Curious Trends


Timeless monochrome style in fashion and design art

Multiple retailer Gap has recently been promoting its ‘modern monochrome’ collection. From retro to post modern, it’s curious that monochrome seems to be perennially in fashion. However, what distinguishes timeless monochrome from boring old black and white is stylish and distinctive design:

Piero Fornasetti (1913 - 1988), an Italian artist and interior decorator used black and white, along with symbols like the sun and time. His style is reminiscent of Greek and Roman architecture, by which he was heavily influenced. He specialized in fashion and home accessories such as scarves, ties, lamps, furniture, china plates and tables, creating more than 11,000 items, many featuring the face of operatic soprano, Lina Cavalieri, as a motif. Fornasetti found her face in a 19th century magazine. He claims he didn’t know what inspired him to create 500 variations of a face, “I began to make them and I never stopped,” he said. His son, Barnaba Fornasetti, continues the design business in his father's name.

The vintage Fornasetti cabinet shown here was recently spotted on a stand at the Art Antiques London fair.

Sue Timney’s designs, from the late 1970s onwards, are similarly classically inspired, bold and distinctive. Timney was born in Libya, North Africa in 1950 to a military family. Her mother was Scots and her father’s family, the Carruthers had a long history in the Indian army. Timney travelled from Benghazi with her family to Germany and then around Europe, finally moving to Great Britain for the first time in 1965. Sue’s mother trained as a dressmaker in Scotland, and made clothes with Sue when she was a child. Sue won a place at Carlisle Art School’s pre-foundation course in 1967 and married in 1968. After working in advertising and photography for 5 years she studied for a degree in Fine Art, Sculpture and Printmaking at Newcastle University. Alix, the first of Timney’s four children, was born whilst she was completing her degree. She also gained an MA in Edinburgh before arriving at the Royal College of Art in 1977.

Whilst doing an Interdisciplinary Tapestry course at the RCA, Timney met Grahame Fowler in the textiles department in 1979. Fowler began to explore the commercial potential of Timney’s designs, such as ties and t-shirts. Her degree pulled together all the strands and explorations of the previous three years – futurism, optics, bold black and white marks on walls, fabrics and multi-media. After graduation, Timney and Fowler made a trip to Paris where they sold a bag of garments – all black and white – made up from her prints. The buyer was Agnes B. The pair married and made a big impact on Japan when they travelled there on a scholarship Sue had been awarded, selling designs to the big fashion houses. On their return, the first Timney-Fowler shops were opened, foreshadowing the distinctive shop eventually opened by the company in Portobello Road.

The bold graphics of Timney-Fowler have been applied to ceramics and stationery as successfully as they have to textiles. Products have ranged from silk ties, scarves and accessories to ceramics produced in limited batches in the UK and under licence in the USA, Italy and Japan. As well as surface pattern for mass production, Sue’s graphic style has been used on limited edition products such as watches and Daniel Weil’s bag radio, as well as one off pieces of furniture, carpets and laminates. Her furnishing fabrics have been a favourite of interior designers and architects since the 1980s.

Classic black and white fashions have always appeared on the catwalk and are attractive from both a commercial and practical point of view, being firm staples at weddings and society events. In future, monochrome fashion looks set to become more avant garde, drawing inspiration from futuristic ‘60s designers like Courreges and characters such as Pierrot the clown.

A newly emerging trend is our growing fascination with QR codes. Bea Seggering, a Berlin based designer, applies carpet patterns via QR codes creating a fusion of handicraft and technology. Seggering says, “QR codes are a new visual language in urban environments, a new type of present ornament with a secret meaning.”  This fashion inspired QR code caught our attention:

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