Cecil Beaton is famous for his photographs of society beauties – monuments to 1930s romanticism that capture the fall of a perfect silk gown and the crescent of a pencilled eyebrow – as well as of the Queen, Marilyn Monroe and Winston Churchill. Much like Mario Testino today, Beaton created a gilded world of beauty.Andrew Ginger, the managing director of Beau desert, a Wiltshire-based interior design company, had long swooned over Beaton’s glamour when he decided to revive it in a thoroughly modern way. If Beaton’s world is so beautiful, he reasoned, why not put it on our walls, curtains and sofas?
Ginger knew that Beaton was a man of many talents, not only a photographer but also a diarist, journalist and costume designer. Ironically, what Ginger did not realise was that Beaton was also a textile designer. In 1948 Beaton produced designs for the fabric maker Zika Ascher, who commissioned designs from such greats of the day as Matisse, Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson. The fabrics were used by Balenciaga, Dior and Lanvin. Ginger discovered this by chance: 'I bought a rose-print scarf on eBay,’ he remembers, 'and it came with a note from the owner saying, “This is by Beaton and is very special.”’
The trail was set. After discussion with Ascher’s heir, two years ago Ginger and his partner, Roger Barnard, acquired the licence to bring the prints back to life on silk, cotton, linen and wallpaper. The Beaton fabric collection, comprising six floral designs with matching check and stripe coordinates (designed by Ginger), has been a huge success. 'We felt strongly that Beaton’s designs were meant to be used, not on a shelf in a museum,’ Ginger says. 'We wanted to extend his legacy to a new generation.’
But what to do next? Ginger had exhausted the original archive. 'Not everybody wants to decorate with florals,’ he says. 'We have always loved the scenic effects of toile de Jouy and so thought, why not make some textile designs from his drawings of people? It was so exciting, so him! All we’d have to do is put them into a working pattern and give them lovely colourways. Then we’d have a new collection that was never even textiles originally.’
Ginger began combing through Beaton’s books of illustrated journalism. The 1954 The Glass of Fashion leapt out. Containing his 1929 sketches of flappers, based on Edwina Mountbatten, and the sketches he made after seeing the 1950s Dior and Balenciaga couture collections, it possessed contemporary glamour and wit.
Permission was obtained from the National Portrait Gallery, the holder of Beaton’s copyright. The result is 'Sketchbook’, a collection of six designs handprinted on various fabrics and wall-paper. There is Beaton Beauties, in rose and pastel colourways on silk and wallpaper, taken from Balenciaga and the 1953 Dior collection; there is the flapper design Beaton 1929 on Russian linen; Beaton Sailors, based on a photograph Beaton took in 1944, in 1950s ice-cream colourways on wallpaper and cotton drill; Beaton Hats, wry sketches from the Edwardian chapters of the book, available in cotton and wallpaper in four colourways; Garbo’s Eye, a drawing that Ginger has worked into a strong, modern-looking repeat. The final design, by Ginger, is Criss Cross Check, an evocation of Beaton’s ink brushstrokes, intended to act as an accessory to the other designs.
With licensing secured for five years, Ginger is champing at the bit. The next project is Beaton’s drawings in New York, including the 'Park Avenue Cutie’. 'There is so much more Beaton to show,’ Ginger says, 'and he’ll become more important as people begin to understand how astonishing his visual intelligence was, not just his photography.’ Cecil Beaton fabrics and wallpaper. Article from Topix