-y0u on Instagram

PCF: What inspired you to make modern batiks?​

AH: When I really dove into the retail side of our business, I noticed that there was a huge population of really talented and creative quilters that were using social media to show off their modern quilts. This was new for our industry that is still learning social media. I was seeing so many rad quilts that I liked and not once were they using Hoffman Fabrics. We were trying to figure out where the best place was in the market for a new modern division, and I knew that modern quilters would appreciate the quality and hand work that goes into making our batiks. I worked with our team in Bali to see if they could achieve a solid ground using the hand-dying method, and drew up some modern designs. I blinked, and now we have over 300 SKUs of modern batiks and hand-dyed solids that are all over social media…it’s been an awesome experience.

 

PCF: What makes Me+You batiks modern (vs. a traditional batik?)

AH:Traditional batiks have a mottled ground, or more of a tie dye look, and often times the designs are larger scale, multi-colored and kind of all over the place. I consider my Me+You batiks to be modern because the ground is solid, the designs are usually small in scale and simple. Most often, they are tonal as well…really going after the low volume prints that almost look like solids from afar.

PCF: How has your family’s surfing history impacted/influenced Hoffman Fabrics?

AH: My grandpa and his brother (Walter and Flippy Hoffman) were big wave pioneers. They were the first to find the big waves over in Hawaii, and that was their passion. Their dad wanted them to come back to work in LA, but they wanted to find a way to travel to places with good surf. That motivation led my Grandpa to design and sell prints that surfers and the surf culture could identify with. He started selling his prints to clothing manufacturers and helped create most, if not all, of the surf ware companies (OP, Quicksilver, Hang Ten, ect.). A large part of our business is still in the surf and skate world. We have archives of aloha prints that clothing companies license from us. Our whole family surfs….it’s what we really do…fabric comes second.

Me+You batiks from @me_and_y0u on Instagram

PCF: What sort of things inspire/influence the Me+You print designs?

AH: I like organic textures, simple designs with a good amount of ground showing. Everyone at our company pitches in their ideas for designs too. Line drawings and geometrics are always fun to play around with. We’ve done some waves and palm trees to represent our family’s culture. I guess our family’s every day life together inspires the designs the most.

PCF: What aspect of the Me+You/Hoffman Fabrics company makes you the most proud?

AH: I am proud that we are the innovators. We are always the first; first in batiks, first in modern batiks; first in digital printing. We love pushing the envelope and everyone at Hoffman is proud of that. I am proud that we have taken this company through 94 years of business, and Hailey and I aren’t slowing down anytime soon. It’s an awesome legacy to be a part of.

PCF: What’s one thing you’d like more people to know about Me+You fabrics?

AH: One of my favorite things about Me+You is that every single yard is done by hand. The fabric is dyed by hand, stamped with wax, re-dyed and finished. They lay every yard out in the sun at our factory in Bali to dry. Their artisanship is incredible and that’s apparent in our quality.

Thank you, Aaron, for taking the time to talk with us! Stay tuned for the launch of our new Me+You Modern Batik Club, coming soon. 

If you want to learn more about modern batiks, you can click here to read our blog post. 

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