WHEN FLOWERS BECAME TEXTILES
a history of floral motifs and textile design
with the support of the musée Yves Saint Laurent, agnès b. and Léonard Paris
26 October 2018 – 29 September 2019
This exhibition offers a journey through time, recounting the extraordinary history of flowers and textile design from the 18th century to the present day presenting examples from the museum’s extraordinary collections. The exhibition explores how the colors and fragrances of flowers inspired textiles patterns and motifs. The exhibition explores how draftsman, inspired by scientific expeditions, the rise of horticulture and fashion, copied after natural flowers and invented new floral motifs transferred their marvelous drawings to patterns for fabrics. By the twentieth century, designers effectively “staged” their flowers that were then copied by both artisanal and industrial manufactures. The exhibition is organized around three main themes; Natural Flowers and Ornamental Motifs, The Art of Representing Flowers, and Wearing Flowers.
Natural and Ornamental Flowers
Flowers play a vital role generating the creative processes of fabric production. Since antiquity, flowers inspired palmettes and florets, but it was not until the Enlightenment that imitation of natural blooms were applied as the major motifs on fabrics. In the eighteenth century, a “flower” also means a new fabric. This shared terminology shows that the fashion and flowers were henceforth joined in the textile industry both for costumes and furnishings.
The art of representing flowers
In the 18th century the diffusion of floral motifs on fabrics encouraged designers to creatively renew their art. Designers competed and inspired one another with imaginative combinations of flowers, branches, seedlings, crowns or bouquets were exploited as backgrounds, petals and stems placed at interposing scales to vary compositions. The ability to apply recent discoveries in chemistry offered a wide range of colors, transforming fabrics into sophisticated trompe l’oeil compositions. At the same time, the representation of flowers followed artistic trends: the refined flowers of the eighteenth century and realistic compositions of the second half of the nineteenth century were followed by the avant-garde art movements of the first decades of the 20th century.
Wearing flowers: an artistic statement
Since the eighteenth century, the printed calico turned to flowers to inspires springtime. Flowers were particularly popular for women’s clothing and fashion accessories. The calicos offered many variations that could be adapted to changing seasons, styles, and modes. Year after year, attempts to copy after flowers, either imitating natural blooms or by abstracting from them, continues to inspire industrial designers and creators.
The flower is omnipresent in the world of fashion and haute couture. An inexhaustible source of inspiration for the greatest fashion designers, who have transformed and metamorphosed flowers to express their own styles. For the exhibition, The Museum of the Printing on Fabrics, three emblematic designers having each in their own way wrote a page of the history of the flower in the world of fashion:
For almost four decades, agnès b. has become the symbol of a simple timeless modernity. Behind this name, Agnès Troublé, patron, collector, filmmaker, is engaged with in many humanitarian projects, but she is above passionate about everything she encounters. Among her passions: flowers, ubiquitous in her collections. She photographs them to create exclusive printed fabrics. The rose is one of her favorite motifs for her printed fabrics that multiplies ad infinitum creating a rich and romantic universe.
© Patric Swirc
Synonymous with romance and freedom, printed fabrics are timeless in the history of fashion. Haute couturier Yves Saint Laurent never stopped adorning his creations with wildflowers, garden motifs or exotic species during the forty years of his fashion house from 1962 to 2002. Through ten models selected with the Yves Saint Laurent Museum Paris, the floral print is creative and colorful, fruit of a close collaboration between the designer and fabric designers such as the house of Abraham or artist Renée Brossin de Mere.
© Maurice Hogenboom – DR
In 2018, the fashion house Léonard Paris celebrates its 60 anniversary. With the emblem of the orchid, a wild and fragile flower, Maison Léonard has known, during all these years how to exploit the art of flowers, both representing them and on costume design. Léonard owes is success to re-transcribing to perfection the delicacy and fragility of each printed flower. The fabric as a flower and the flowers are the identity of Maison Léonard in a unique and iconic style.