Many moons ago when I was 18 or 19 my college mate got me a Saturday job at Sanderson’s fabric showroom in Berners Street. I loved the spaciousness and light of the double height 1950’s showroom but didn’t care one jot for the old fashioned 19th century designer William Morris fabrics that we sold.
As a teenage girl the designs seemed so overwhelmingly gloomy, almost depressing, belonging to an era of constraint and formality. All I wanted to do was be let free at 6’oclock, get on the No. 19 bus back home and doll myself up for a boozy night of bar cruising in Chelsea. Those dreary prints were a world apart from my younger self and the bold swirly ‘70’s wallpaper in my bedroom that literally was the backdrop to my teenage dreams.
But years tick by as they do. That showroom is long gone, and now extravagantly refurbished in to the swanky Sanderson Hotel. I’ve matured and come to notice and appreciate William Morris. Suddenly those prints look intricately beautiful.
I took this photo in April 2019. One Saturday I was in the west end, walking from A to B by the back streets as I’m prone to do. Particularly lovely on a Saturday, far from the maddening crowds (sadly not an issue these days). I found myself in Berners Street and had a nostalgic moment. Took this pic with no idea why.
A few weeks later I caught sight of a William Morris print on a dress on the internet. It felt relevant and stirred a seed of longing within me – I’d like a dress like that. I then discovered that Jonathan Anderson had selected 4 archive prints from Morris’s collection and had artfully spun them in to his collection for Loewe. The love was growing. Then more recently seeing Matty Bovan bonkers use of the much coveted ‘Strawberry Thief’ print for SS20. We’re feeling this Morris chap.
Synchronicity was at play my friends - the National Trust‘s Standen House in West Sussex, which is decorated throughout in Morris’s wallpapers and textiles, were hosting an exhibition (ended Nov 2019), exploring Morris’s love of nature and how it inspired him so. So off I trotted.
As we wind our way through our lives we really have no hint of what is to come. We gather new ideas and memories deepening the grooves within ourselves to recall and react from these experiences. It’s highly possible that my connection to William Morris was unconsciously fused on that airy showroom floor back in the ‘80’s and had laid dormant in one of my grooves. It’s a nice thought.
It is said that what we resist persists, and I think that bodes true here. I resisted his art for so long, it took me a while to ‘get-it’ but I so do now. Slow to the party indeed. So for AW20 we’ve created our own Morris inspired prints entitled ‘Flora & Fauna’. Respect Mr Morris. We all get there in the end.
*Header image © Jessica Mahaffey