Friday 21 February 2020 7:12 am

Designers Guild at 50: A joyful journey through the doyenne of design's bold, bright creations

Tricia Guild OBE doesn’t do same-y; she doesn’t do greige and she doesn’t do minimal.

But looking back at the influential interior designs, fabrics, wallpapers, paints, upholstered furniture, homewares and books her company Designers Guild has produced over the past 50 years, it’s clear that what she does do, is happy.

Guild conceived Designers Guild in 1970 along with her husband Robin, as a shop on the King’s Road. After the pair split and she became a single mother, Guild relied on her innate eye for style, her tenacity and her ability to collaborate with other creatives. Today, the brand has a second store on Marylebone High Street and is also available online at designersguild.com.

Stronger than ever, and now operating in 80 countries, the Designers Guild’s 50-year retrospective has just opened at the Fashion and Textile Museum a gem of a space on hip Bermondsey Street which has become a powerhouse of design retrospectives.
For less than £10 a pop, visitors are taken on a joyful journey through the decades.

In an inspired piece of theatre, the curators have juxtaposed a room-set themed around the year 1976 with another showcasing 2019’s digitally printed wallpapers and fabrics – giant botanical blooms in hues of blush and lemon against earthy browns.

Eclectic eye

“I hate to be put into a box,” Guild says. “I’ve always had an eclectic eye. We are known for florals, but more than 50 per cent of our collection are plains. And we’ve always had geometrics.”

The bravery of juxtaposition – mixing materials, colours and techniques – is something the doyenne of design has made her own from the very beginning.
“A key part of Designers Guild is mixing vintage with new, and fine art with innovation and technology,” says exhibition curator Dennis Nothdruft, pointing to the accompanying ceramics that are from Guild’s own collection. “It shows how people can put all of those elements together themselves.”

Read more: Want to buy art but don’t know where to start? Try Collect, the more accessible design fair

Guild also twigged early on that homeowners needed a bit of hand-holding – especially back in the 1970s when department stores dominated the high street and Habitat was considered an innovation. She created and photographed room-sets to inspire them with a finished look. “Sometimes people get nervous and back off and end up doing something more bland. We try to simulate their individual taste,” she says.

Having a lifelong love of travel, Guild has found finding inspiration in all corners of the globe – her passion for the rich jewel colours of India and Indian saris is a narrative thread that has never lost its lustre.

And anyone in search of looks for their mood boards will find their own inspiration in Guild’s 19 books, including Out of the Blue, which was published to accompany the exhibition.

Out of the Blue: Fifty Years of Designers Guild is at the Fashion and Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 (ftmlondon.org) until 14 June; £9.90

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