Remembering a heroine of textile design – Susan Collier

This year, sisters and business partners Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell reached the astonishing 50 year mark with their contributions to the world of textile print design, from home to haute couture. Sadly Susan passed away at the age of 72 on May 7th 2011, just before the opening of a new retrospective exhibition celebrating Collier Campbell’s colourful design work at the National Theatre, London.

Susan Collier started her career in textile design by working for designers Peter Rice and Pat Albeck and selling sketches to scarf brands Richard Allan and Jacqmar. She began her work with Liberty’s in 1961, where she progressed to Company Design Consultant in 1975. Sarah Campbell helped on-and-off through the years during her education, joining Susan full time in 1968.

From 1977 onwards Collier Campbell (C-C) became an independent studio, still providing Liberty’s with the vibrant brush-stroked designs the sisters were already well known for. Susan herself saw Collier Campbell’s style as ‘painting for textiles’ to retain the hand-created through mass produced fabric. C-C studio went on to work with renowned fashion powerhouses Yves Saint Laurent, Cacheral, Jaegar and Bill Gibbs to name a few. When the vibrant fashion print trend turned, C-C developed beautiful home ware ranges for Habitat, Marks and Spencers and Martex.

When Susan and Sarah were asked March this year on their career highlights, they exclaimed:

There have been so many [career highlights] being the first and only designers of printed textile to win the coveted Duke of Edinburgh’s designer prize, and the first women too in 1984. And as always with design – the best is yet to come

And there is so much to come this year – a real tribute to the work Susan created with sister Sarah, as along with the retrospective exhibition at the National Theatre open until 3 July, the Collier Campbell website is being relaunched this month with old designs re-created and new designs soon to be launched – all to be available to buy online. C-C have also created an exclusive new range of home wares at House of Fraser and some beautiful floral interior pieces for Marks and Spencers.

LPT met the charismatic Susan Collier through her daughter, illustrator Sophie Herxheimer, who regularly accesses the LPT workshop space. We were lucky enough to sell some of Collier campbell’s designs at our 2009 Brixton fRocks deluxe sample sale. The LPT staff all admire Susan and Sarah’s contribution to the heritage of UK textile print design, their untamable excitement and enjoyment for mark-making and fantastic print. Thank you Collier Campbell.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to all of Susan’s family.

To hear an interview with Sarah Campbell on Radio 4’s Women’s Hour 23/05/11, please click here

Images: Courtesy of the Guardian, V&A archive, National Theatre and House of Fraser

About London Printworks Trust

London Printworks Trust is the centre of excellence for textile print. Our passion has continued for twenty years since establishing ourselves as a charity to encourage professional artists, designers and emerging talent to learn, to share ideas, to produce new work and to fulfil their creative potential. Through our specialist hand printing equipment and workshop facilities we support and nurture creativity in people from the local community of Brixton, and across London. We are developing a new programme of residency places, courses, talks and new open access in response to the changes to funding. We appreciate and thank the support from our Board, Volunteers and Freelancers, without whom we would not have survived the changes to our funding. Continued support from The Leverhulme Trust and Lambeth also helps us to make a difference.
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One Response to Remembering a heroine of textile design – Susan Collier

  1. Pingback: Sarah Campbell on Newsnight! | London Printworks Trust's Blog

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