My brief study of the textiles of the Wiener Werkstätte last week left me wishing I knew more, so I spent the last week mining some additional information and images to share with you. Here are some equally intriguing tidbits about the textile and fashion departments:
Mixed prints? Tassel jewelry? Feather accessories? Bold black and white? I could be describing recent trends, or I could be describing the fashions and fabrics of the Wiener Werkstätte.
Active since the Workshop’s conception in 1903, the textile department of the Wiener Werkstätte was not formally organized until 1910. As I mentioned last week, Josef Hoffmann is credited with many of 1,800 designs the department produced, but he was only one of approximately 80 members who designed printed textiles for fashion and furnishings as well as custom textiles for more expensive interiors. As head of the department, Hoffmann oversaw the work of designers such as Dagobert Peche, Maria Likarz, Maria Vera Brunner, Jacqueline Groag, Carl Otto Czeschka, Max Snischek, Leopold Blonder, and Lotte Frömel-Fochler.
The fashion department of Wiener Werkstätte was also founded around 1910. Led by Eduard Wimmer-Wisgrill, the department saw significant growth in its first four years; this growth resulted in a restructuring around 1914 with the creation of new segments, including a special section dedicated to blouse design and construction. According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, it was in this same year that the Workshop first used patterned textiles as fashion fabrics.
The printed fabrics of the Wiener Werkstätte feature geometric compositions as well as colors and shapes inspired by the more temporal aspects of natural world. In many of the surviving samples, order and chaos coexist in floral designs reduced to the simplest representational shapes, while forests of repeated forms swarm over the surface of silk swatches. The designs of the Workshop refused to sit quietly on a couch cushion or a blouse; instead, they matched or exceeded the abrupt modernity of the interior or outfit of which they played a pivotal role.
Inspiration for these designs came from various sources, including regional folk art and modern art. As styles changed, so did the textiles, and when observed chronologically in Textiles of the Wiener Werkstatte, 1910-1932, the shift from Art Nouveau to Art Deco is easily visible.
In time, additional expansions of the fashion department led to segments focused on the design and production of hats, handbags, shoes, and other accessories, as well as trimmings such as lace. For a detailed timeline of the history of Wiener Werkstatte and its various departments, please visit this website.