ContentsINDULGEtextilestobuy,collectorsimply admire 15 Flag Up Editor in Chief Polly Leonard unfurls a collection of the best patriotic products to celebrate the Britannia issue
INDUSTRY from craft to commerce 40 Best of British 2011 A round up of this year’s best graduates showing at New Designers 2011, Business Design Centre, Islington, 29 June-2 July 46 COVER STORY Queen Street Mill The last steam driven weaving shed Weaving Technician MargaretNowakopensthedoortooneoftheworld’soldestweavingsheds 54 Norwich Stuffs Local textile knowledge Cathy Terry reveals the rich history of Norwich Textiles IllustratedwithdigitallyprintedpanelsbyNorfolktextileartistJeanetteDurrant
ANECDOTE textiles that touch our lives 16 Flying the flag Sarah Jane Downing traces the chequered history of the Union Jack 34 COVER STORY Pavilion’d in splendour Editor in Chief Polly Leonard unpicks the textiles shown in the 1951 Festival of Britain IIlustratedbyLauraTarish 73 Guiding Hand Militaria Becky Oldfield, owner of Lost and Found Design, shares her tips on finding and restoring military buttons, badges, flags and medals 75 COVER STORY Fabric swatch No. 4: Shoddy We look back to the 1800s when shoddy fabrics became an unlikely solution to a wool shortage IllustratedbyBeccaStadtlander
CONCEPT textiles in fine art 48 Dye society The formation of the early guilds and trade unions Academic Robert Chenciner writesabouttheimportanceofgroupsofdyersinhistoricalsociety
ATTIRE critical reporting of fashion trends 18 COVER STORY By Royal Appointment Court dressmakers and fashionable tailors Curator and JointCourseDirectoratLondonCollegeofFashionAmydelaHayelooksbackattheimportance ofBritishcouturièresinhighsociety 22 COVER STORY Repeat performance Orla Kiely can see a pattern in her success Mary Schoeser, curator and writer offers an overview of Orla’s achievements PortraitbyGeorginaKuhu 26 COVER STORY British birds Fashion designer Luella Bartley explores the eccentricities of English style IllustratedbyZoeTaylorandDanielLaidler 42 COVER STORY Cap and gown The history of academic dress Academic Consultant to Ede and RavenscroftReverendPhilipGofflooksatthechangesinacademicdressthroughtheages
COHABIT stunning interiors beautifully photographed 76 Pin money Merchant and Mills are a couple with old-fashioned values AninterviewwithCarolyn DenhamandRoderickFieldabouttheirjointbusinessventure
Flying the flag
SARAH JANE DOWNING FOLLOWS THE HISTORY OF THE UNION JACK
The Union Flag has a past as troubled as it is long. Trading on early glories and self conscious of past mistakes, it is a symbol of British identity even as the essence of that identity is contested. And where once it was illegal to use the Union Flag outside its official capacity, in the 21st century it has design icon status.
When Queen Elizabeth I died childless in 1603, James VI of Scotland was invited to take the throne becoming James I of England. It was an uneasy cultural mix, but keen to unite his nation the king conceived of a flag to combine the red cross of St George with the white cross of St Andrew without awarding pre-eminence to either country. (As England and Wales had already become unified in 1536 it was felt that the Welsh presence was implicit in the cross of St George).
A proclamation was made on 12th April 1606: “All our subjects in this our isle and kingdom of Great Britain and the members thereof, shall bear in their main top the red cross commonly called St George's Cross and the white cross commonly called St. Andrew's Cross joined together according to a form made by our heralds and sent to our Admiral to be published to our said subjects”. Even so, there were varying designs with the Scots favouring a version with the white saltire of St Andrew laid over the George cross which appears to have been in use at Edinburgh Castle as late as 1693.
In 1634 King Charles I repealed his father’s proclamation and reserved the Union Flag for royal use only, but with his execution in 1649 this symbol of unity was suspended during the Cromwellian Long Parliament and only properly restored with Charles II in 1660.
It was not until 1801 when Ireland was finally introduced to the union that the red diagonal cross of St Patrick was added to create the current version. With the new alliance the flag became an important symbol of strength and order in the face of the American War of Independence and the revolution in France.
The Union Jack, as it has come to be known, is thought to take its name from a corruption of ‘Jacques’ as used by James I in his signature, and the flag was first used at sea to give a uniform look to British vessels. And what of the oft-quoted theory that the Union Flag should only be described as the Union Jack when flown on the bows of a warship? The Flag Institute explains this is a relatively recent idea, “from early in its life the Admiralty itself frequently referred to the flag as the Union Jack, whatever its use, and in 1902 an Admiralty Circular announced that Their Lordships had decided that either name could be used officially".
The Union Jack was a common sight during the extended Regency period although it was most often seen at sea as the tattered ensign of a warship. Despite the dishonourable way in which thousands of sailors were kidnapped by press gangs and forced into serving, it became a symbol of heroism and pride. The last surviving flag from the battle of Trafalgar was rediscovered tucked away in a drawer in 2009 and sold at auction for £32,000. It had been awarded to Lieutenant James Clephan in honour of his bravery at Trafalgar. As the wars of the 19th century stacked up, parish churches were hung with faded battle standards that were often all that remained of local heroes.
Colonialism dominated the
Victorian era and as Britannia ruled the waves the Union Jack became synonymous with the Empire. Once the sun began to set on that vast entity, and as the rumblings in Europe broke into the First World War, the flag was issued with a new masculine identity. John Bull, the archetypal good-hearted British ‘everyman’ was redeployed, complete with union jack waistcoat, to front the wartime recruitment campaign, whilst young men in ibrary
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Lay the trenches had handkerchiefs printed with Union Jacks complete with desperately poignant ‘inspirational’ slogans such as ‘faithful to the flag’.
Patriotism reigned between the wars, and barely was the bunting put away from WWI before it was brought out again to wave off another generation. The Union Jack took on a precious personal significance to the countless people who had lost someone during the wars. It fluttered benignly, the last image of home as service people were sent off to the front and children were evacuated. It was there as a trophy of victory for the lucky ones who made it back, and it had to stand for the absence of those who never returned.
The Union Jack sustained people in the next decade, decorating the streets for the coronation of a Queen who had shared a stint in uniform, and the strong symbolism was cherished even though it was slim recompense for the bomb sites, the rationing and the miserable privations post-war.
In 1965 The Who released the album ‘My Generation’ with a cover bearing an image of bassist John Entwistle in a blazer said to have been made from a Union Jack flag. An inspired piece of pop art, it took the symbol of Britain away from the bomb sites and ration books of the older generation reclaiming it for the bright ‘Mods’ of the swinging 60s. But as the mini skirt, The Beatles and the Union Jack topped Mini Cooper in The Italian Job became the new symbols of a conquering British style, the National Front also co-opted the Union Jack for their fear-based lament for a lost Empire and mythical time of ethnic purity. The recession hit 1970s coincided with increased immigration and the shameful rant of ‘there ain’t no black in the Union Jack’ infected the flag with a sense of shame that lingers to this day.
The Mod deconstructed Union Jack had been shocking to the older generation in 1965, but there was more to come. In 1976 Malcolm McLaren contacted Jamie Reid, a former classmate from Croydon Art School, and commissioned him to create artwork for the Sex Pistols. His flag, with its ransom-note-style lettering, encapsulated the punk movement while his image of Queen Elizabeth II ‘punked up’ with safety pin through her lip was considered treasonous. And by subverting the image of national pride allowed the disenfranchised to play their own small part in the jubilee celebrations.
With the disillusionment and recession of the 1980s attitudes to the flag became polarised. In Shane Meadows’ 2006 film ThisisEngland, the flag is pivotal – symbolising a young boy’s loss and isolation after his father is killed in the Falklands’, his acceptance into a skinhead gang and his disillusionment as he discovers that their patriotism is nothing more than racism.
The quaint ‘everything stops for tea’ image of Britain seemed irrevocably replaced by one of unpleasant flagsporting hooligans in their Union Jack shorts. But change is the only constant in fashion and the 1990s saw a cultural revamp. Launched on a second wave of Brit-pop and ‘Cool Britannia’ the Union Jack was sighted in new locations from a flag-draped Liam and Patsy on a Vanity Fair cover, to the kitsch Austin Powers films and that brash Geri Halliwell dress.
From that point on, whatever was lost in gravity, some might say respect, was gained in terms of general acceptance. The Union Jack is everywhere. For some its display remains a tangible response to the continued tragedies of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya. For others it evokes retro glamour in the form of rugs and cushions, handbags and jewellery. As Britain prepares for the royal wedding and the London Olympics in 2012 expect the Union Jack to be reworked again for a new century.
ORLA KIELY CAN SEE A PATTERN IN HER SUCCESS Repeat performance tre.org lascen icho
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It’s been a decade since Orla Kiely launched her trademark design ‘Stem’. It has remained in her range ever since, morphing from its original brown-stemmed simplicity to multicoloured versions, from dark grounds to stark white outlines.
‘Stem’ was something of an accidental star, almost left out of Kiely’s collection. But Japanese buyers loved it from the outset and that little stem provided the roots of a global brand. It’s safe to say that ‘Stem’ captured the mood of the moment but it has also demonstrated remarkable longevity. Found on fabrics, fashion, luggage, stationery, ceramics, wallpapers and home-wares it is, as the designer herself describes it, cute but not too pretty: clean, simple and strong.
Her latest venture is the lavishly illustrated book Pattern, which tells of her emergence by way of Dublin’s National College of Art and Design, working as a print designer in New York, designing for Esprit in Europe and studying knitwear at the RCA. Appropriately for a visiting professor at the latter, its open discussion of her inspirations, use of colour, aspects of print and their combinations in different applications is clearly directed at aspiring Orlas, and effectively communicates her love of mid-century design.
She is keenly aware of the importance of a shared visual vocabulary and how much of this stylistic language is built on both nostalgia for and knowledge of the past. She points to the tiny sprigged prints from Laura Ashley that evoke the Victorian age but equally define the 1970s. And now Kiely herself has created a look that defines our era.
Judging from historical precedents, the Kiely style will reign for a while. Coming to represent not solely of the noughties but also the “uh-ohs”: a period of economic and political
uncertainty that compares to the decades after the 1929 crash.
That said, the best of her graphics are indebted, not to the spatially complex designs of the 1930s, but to the flat, resolutely rhythmic patterns of the up-beat later 50s and 60s. Think Quant flower, Hull Traders and the Pop/Op Art patterns from Heals (where, appropriately, Kiely’s homewares are found today, as are her scented candles and fragrances).
Designed on the computer (although her training in laying down flat gouache shines through) it’s telling that her style replaces one that was above all painterly. Zandra Rhodes, Collier Campbell and Georgina von Etzdorf were all flying high in the ‘self-centred’ 1980s when the gestural mark celebrated an indulgent and individualist lifestyle. In contrast, Kiely’s patterns are uncomplicated, even reserved. Yet as far as the Kiely book goes an apt comparison might be The
Art of Zandra Rhodes, the 1984 publication that became something of a bible for print and wearable art courses across the United States.
Her nostalgia, then, is ours: for those optimistic days of economic recovery, youthful discovery and innocent certainty. Her visual vocabulary translates into ‘trustworthy, understandable and secure’. The desire for such aesthetic reassurance is widespread. Kiely has not only designed for
Habitat and the Tate, but also for Target, the trendiest of the American budget superstores. Her clothing and accessories, shown off in her flagship store in Covent Garden, have won her four UK Fashion Export Awards. And there are numerous variations of her patterns created by others, equally in tune with the tenor of the times, in love with the retro style and, possibly,
influenced by Kiely’s success. Mary Schoeser a t t i r e s e l v e d g e . o r g
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Pavilion’d in Splendour TEXTILES IN THE FESTIVAL OF BRITIAN
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It took great courage and imagination to organise a national celebration at a time of political and economic uncertainty. Yet many of the textiles shown in the Festival of Britain have a beauty, strength of line and simplicity that have stood the test of time.
In the aftermath of the World War II, the British government decided to mark the centenary of the Great Exhibition and demonstrate its postwar recovery to the world. The festival differed from the 1851 exhibition in several ways. It was a nationwide celebration, with a site on derelict land on the south bank of the river Thames as the centrepiece. It was, according to the festival guide, “one united act of national reassessment, and one corporate reaffirmation of faith in the nation’s future.” All aspects of life in Britain were represented in their most up-to-date forms but in the textiles of the festival we find one of its most enduring design legacies.
The festival's success in bringing art and science together is clearly illustrated in the crystal design project. This was a range of designs based on scientific diagrams of materials including quartz, mica and nylon.
The idea was initiated by Mark Hartland Thomas of the recently formed Council of Industrial Design after consultation with Dr Helen Megaw of Girton College, Cambridge. He wrote “...these crystal structure diagrams had the discipline of exact repetitive symmetry; they were above all very pretty… modern because the technique that constructed them was quite recent, and yet, like all successful decorations of the past, they derive from nature.”
Festival designs were produced by 26 invited wallpaper, fabric and ceramic manufacturers. The crystal structures were intended to be a source of inspiration, but in fact interest in the atom and molecule became the foundation for a new school of design.
If one were to pick a single fabric that caught the spirit of the age it must be Lucienne Day's 'Calyx'. This design, printed on linen by Heal’s, electrified the British textile industry and sent shock waves abroad. It exerted a dynamic and long-lasting effect on industrial design and had a great impact on public taste. The Homes and Gardens pavilion provided opportunities for many young designers, including Lucienne and Robin Day.
‘Calyx’ was designed at Robin's request: he wanted something modern and in keeping with his furniture. The design’s spindly lines and curved shapes complemented the light and graceful arcs of Robin's furniture. Lucienne approached Heal’s, and although Tom a n e c d o t e s e l v e d g e . o r g
THE HISTORY OF ACADEMIC DRESS Cap and gown by Laura Ta rrish
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It takes pride of place on the parental wall: the graduation photograph. All requisite elements are present; blank paper scroll, stiff pose, awkward smile, mottled sky-effect backdrop or if you’re really lucky a simulated bookcase to reinforce your new intellectual status. But these are merely trimmings; the real signifier of your successful journey though academia is the robe and it has been the uniform of the scholar for centuries.
At the ceremony new graduands wear the costume of the university appropriate to the degree they are receiving, and the university teachers (increasingly known by the American term, ‘Faculty’) usually wear the academic dress of the highest degree they possess. This makes for a riot of colour but unless the symbolism is explained or illustrated in the ceremony brochure the meaning of the dress can be obscure.
‘Cap and gown’ is a general term used to indicate the academic dress of places of learning, usually a university or degree-awarding college. Usually such costume is made up of three garments: the gown, the hood and the cap each of which have their separate stories as well as shared history.
Once everyday wear for students and staff at universities, these days academic dress is mostly ceremonial, except for a diminishing number of schools where the gown is worn for teaching, and in the Church of England where the academic hood is still part of a clergyman’s official or ‘choir’ dress.
The familiar costume comprising gown, hood and cap has its origins in medieval times in the clothes worn by everyone. Most people would have worn some kind of tunic. Over this might be worn a warm heavy cloak. The tunic or cloak might have a hood attached or a separate hood with a cape might be worn. A good place to get the sense of this medieval dress is down on the London Underground where the Northern line platforms of Charing Cross station are illustrated with a 100 metre long mural made in 1979, from woodcarved designs, by the artist David Gentleman. Commemorating the building of the first Charing Cross, a memorial dedicated to Queen Eleanor, the murals depict all kind of workers in various styles of tunics and hoods and give a wonderful insight into dress in the 13th century – a time when the European universities were being established. They also capture the textures of the costumes illustrating well the rough woollen fabrics of the various tradespeople.
The first universities began as schools centred around great cathedrals or monasteries. Bright students would often travel great distances to sit at the feet of some revered teacher. Eventually some of the schools became recognised by a monarch or the Pope, and the universities grew out of these. The students would have been in minor holy orders and were expected to dress in a sober and dignified way and wear their clothes long.
The original item of academic dress was also clerical dress. It was a long closed cloak, worn almost to the ground, with one or sometimes two openings in the front for the hands. In 1222 the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered this dress to be worn by all clerics in England to bring them into line with the rest of Catholic Europe; and because the clergy had been sporting modern fashions and wearing their tunics shorter than Church authorities thought seemly.
Beginning in the next century, the Renaissance was expressed in the opening of minds to new thought and ideas. Interestingly, it also led to the opening up of closed dress, and people, inside and outside of the Church, began to leave off their heavy outer cloaks and to wear their tunics open. Advances in the availability and use of glazing in buildings may have played a part in this process.
Over time the tunic became less of an undergarment and evolved into an outer garment. As fashions came and went the sleeves would change, sometimes being worn wide and open and sometimes narrow and closed. Some of these fashions are still reflected today in the styles of gowns worn to indicate various degrees at universities. By the 15th century academic dress at the universities consisted of the familiar gown, hood and cap. The hood was attached to a shoulder cape and had a long tail, or liripipe, hanging down at the back.
By around 1490 the hood had been abandoned as a head covering for everyday wear. New fashions were being tried out and one popular style was to wear the face hole of the hood on the head and then to roll up the hood as a kind of turban. As caps were adopted the hood was worn less and less on the head and eventually the whole garment was worn further down the back and without much of the shoulder cape.
Another fashion was to carry the hood over the shoulder as a young man might carry a jacket today. It is fascinating to see the hood making a comeback in urban street dress after a 500 year absence. Today’s ‘hoodie’ is probably unaware that he or she is dressing rather like a medieval cleric!
In the universities however (and this means Oxford, Cambridge, and Bologna, Paris and a few
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Sixty years on and the Southbank in London is putting on a summer-long homage to the 1951 Festival of Britain. But who are the new designers that might feature in a 21st century celebration of textiles? For dates and information about this year’s New Designer’s exhibition see pg 39, www.newdesigners.com
Ayse Simsek has developed a collection of hand woven textiles, with complementary upholstery and interior fabrics. Ayse has experimented with weaving techniques allowing contrasts to work together in either subtle or more surprising ways, using graduating colours and textures; varying weight and opacity.
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Emma Lundgren draws inspiration from her Scandinavian heritage, combining it with a sporty fresh aesthetic – a kind of mix and match attitude. Emma adds strong colour to traditional techniques such as embroidery, print, laser cutting, knit and moulding to create ornamentation for the young at heart.
Virginia Walker took a product generally associated with men – the Meccano model construction system – and used that inspiration to produce a Womenswear collection, ‘Collect and Collage’, that features magnetic pleating and fasting details as well as metal embellishments on printed Merino wool.
David Bradley has an obsession with colour and pattern, in particular the illusion of movement in surface pattern. Using dye sublimation and screen-printing processes, colour is applied to correspond to a fabric’s threedimensional shape. Pleating and smocking techniques are then used to further distort the optical patterns.
Elaine Ng Yan Ling wants to restore natural elements into our urban environment without sacrificing the gains technology has made. To do this she has coined a new phrase ‘Techno-Naturology’ and developed a furnishing collection that explores shape-memory materials and the use of technology to activate natural reactions.
Sarah Tanser has explored the traditional Japanese technique of shibori, creating pattern by stitching, folding, twisting and binding cloth before dyeing. She then manipulates her fabrics using a computer to generate regular repeats, occasionally including hand drawn imagery before digitally printing her fabric.
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Charlotte Duffy takes a relatively traditional approach to stitch, collage, print and mark making. A recent international award and work placement with Zari Kuwait took her to the Middle East – an experience which will no doubt influence her visual language and inspire future work.
Yasmin Ywmer has used the imagery and textures of military uniforms to inspire her textile designs. She has combined traditional yarns with new technologies such as laser marking and cutting. The result is a range of fabrics that reference the best of tradition but can only be produced using relatively new techniques.
Karina Klucnika has reinterpreted traditional British tweeds as knits in her final collection called ‘Urban Owl’. To recreate the owl’s textural feather patterns Karina combined softened mohair and chenille yarns in earthy tones of grey, brown and black enhanced with mustard and yellow accents.
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