Classic striped Basque tablecloths by Jean Vier have been staples of elegant French country living since 1981, when this master weaver first opened up shop in St-Jean-de-Luz in southwestern France. Drawing on a weaving tradition that dates at least to the Middle Ages, when itinerant weavers went door to door with their looms, quickly turning out large, sturdy red-, blue- and green-striped linen squares to protect cows from insects, Jean Vier produces both historical and contemporary versions of the distinctive fabrics with seven stripes—representing the seven provinces of the Basque region. Vier’s tablecloths, napkins, dish towels, bath towels, aprons, throw pillows and fabrics by the yard are named after Basque cities—Bilbao, Biskaia, Espelette—and come in linen, cotton and linen-cotton blends. They’re unique in their legendary color resistance: Soak new tablecloths overnight in cold water, and ever after, even washed in the hottest water, those vivid hues won’t budge. Vier now has a shop in Paris, though fans looking for the full historical overview will make the pilgrimage to his Ecomuseum of Basque Tradition in St-Jean-de-Luz.
Originally published in the December 2007 issue of France Today.