Design Heroes: Collier Campbell


Oh how I love the work Collier Campbell, the design team made up of sisters Susan Collier & Sarah Campbell. They created an industry around their artwork that is so inspiring. They made a huge impact on my decision to become a designer many moons ago, and I still love their work today. Sadly, Susan Collier past away 10 years ago, but Sarah Campbell is still going strong. I’m not going to go over their entire rich history, as you can read that in books and extensively online. In the years since Susan’s death, a friend of the sisters has now taken over Collier Campbell and keeps their artwork out in the world for a whole new generation to enjoy.

For anyone new to textile design or surface pattern design, I’ll copy and paste this brief synopsis from the current Collier Campbell web site:

Collier Campbell was founded in the 1960s by sisters Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell. The company found real fame in 1971 when the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent used designs by Collier Campbell as the inspiration for his first ever ready-to-wear collection. Collier Campbell went on to collaborate with many of the world’s top designers, retailers and manufacturers including Liberty, Habitat, Jaeger and Conran in the UK and Martex, Westpoint and Springs in the USA. Their designs have won many awards and can be found in several museum collections featuring the best of modern design including the V&A Museum, London.

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I was in college when we took a family trip to England, Scotland, & France. I was still very much finding my way creatively. In fact,  I think I was still an English major when I took the trip!

During our time in England, at least a week was spent in London. This allowed for lots of exploring and going back to visit places multiple times. Early in the trip, we stumbled upon Collier Campbell's shop in London near Bond Street. Apparently, their shop was a labor of love, and it was short-lived, but I was lucky enough to stumble upon it during this trip. I'm telling you, it changed my way of thinking. I don't remember the shop being huge, but I remember standing in the middle of everything, in awe. Everywhere you looked were patterns, products, textiles, and art! I realized that two women had designed the patterns, textiles, and all of the other products in the shop. It was like a bolt of lighting for me. I told myself, "THIS is what I want to do." I had no real idea what I was looking at, but I knew I loved every bit of it. I truly will never forget that moment. I went back multiple times that week to soak it in again.

London is also home to the inimitable Liberty of London. Another treasure trove! I needed nothing, but I would just go in and wander amongst the gorgeous designs. Little did I know that the two women behind Collier Campbell had also designed many of the prints for Liberty. Not surprisingly, both Sarah and Susan were heavily influenced by Matisse, one of my favorite artists of all time. Years on, it all makes sense to me, but back then I felt I had made a magical discovery. Between trips to Liberty of London and Collier Campbell, I was hooked.

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I honestly believe I was meant to visit London during those few years when their shop was open. Years later, to my delight, one of my interior design vendors, Fabricut, sent me a set of Collier Campbell fabric books. It contained their entire interior collection of textiles for Fabricut!!  While the prints have likely long been discontinued, I have the fabric books and still LOVE the prints. 

When I decided 6 plus years ago that I was going to learn textile design, one of the first things I did was buy The Collier Campbell Archive book. I studied their designs and tried to understand what they brought to the table that made their designs different. I found it in this quote:

"It has always been our guiding principle that the painted mark gives energy & beauty to fabric".

And with that, I pulled out my watercolors and began painting again. I haven’t looked back since! Who are your design heroes and what bits of their influence can you see in your own work? I highly recommend buying a copy of The Collier Campbell Archive. It’s an absolute treat to revisit these designs again and again.


Collier Campbell Print

handwritten jenny sign-off

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