In the beginning there was Terence Conran, Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell, Mary Quant, to name but a few of the innovative mid-century designers, and Tricia Guild. The Designers Guild began in 1970 with Guild opening in a small section of a shop in Chelsea’s King’s Road in 1974. It quickly became synonymous with cutting-edge design, the brand a byword for stylish living. The Guild’s fabrics were decidedly covetable and bestowed a certain je ne sais quoi.
Out Of The Blue, exploring the Designers Guild, first debuted at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London in February 2020 and subsequently closed due to the pandemic. The good news is that the exhibition, showcasing several exhibits not previously displayed, opened last week at The Arc in the historic city of Winchester.
Architecture to art, fashion to interiors
Mid-century Modern spans 1930s to 1970s, a timeline comprising a long period of austerity and two devastating World Wars. The designs of the 1960s and 1970s were uplifting and included fashion, and like other innovative designers at that time influenced the colours, patterns and textures in our own homes. Terence Conran opened the first Habitat shop, also in Chelsea, in 1964, having already designed a shop for Mary Quant. These were exciting times and the fluidity of ideas and sheer energy is evident in Tricia Guild’s work right up to today, with the Designers Guild now a global brand.
The exhibition comprises individual room settings, each presenting a moodboard with layer upon layer of swathes of fabric hung like a painting, draped over furniture or arranged in elaborate barley-sugar twists from the ceiling. Intermingled are design panels, plants, lamps, sofas and cushions. The designs come together like a creatively planned flower border in summer.
The exhibition was created on site by Tricia Guild and her team. Juxtaposed to the exotic florals and delightful botanicals are plain fabrics in a rainbow of shades. Natural and neutral palettes include some pale pinks combined with varying tones of cream. Textures add even more depth and interest with velvety naps on some materials. Floral patterns resonate with geometric or abstract designs. Touching the fabrics on display is strictly prohibited and yet it is sorely tempting.
Guild has collaborated with artists and designers from other disciplines including British painter and printmaker, Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017); American-born, Kaffe Fassett; and more recently fashion designers, Ralph Lauren and Christian Lacroix. In the Sixties my mum made most of my clothes, including a little shift dress created from an off-cut of curtain fabric and designed so that the sunflowers lined up vertically down the front of the garment. Tricia Guild’s fabrics would certainly translate into stunning fashion wear.
The bold splashes of primary colours in Tricia Guild’s designs evoke paintings by David Hockney, and the complex layouts of textures and patterns bring the colourful and intricate work of artist, Pierre Bonnard, to mind. Guild has degrees from the Royal College of Art, Loughborough University and Winchester School of Art. In the same way that artists and fashion designers draw from the natural world, so too Guild’s creativity is intuitive. Just like nature, her room designs are a riot of shades, textures, patterns and forms that work harmoniously and yet still excite the senses.
L to R: the colourful exhibition gift shop; 50 years of design books; Photos hashtagtravelling.com. Guild’s latest book, moody blooms, designing with nature launched during Chelsea Flower Show week and reviewed by hastagtravelling.com.
Out of the Blue – Celebrating the work of Designers Guild is a touring exhibition from The Fashion and Textile Museum, the only museum in the UK, by the way, dedicated to showcasing contemporary fashion and textile design. Instead of a permanent collection the museum hosts temporary exhibitions from designers and makers around the world, so the programme is always changing. @fashiontextilemuseum