V&A Museum:18th Century Fabric to Contemporary Design

V&A Museum:18th Century Fabric to Contemporary Design
November 29, 2023 humphriesweaving

At Humphries, we are always looking for inspiration to combine history with contemporary design, from 18th Century fabric to Chanel’s tweed suits. We recently found ourselves at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, immersing in the timeless beauty of the British Galleries and the captivating Chanel Exhibition Fashion Manifesto which is on until 24th February 2024.

The beauty of the V&A is one moment you are surrounded by exquisite dresses or exciting jacquard woven suits by Chanel. Then you step back in time in their British and European galleries looking at fine antique furniture and 18th century fabric.

Chanel Exhibition Fashion Manifesto.


We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the Chanel exhibition, learning so much about Gabrielle Chanel’s history. Her first salon opened in 1927 in London offering tailored outfits with custom British fabric was an eye opener. The revelation that she orchestrated a fashion show featuring 130 designs exclusively crafted from British textiles in London was truly enlightening.

It was a magical exhibition with timeless beauty which highlighted the craftsmanship of Chanel’s work.  Her exciting designs combined with supple materials were a definite contrast to her contemporary’s. Inspired by menswear tailoring and creating women’s clothing that was built for ease of movement were instantly popular and contrastingly different to other designers of her day.

18th Century fabric, the Silk Damask Festoon in The Music room, Norfolk House.

To learn more about the panelled room click here.

Drawing parallels between the past and present, we explore the opulence of the 18th Century Silk Damask Festoon showcased in the Music Room of Norfolk House in the British Gallery. The Duke and Duchess of Norfolk originally commissioned architect Matthew Brettingham in 1748 to build their London residence, with furnishing beginning eight years later. The furnishings, not aligning with the tastes of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, sought the expertise of Giovanni Battista Borra to infuse a more lavish Rococo style.

The Music Room at the V&A is where you can see the Silk Damask Festoon, where curtains gracefully drape in swags, crafted from a single piece of fabric—a design harkening back to the 1750s, likely originating in France. Humphries Weaving, was honoured to contribute to the restoration efforts at the V&A, recreating the exquisite custom silk 18th Century fabric with historically sensitive design and colour.

Another wonderful Humphries Weaving sight at the V&A is the 1755 Armchair from Richard Cosway’s studio. This chair is a fantastic example of the Rococo Style with silk damask 18th century fabric woven by Humphries in our mill in Suffolk. The chair, featured in several portraits by Richard Cosway, seamlessly aligns with the design aesthetics of the 18th-century designer Matthias Lock.

At Humphries, our commitment to weaving the threads of history into contemporary creations is unwavering. If you would like to create a custom fabric inspired by 18th century fabric or a contemporary design, email fabrics@humphriesweaving.co.uk.

Read more about our V&A projects here.