‘A journey from the pastoral to the cultural landscape’: Peter Saville’s textiles for Kvadrat
Technicolour, a new textile collaboration between Kvadrat and British designer Peter Saville, brings together field and factory, contrasting natural wool tones with pops of colour inspired by the spray-painted markings found on flocks throughout the country
While travelling around the British countryside, chances are you will come across a flock of colourful sheep in a field at some point in your journey. A familiar sight for country folks, and a colourful surprise for others, smit marks – the spray- painted patches on the sheep – are commonly used by shepherds in the UK to identify animals in their herd. The chromatic custom is also the starting point for Peter Saville’s Technicolour collection of upholstery textiles, rugs and curtains created in collaboration with Kvadrat and presented at Salone del Mobile and Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design, in September 2021.
Saville grew up visiting the countryside with his family, and developed a fascination with what he calls ‘rural graffiti’. ‘I’ve always seen the spray can as something modern, because it’s a technological development. There’s something very pop about it. So when I saw sheep sprayed, I thought, that’s kind of pop,’ he says. One of the most celebrated British graphic designers, Saville is best known as a co-founder of music label Factory Records in 1978, and for album covers for the likes of Joy Division and New Order. But his impact on popular culture stretched much further over the years, as he served as creative director for the city of Manchester, and worked with a plethora of fashion clients on advertising and brand identity.
Peter Saville and Kvadrat
Saville is a long-term collaborator of Kvadrat, working with the Danish textile company since 2004 on every aspect of its visual communication. ‘I cannot think of any visual communication designer or graphic designer living today who is more influential than Peter,’ says the brand’s CEO Anders Byriel. In the time he has collaborated with Saville, he notes, the company has grown eight-fold, and Saville was an integral part of the transformation. ‘We came from being very rooted in Scandinavian culture, to being the global brand we are today. We see ourselves as a contemporary culture producer, and it’s very much Peter who has helped us formulate this idea.’
Byriel had been asking the designer for several years to create a textile project for the company. ‘I didn’t do it before because I took it seriously,’ explains Saville. ‘They work at very different tempo: graphic design is very high-speed, fashion is pretty high-speed, pop culture in general is high-speed. And what Kvadrat do is slower, but with depth.
Technicolour: from the pastoral to the cultural landscape
‘Ever since I’ve started working with Kvadrat, I’ve begun to understand a little bit about the use of wool in textile production and about the industrial processes from the field to the furniture, and begun to think, what would happen if the colour of [the smit marks] wasn’t washed out from the wool? What would happen if this colour made it all the way through the production process?’
The answer to this somewhat provocative question comprises an upholstery fabric, two curtains and three rugs. Through a series of conversations, Saville, Stine Find Osther, vice president of design at Kvadrat, and Dienke Dekker, design manager at Kvadrat Rugs, translated his ideas onto the textiles of the Technicolour collection.
An upholstery fabric made of 100 per cent English wool and manufactured in England, ‘Fleck’ is perhaps the most subtle element of the collection, and the one that best brings Saville’s ideas to life. Featuring 11 colour interpretations, the ‘Fleck’ fabric series is based on neutral backgrounds, with bright yellow, blue and red fibres adding chromatic depth to the textiles; small, discreet moments of colour. ‘I love the idea that a chair in a waiting room will reward you: you sit down and you think it’s a black chair, and then you realise that it’s not, there’s actually a cosmos of colour inside this black fabric.’ ‘Fleck’ follows a 2013 collaboration between Kvadrat, Saville, graphic design agency Graphic Thought Facility and weave designers Wallace Sewell, on a textile cover for the book Kvadrat Interwoven. Featuring slim colourful yarns embedded in a white and grey fabric, the piece set an early foundation for the fabrics in the Technicolour collection.
Made of iridescent Trevira CS, the two curtains in the collection include ‘Flux’, defined by a colourful rainbow stripe motif, and ‘Fade’, a transparent curtain declined in eight full-bodied colours, featuring hints of iridescent neon that emerge with movement. The Technicolour range is then completed by three ultra-tactile rugs, handwoven and tufted by robots, offering different interpretations of the colourful wool concept. Crafted from pure new wool, ‘Flock’ and ‘Fleece’ mimic the sheep’s coats that inspired Saville, while ‘Field’, made of fine bamboo yarn, takes a more industrial approach.
Bringing together farming, industry and culture was one of Saville’s goals with the collection, which he describes as ‘making a journey from the pastoral landscape into the cultural landscape’. He continues: ‘The idea is that it reminds you of the land, of the fields, I am interested in bringing some of the outside into the inside.’
For Byriel, the collection is not as provocative as it is purely poetic: he likens Kvadrat to a publishing house, its textile collections to a catalogue of books. ‘You need to produce poetry, you need to produce something extraordinary,’ he says.
One thing Byriel hopes to achieve with the Technicolour collection is to help set the foundation for what a post-Covid interior landscape could look like. ‘What I see around me in the interior world right now, things are very “good enough”, as I call it. There’s not so much excitement,’ he says. ‘So when Peter came up with this, I thought it was just what we needed: the aesthetic language needs to go somewhere new, and this is our proposal.’ §
Watch: the pastoral inspiration behind the collection