Woven wool, space-dyed mohair
Bernat Klein, Galashiels, UK
Bernat Klein (1922-2014) was a visionary textile designer, artist and colourist, who established his business in the Scottish Borders in the 1950s and went on to produce fashion fabrics for the couture houses of Europe. In 1962, the trade journal Wool described Klein’s fabrics as ‘the first real breakthrough in colour and design technique for over half a century.'
Who wore it
A suit from Pierre Cardin in a Bernat Klein check tweed of orange and beige, 1966
Klein’s fabrics bear a strong relationship to the landscape surrounding his home, High Sutherland, in the Scottish Borders. High Sutherland was designed by Klein’s friend, the architect Peter Womersely, in 1956. A champion of modernist design, Klein also commissioned Womersely to design his studio in 1969. The relationship between this suit and the landscape is evident, from the autumnal shades, to the subtle interplay of colours.
Klein designed fabrics for couture and ready to wear collections and his unique approach to colour and texture won him many devoted followers. Shops such as Liberty stocked Klein fabrics, allowing home dressmakers to create their own garments.
Klein originally studied fine art and painted throughout his life, taking inspiration from nature and the Scottish landscape. He used his canvas to explore colour and texture and his experiments in oil fed into his textile practice. The artist Georges Seurat was a major inspiration and in the 1950s, Klein became preoccupied with the idea of translating Seurat’s pointillist technique into woven cloth.
Klein was interested in colour theory and the interaction of planes of pure colour. He was able to achieve the unique colour effects that became his signature through a method known as ‘space-dyeing’ – a process of resist dip-dyeing, which allowed a single yarn to contain eight colours. Klein worked closely with Galashiels dye house Kemp Blair & Co. to perfect his vibrantly coloured yarns.
Pierre Cardin image © London College of Fashion/The Woolmark Company