Designing Women: Post-War British Textiles

Lucienne Day teatowel, 'Bouquet Garni'

 

As part of London’s Cultural Olympiad, the Fashion and Textile Museum is presenting an exhibition of 1950s and 1960s textile designs by women. This is an unusual initiative for them on several levels; firstly because most of the designs were intended for interiors rather than for fashion, and secondly becuase while some of the designers are well known, they have not previously been presented as an all-female group. Lucienne Day’s work is the best known, particularly her designs for the 1951 Festival of Britain, and her collaborations with her furniture designer husband Robin. But the work of Jacqueline Groag, Marian Mahler and Paule Vezelay displayed here is equally arresting. Several different approaches to design are in evidence, from  small-scale representational motifs of pepper-pots for kitchens to bold arabesques with repeats of a yard or more to dress picture windows. All are executed with an eye on practical considerations: limited numbers of colours for economy, carefully chosen colour schemes to fit a variety of spaces, patterns that are distinctive without being overwhelming. The exhibition contextualises the lengths of printed fabric with swatches showing alternate colourways, and with contemporary magazines that discuss their potential for readers’ houses. The uses made of new designs, and the basis on which they were or were not chosen by consumers, is an important corrective to some designer-focused exhibitions. In the corridor outside the gallery is a display of linen teatowels designed by Lucienne Day and others, many unused and with the Design Council seal of approval still visible. These were an interesting initiative, a form of ‘diffusion’ design available to consumers who couldn’t affordnew curtains and chairs. One wonders how many of them were kept as a form of textile art.

http://www.ftmlondon.org/exhibitions/detail/?ID=75

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