18 Jun 2011 - 09 Oct 2011
180 St Kilda Road
Wiener Werkstätte fashion
Fashion and textiles became one of the most lucrative parts of the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop), influencing the dress of stylish Viennese women and artists and designers abroad.
In 1905, two of the principal designers of the Wiener Werkstätte, Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser, declared in the organisation's Prospectus that 'it is certainly not enough to buy pictures, however splendid they may be' and went on to list those items which ensured the proper integration of art and daily life, including the clothes the cultivated Viennese should wear. This epitomised the Secession's ideal of Gesamtkunstwerk in which the total work of art was all-embracing.
Setting up shop
In 1910, the Wiener Werkstätte launched a dedicated fashion department under the direction of Eduard Wimmer-Wisgrill. The store catered mostly to women (who were viewed as an integral part of the home and hence to its overall design) and employed two clothing designers and some 80 artists and craftsmen to design textiles, lace, needlework, hats, bags and other fashion accessories. Often the textile designs by artists such as Koloman Moser were more avant-garde than the clothes made from them.
The Flöge sisters
Before this, the fashionable, well-to-do and liberated woman was reliant on the chic couture house Schwestern Flöge that Emily Flöge and her two sisters had opened in 1904. It was here that the loose, flowing gowns which feature in Gustav Klimt's paintings were made, most often in fabrics designed and made by the Wiener Werkstätte.
These versatile textiles were designed to be applicable to furnishing, wall-paper, curtains and clothing. Again the Gesamtkunstwerk approach encouraged such versatile designs and uses. Many such designs were initially inspired by Japanese art and ideally suited to Emily Flöge's Reform dresses. Both Klimt and Hoffmann directed their clients to both establishments.
Josef Hoffmann: dominant influence
Josef Hoffmann's influence was perhaps the most dominant in the Wiener Werkstätte's production of textiles. Not only did he design hundreds of patterns himself, but as professor at the School of Arts and Crafts, he taught many of the designers who were to find employment with the Wiener Werkstätte.
By 1910, the stark geometry of Hoffmann's original designs had softened, incorporating the simplified motifs of leaves and flowers.
Evolving fashion trends
The First World War had a profound effect on female clothing and fashion, shortening skirts and facilitating ease of movement to accommodate the changing role of women. A revival of nationalism also aroused an interest in the folkloric themes of traditional dress, which were reflected in the designs of many garments up until the closure of the Wiener Werkstätte in 1932.