Long before Orla Kiely and Kath Kidston, there were other, more pioneering women working in international textile design. In the 1950s and 1960s, Britain was a world-leader in the field. Three women led this movement: Lucienne Day, Jacqueline Groag and Marian Mahler.
This week, London’s Fashion and Textile museum is opening an exhibition dedicated to these women’s roles in combining art and manufacturing to change the direction of the modern design industry. Mary Portas would love this.
Textile design changed radically after the Second World War. These three British women, Day (1917-2010), Groag (1903-86) and Mahler (1911-83) were pivotal in this artistic revolution, transforming the drab colours and clothing of the war years with fresh, progressive designs. The exhibition explores their work, beginning with Lucienne Day’s “Calyx” pattern of 1951, featured at the Festival of Britain, and moves through the history of textile commissions until the 1970s. The designs are bold, abstract, elegant and artistic: totally different from the patterns and shapes of the preceding decades.
It’s hard to imagine the impact these colourful, modernist designs once had; looking at them today, they seem almost contemporary, despite being more than half a century old. But take a look at the clothing, soft furnishings and textile designs around you right now, and we reckon you can probably see some trace of their work nudging into your life. And making it a distinctly nicer place to be.
Designing Women: Post-war British Textiles is at the Fashion and Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 from 16 March to 16 June 2012. Exhibition opening times: Tuesday–Saturday, 11am–6pm. Ticket prices: £7 adults, £5 students and concessions, free for under 12s. For further information about FTM and its activities visit www.ftmlondon.org.