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Klein exhibition inspired by a life in colour

The life and work of the man who put tweed on the catwalk is being celebrated over the next two months at Borders Textile Towerhouse in Hawick.

Bernat Klein – Colour, Fusion, Fashion focuses on the Selkirk-based designer and artist who won international acclaim for the dazzling textural tweeds he produced in Galashiels from the 1950s to the 1990s.

An inspired colourist with an individual and idealistic approach to textiles, Klein (1922-2014) drew on his bold and experimental abstract paintings for the colourways of his cloth, resulting in the production of woven fabric as it had never been seen before - or, arguably, since.

Shaureen Lammie, Museum and Gallery Assistant/Education & Outreach Officer, said:  “We have been working hard to increase our Bernat Klein collection in recent years, with this exhibition in mind.

“The clothing, textiles and design books on display have all been carefully selected to highlight the range of Klein’s work. In putting this exhibition together it became clear that Klein’s designs and colour theories are as relevant today as they were in the 1960s and 70s.”

Klein was born in 1922 in the town of Senta, in the newly-formed Yugoslavia, close to the Hungarian border.  His parents were orthodox Jews.  In 1940, he began attending the Bezalel School of Art and Craft in Jerusalem, and it was here, after studying art initially, that he learned to weave.

In 1945, after working for the British Ministry of Information, he travelled to Britain to learn textile technology at Leeds University.  In 1949, Klein was employed in the design department of Edinburgh-based Company, Munrospun, which moved to Galashiels in 1950.

In 1952, Klein set up his company Colourcraft, making rugs and furnishing fabrics.  Soon after, they began producing textiles for womenswear and menswear - with great success.  Klein also developed a sumptuous range in wool and mohair, all in bright colours and, in 1962, Coco Chanel chose Klein's fabrics for her spring collection, leading to greater exposure and sales to couture houses in the US and Europe - Dior, Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent among them.

This exhibition showcases the Textile Towerhouse Bernat Klein collection with a fascinating array of his famous Diolen print garments, velvet and mohair tweeds and advertising brochures.  A film in which Klein is speaking is on continuous play, courtesy of Heriot Watt University.   Impressive vintage fashion shots of models wearing Klein outfits, by renowned photographer Arthur Massey, help impart a flavour of Bernat Klein’s heyday.

An education package has been established to coincide with the exhibition.  An evening talk on Bernat Klein, entitled An Eye for Colour, will be given by Helen Taylor, archivist at Heriot Watt University, on Wednesday, October 5th at 7pm.

The exhibition runs until 5th November.

Ewan Jackson, Chief Executive, local charity Live Borders, commented: “This event offers much more than the exhibition itself and provides an inspirational insight into the work and life of this highly celebrated artist and designer.”

For more information, please contact Shaureen Lammie on 01450 378118 or email Shaureen.lammie@Liveborders1.org.uk

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