Horrockses and Lucienne Day

Whilst busily researching for my masters dissertation today (ok, perhaps not so busily, perhaps more flicking through the Ambassador at a leisurely speed) I happened to stumble across something rather exciting. Initially I felt like I might keep this snippet of information to myself, but  realised it was just too good not to share!

Thanks to Chris Boydell I have long-since known that Horrockses purchased textile designs from Lucienne Day, but it was never clear whether any were actually put into production. This was because Horrockses purchased up to 1000 prints per year and not all of them were used. Furthermore, Horrockses did not tend to publicise the name of the designers who created the prints. In the early years the links between the brand and Alastair Morton were made explicit, but as time went on they were more determined to create a unified brand image and hence such links were played down. The notable exceptions being Louis le Brocquy and Eduardo Paolozzi. This all meant that even if Lucienne Day’s print had gone into production it would be difficult to know for certain if they were designed by her.

Therefore when going through a January 1950 copy of the Ambassador today I was pretty damned excited to turn up these four designs.



Designs by Lucienne Day for Horrockses

So keep your eyes peeled for these prints on Horrockses garments, because if you find them I think this would count for vintage gold. I think all four are Horrockses (other designs throughout the article only mention one manufacturer per page), although it *might* just be the red abstracted rose design.

As an aside, these images come from an article on the “Society of Industrial Artists” for its Biennial review. I believe this was to promote the use of British artists by British fabric producers. I’m going to keep my eye out for more booklets/ articles relating to the Society of industrial Artists, the images found on these pages were certainly pretty inspirational.

The images too also interested me as they quote Day’s name as D. Lucienne Day. Her name was actually Desiree but she didn’t use this name. This is the only time I have ever seen her referenced as this! This is quite early on in Day’ fame as a designer. 1950 was the year that she designed her first textile for Heals, ” Fluellin” and gained widespread recognition.

For two further posts relating to Day and Horrockses take a look here and here 

Investigating a mid 1950s floral dress

A few weeks ago I purchased what I thought was just another pretty homemade vintage dress from ebay.
What it turned out to be was something MUCH better.
When the dress arrived I had a cursory glance over it, and thought that the fabric looked a little bit like a Lucienne Day print. I was further intrigued by the fact that it felt heavier than traditional dress cotton- more like that used for curtains or furnishings.
On turning the dress inside out I found that down the selvedge of the fabric were printed the initials e w. I knew straight away what these initials stood for- Edinburgh weavers. The brand Edinburgh weavers have close links with Horrockses, and has henceforth been a brand I have been interested in for a while now.

This meant that there was a possibility that the fabric of the dress might be a Lucienne Day print. I had a hunt through the two books about Day I have but didn’t strike lucky- increasingly realizing that whilst the print was similar to her work it wasn’t quite her style.
My next port of call was the Edingburgh Weavers book. Here I struck GOLD. I found THE pattern of my dress. The print was by Jacqueline Groag and dated to 1956. The pattern book that it originally came from is housed in the Victoria and Albert museum archive… so my next step of investigation was to go and see the original prints in the flesh!
But who was Groag? I think Groag really came to the public eye last year after the exhibition at the fashion and textile museum which featured the work of herself, Lucienne Day and Marianne Mahler. Groag was a true European figure. Begging life in Prague before moving to Vienna and London. She started her career working for the Wiener Werkstatte, a group of progressive visual artists working in Vienne in the early 20thcentury. She then went on to produce prints for the likes of Lanvin and Schiaparelli in Paris, before coming to London. In London she designed textiles for furnishing and fashion, and also wallpapers working for (amongst other companies) Liberty, John Lewis and of course Edinburgh weavers.
As a quick aside, the AAD is wonderful. Located at Blythe House there are the archives for a number of key British companies and designers. You can see further the archives that the AAD holds on their hub on the V& A website.
The huge pattern book that the original fabric sample were contained in was quite frankly amazing, passing through the pages I encountered so many prints that I recognized from the various books I have read which illustrated Edinburgh weavers fabrics.
Around half way through the book I found what I was looking for, the original colour ways for the fabric of my dress!!!


I was particularly interested that this came in such a variety of colourways, it seems that Groag in particular (or by the books standards at least) was producing her prints in the largest range of colours.
I also like that down the side of the fabric samples you have the full details on the fabric itself.
So after this research what do I think about my dress? I’m pretty sure this is a homemade example created from Edinburgh weavers fabric. The cut of the dress, construction method, zip and boning used all points to it being made in the 1950s. So my assumption is that someone bought the fabric- despite intended as furnishing fabric, and used it to make a very nice dress! I’m certainly happy to have an original 1956 Jacqueline Groag printed dress.


If you want to find out more about Jacqueline Groag this book is excellent (I’ve only had a chance to have a flick through it…must go back to it in more depth soon!)
Or for more about Edinburgh weavers. Lesley Jackson wrote a definitive guide to the company last year. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alastair-Morton-Edinburgh-Weavers-Visionary/dp/1851776605