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Out and About Fabric Discoveries in London & New York

Our passion for beautiful textiles is no secret and we’re often on the lookout for inspiring and unique fabrics. Join us as we go ‘Out and About’ in London and New York with exhibitions that celebrate innovative textile designs and exquisite garments.

LONDON – Althea McNish: Colour is Mine at William Morris Gallery
Until 11th September. Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm. Free admission (suggested donation £5) 

This exhibition is a retrospective of one of the UK’s most innovative textile designers, Althea McNish. She was the first designer of Caribbean descent to achieve such international recognition. McNish was born in Trinidad in 1924 and moved to the UK in the 1950’s. She completed a postgraduate degree at the Royal College of Art and achieved a great accolade as a black female designer. After graduating she began designing for brands including Liberty, Dior, Heal’s and Hull Traders. In 1959 she created her most famous fabric pattern called ‘Golden Harvest’.

‘Golden Harvest’ | Althea McNish | V&A

McNish’s designs combined plants and natural botanical forms from her two homes, Britain and the Caribbean. She used bright adventurous colours in her designs and revolutionised post-war British design, injecting a bold fun colour into textiles. Her work was primarily popular with younger generations who were desperate to get away from the grey, drab gloominess of post-war design. You can see why her designs were quickly snapped up by French fashion houses and made into beautiful garments. McNish’s fabrics were even used in a dress made for the Queen for her royal tour of the Caribbean in 1966. She liked to push printmaking to its limits and experiment with its full potential to create graphic multi layered prints. Althea McNish passed away at the age of 95 in 2020 and her colourful prints and patterns continue to inspire designers today.

Althea McNish working on murals for SS Oriana cruise ship, 1959 | N15 Archive

Here are some examples of Althea McNish’s fabrics from the Liberty Archives.

This was originally printed on cotton, poplin and cascade. It was created in 1959 and features loosely painted trails of spots. The highly textured background really gives it its depth with pops of neon colour.

This is a very large pattern and was originally printed on cotton satin. It was found in the archival Liberty Furnishing Book dating from 1960-1. The fabric comes in three different colourways and features impressionistic anemones and thistles.

Hula Hula
We love this pink and yellow psychedelic design, it is reminiscent of the Festival Fever fabrics we recently shared. It’s an energetic print and pointillist colourful marks painted in a spiral shape give the design undulating movements. It was first created in 1963 on Nimbus cotton.

Flowers have been layered and sponge printed to the fabric. This print has some beautiful colourways and combinations. These were originally printed on cotton satin in 1958.

NEW YORK – Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection at The Met
Until 20th February. Free with Museum admission

This fascinating exhibit explores the evolution of the kimono within Japan and its relation to the West. You’ll find exquisite craftsmanship with pieces that tell a story.

The exhibit celebrates kimonos from the Edo period (1615-1868), when weaving, dyeing and embroidery techniques reached their peak of artistic sophistication. Custom made garments were commissioned for members of the ruling military class, whilst townspeople used the visible art of the kimono as a way to proclaim their aesthetic style.

The exhibit also shows how the kimono has influenced fashion over the years, displaying pieces by Balenciaga and Comme des Garcons.

We hope you’ll get ‘Out and About’ in London or New York to enjoy these exciting exhibitions. Explore the joy of kimonos further with our ‘Sleeping Around’ blog post Room 1408 at The Whitby Hotel.

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