Explore Warner & Sons in the 1920s

[‘Excelsior’ is one of Warner & Sons most iconic designs from the 1920s. It was designed by Albert Swindells in 1928, when the short-lived but influential Art Deco period was well underway. Its gold, sunburst design typifies this style and gives a striking view of Warner & Sons’ foray into modern trends.]


by Vidita Gupta – Placement Student supported by Art Fund

The aftermath of World War 1 was a period of immense change and growth, and this transformative spirit extended to the realm of textile design and production. This period witnessed a dynamic interplay between traditional and modern styles, wherein designers like Charles Ebel, Albert Swindells, Herbert Woodman, and Bertrand Whittaker emerged as key figures at Warner & Sons. These designers were able to seamlessly blend traditional patterns with contemporary sensibilities, ushering in a new era of bright colours, innovative textures, and captivating patterns. Thus, the 1920s marked a significant era in history for Warner & Sons as it navigated through evolving trends, technological advancements, and shifting consumer preferences.

Throughout the 1920s, Warner & Sons created a number of traditional designs and were specialists in high-quality handwoven silks. Warner & Sons were one of the most important exhibitors at the British Empire Exhibition, held in 1924-1925 in Wembley, London. This exhibition was organised to illustrate the different ways British firms made use of raw materials from the Empire and since most of Warner & Sons silk was imported, they became a prominent presence and had two stands; one in the furniture and textile section and one in the Silk Association section. Warner & Sons had a silk tissue woven especially for the exhibition called ‘Wembley’, designed by Herbert Woodman, who incorporated the emblems of the various British Dominions. Developed in two colourways – red and blue – this rich brocatelle was used for curtains in the British Government Court in the Royal Pavillion at the exhibition.

The emergence of Art Deco in the 1920s further transformed textile designs. The 1925 International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris became a defining moment for textile and design trends of the era. France’s influence was palpable, with geometric and semi-abstract floral patterns dominating the exhibition’s textiles. Characterised by geometric shapes, strong colours (owing to the post-war boom in the use of synthetic dyes), and a blend of diverse influences, the Art Deco style was embraced by Warner & Sons, who incorporated angular stepped blocks, sunbursts, diagonals, streamlined curves and chevrons into their designs.

While traditional textile design remained prevalent at Warner & Sons, there was also growing experimentation with abstraction and more stylised forms, influenced by the changing interior design landscape. For Warner & Sons, the 1920s were marked by their ability to strike a balance between preserving tradition and embracing innovation. Warner & Sons’ dedication to craftsmanship, innovation, and versatility positioned them as leaders in the industry. The 1920s were a pivotal period of change and growth for the textile industry. Warner & Sons’ ability to adapt to evolving tastes, integrate modern technologies, and push creative boundaries ensured their enduring impact on the world of design and interior aesthetics.

[‘Stuart’, represents the traditional side of 1920s design. The pattern is inspired by a 17th century crewel embroidery and forms a meandering tree of life design popular in the 1920s. This timeless pattern is now part of the Warner Textile Archive collaboration with Claremont, who reproduce this design for today’s customers.]

[‘Cranwell’, designed in 1928, exemplifies all the jazz and excess of the Art Deco period. This is one example from numerous, equally bold, colourways of the same design. The modern take on a floral motif illustrates Warner & Sons’ trajectory over the course of the 1920s into increasingly modern designs, alongside the more traditional.]