Friday, 16 January 2015

Knitwear in Fashion: From Pringle to Pingouin

MoDA's Curator, Sim Panaser, finds woolly delight at the Fashion and Textiles Museum

I have not yet successfully learnt to knit, but I come from a long line of knitting afficionados and therefore have amassed a large collection of woolly garments that I hold dear.  So I was especially excited to see an exhibition of purl love, Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood at the Fashion and Textiles Museum last weekend.  The exhibition features an eclectic array of knitwear from the Victorian era to present day from the private collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield, who are avid and important collectors of antique and vintage clothing and accessories. 

Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood, Fashion and Textiles Museum

                                           Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood, Fashion and Textiles Museum

The Butterfields' love for knitting began in the 1960s with a jumper knitted by Cleo as a teenager from a 1940s pattern.  Their passion for anonymous hand knits together with machine knits and jerseys of Chanel to experimental high fashion is what make the exhibition so fantastic.  You can see recycled yarn "make do and mend" jumpers, an array of fair isle sweaters (which I particularly coveted) alongside Comme des Garçons and Vivienne Westwood designs.  

Here at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA) we have a collection of knitting patterns, magazines and advertising dating from the 1940s to 1980s. I have chosen a selection below that mirror the themes of the Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood exhibition from elegance of the twinset to 1980s excess.  

Below is a 1940s catalogue from the London department store Marshall and Snelgrove featuring their Spring collection of knitwear. 

Fully fashioned lambswool and cashmere
Badda73, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture 

The glamorous jewel coloured cocktail sweaters with defined waists and decorative necklines that feature on the right hand side of the page became popular in the late 1940s. They were worn with a pencil skirt or full skirt for a contemporary evening look.   


 Glamour from Italy and be suited for the Spring
Badda73, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture 

In the 1980s classic yarns discovered fashion in the influential French Pingouin knitting magazine (see below).  During the 1980s Pingouin invited fashion designers including Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler to contribute patterns for the magazine, positioning knitwear as high fashion.  The magazine's editorial-style photography aligned it closely with high fashion magazines and showed how knitwear could be glamourous. Who wouldn't want to sip a martini in a luxe grey marl knit like the ones below? 

Pingouin Magazine, 1985
Badda4820 and Badda4824, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

If you would like to see more of MoDA’s collection relating to knitting and knitwear please get in touch

In the meantime make sure you go and see  Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood at the Fashion and Textiles Museum. You can only see the exhibition for the next few days as it closes this Sunday 18th of January. Get down there quick! 

Friday, 9 January 2015

Off the Shelf

Happy New Year! 

MoDA's Curator, Sim Panaser, takes a close look at one of the furniture catalogues in the Museum's collections.

Each month in Off the Shelf, I will be taking a closer look at book or catalogue in MoDA's collection.  To kick start January in style and help banish the excesses of the festive season, here is a 1962 furniture catalogue by Finmar, in which the graphic design mirrors clean lines, organic forms and a minimalist look indicative of the Scandinavian design that Finmar imported into Britain. 

1962 Finmar furniture catalogue cover featuring Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair

Finmar, a wholesaler and major importer of Scandinavian furniture to the UK was founded in 1934 by design reformer Philip Morton Shand.  Finmar introduced Alvar Aalto’s bent plywood furniture to pre-war British middles class homes.  Its popularity continued post-war albeit under the new ownership in 1949, with Dane Paul Ernst Stemann at its helm.  By 1954 Finmar was selling furniture to Heals and Liberty, had opened a large showroom on Kingly Street, London and was importing over 100 ranges of furniture from Scandinavia to Britain by designers included Fritz Hansen, Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner.   

Finmar employed the graphic designer Richard Hollis (b.1934) to design their 1962 furniture catalogue.  By 1962 Hollis was gaining a reputation as an eminent designer and he followed in Finmar's tradition of working with cutting-edge graphic designers.  Prior to Hollis, Finmar employed Hans Schleger (1898-1976), an eminent graphic designer who pioneered the idea of a corporate identity and worked with clients including Shell and London Transport.  The front cover of this catalogue features Schleger's Finmar font and tree logo.   

The catalogue is aimed at an audience of architects and buyers and is divided into sections by coloured paper.  Each divider features a strong graphic image of Finmar furniture and in the examples below; components of Finmar furniture appear as abstracts works of art.      

                                                          1962 Finmar furniture catalogue 

Less abstract images particularly of chairs are featured too. In the examples below the images of the furniture appear flattened emphasising the curvilinear silhouette of the chairs. Each divider of this catalogue is delivered with an arresting image designed to make the viewer stop and pause before moving into the next section.   

                                                           1962 Finmar furniture catalogue 

Hollis has also carefully considered the listing of the furniture itself. On the page below the chairs are shown at different angles and sizes, their positioning on the page gradually draws the viewer's eye down towards the bottom of the page.  The large amount of clear space gives the catalogue a lightness. Hollis' fantastic graphic design mirrors Scandinavian design perfectly. 

                                                                            1962 Finmar furniture catalogue 

Finmar flourished during the post-war period with the growing general public interest in Scandinavian design and as Scandinavian design was championed by design reformers. However its success was short-lived and the firm went into receivership in 1964.  The fantastic film Living Finmar, charts the rise and fall of the company and features interviews with those involved.  A trailer for the film can be seen below.

Living Finmar. Documentary Trailer from Dan Fontanelli on Vimeo.