Queen Elizabeth II on Piccadilly Line 1973 tube stock, 16 December 1977.
Central Saint Martins Textiles Placement Student at the Warner Textile Archive, Clemency Dyer, explains Marianne Straub’s connection to Transport for London in the 1960s
Marianne Straub was one of Warner & Sons’ most prolific designers. She famously once said that her aim was; ‘to design things that people can afford… to remain a handweaver did not seem satisfactory in this age of mass-production’. This belief led her to designing a moquette fabric for public transport while working at Warner & Sons in Braintree. The moquette upholstery fabric would be seen and used by hundreds of everyday in the 1970s-1980s.
In 1964 Straub was asked to design a moquette for Transport for London as the new Victoria Line needed a distinctive fabric for its interiors. Moquette is a tough, woven, woollen pile fabric that is velvet-like and well suited for applications such as public transport. It originated in France where it was woven by hand. Today it is still produced in the traditional English technique in Yorkshire. Courtaulds and Holdsworth Fabrics were the main suppliers in the 1960s. Today it is woven using a jacquard loom and is usually made up of 85% wool and 15% nylon.
About Marianne Straub
Straub was born in Switzerland. Her father was a textile merchant. She studied art at the Kunstgewebeschule in Zurich with a focus on handweaving, her tutor had studied at the Bauhaus school of art. After working for six months at a mill in her village, she then moved to Bradford, England in 1932 and spent a year studying at the Bradford Technical School. The main reason for this being that women could not study at the technical colleges in Switzerland. It was here she developed strong skills in double cloth weaving and the use of power looms.
After finishing at Bradford, Straub worked at Ethel Mairet’s Gospels studio in Ditchling, developing hand weaving techniques and forming a firm friendship with Mairet. She then went to work as a consultant designer in Wales for 3 years. After this in 1937, she joined the firm Helios as Head Designer and later became Managing Director. In 1950 Marianne came to Warner & Sons, in 1953 she moved to Great Bardfield where she became associated with the artistic community there, her neighbours included John Aldridge RA and Edward Bawden. It was within this community that she formed a friendship with Denise Hoyle.
Marianne was enlisted by Isabel Tisdall, previously a fashion editor for Vogue, to create designs for her new brand Tamesa in 1964, which were manufactured by Warner & Sons. The company was a great success, most notably its fabrics featuring on the British European Airways Trident planes. By this time Straub’s design process had strongly developed to testing and working out designs on a handloom to then be woven industrially.
The Piccadilly Line Moquette
That same year, 1964, Straub was commissioned to design the new upholstery fabric for the Victoria line on the London underground. She presented to them her blue and green block pattern, however TFL then opted to use an ‘old style’ moquette for the new line. Straub’s fabric was still used on various TFL vehicles such as the Piccadilly Line and London buses.
Marianne had a sensitivity for what the public wanted, she moved with the styles and the times. Her use of bold bright colours in exciting combinations made her work stand out from the crowd yet continued to design strong and functional fabrics. In her book on Marianne Straub, the textile historian Mary Schoeser writes; ‘it may be safe to say that most people have sat on or looked at a Marianne Straub fabric (or copy), yet few… could name the designer.’ This statement shows the quietly strong effect of Straub’s lifework felt by many.
See Schoeser. M, (1984), Marianne Straub, The Design Council, London
Image reproduced by kind permission ©TfL from the London Transport Museum collection see https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/collections/collections-online/photographs/item/2001-5433