Patrizia Moroso on fabric


4 July 2013

In 1801 Joseph Marie Jacquard demonstrated the Jacquard loom in Lyon, France. Operated by punch cards, the loom eased the production of complicated fabrics, allowing for the creation of ornate, complex textiles. Now, Jacquard's loom is the inspiration behind an exhibition of furniture brand Moroso's work in Lyon's Musée des Tissus.

Curated by the designer Marco Viola and Patrizia Moroso - Moroso's art director, Lo Sguardo Laterale is an overview of Moroso's work, showing pieces such as Martino Gamper's Metamorfosi collection, Patricia Urquiola's M'Afrique furniture and Ron Arad's Victoria and Albert chair.

Yet the heart of the exhibition is a series of Moroso armchairs upholstered in a recreation of an 18th Century silk fabric produced by Moroso in collaboration with the the Venetian textile manufacturer Rubelli. Bucolic and ornate, the brocade is intended as a reference to the period in which Jacquard's loom was created, the pattern discovered in the archives of the Musée des Tissus .

Below, Moroso discusses the exhibition, Jacquard and the importance of fabrics to Moroso.

What was the concept behind the exhibition?
It’s a textile museum and I deeply love textiles. I’ve been playing with them from when I was one year old and I’ve just carried on like that. So we imagined an exhibition about Moroso’s story, but focused on the fabrics that we use.

How is the exhibition tied to the museum?
The museum has an amazing textile archive that you could spend a lifetime in, with fabrics from all over the world. The museum was built in Lyon to celebrate the loom created by Joseph Marie Jacquard there in the 19th Century. Jacquard is the father of modern looms all over the world. His loom changed the quality of fabric achievable. It became possible to create incredible patterns. So I wanted to make a reproduction of something from the museum’s archive to reflect that achievement.

You worked with an existing fabric?
I wanted something from the period when the Jacquard loom was born, something that someone like Marie Antoinette might have had in her room. So I chose the most crazy, complex fabric in the archive. It’s filled with beautiful kissing white doves, garlands, gold, flowers, the blue of the sky. Amazing.

How did you work with that fabric?
I couldn’t realise it and neither could Lyon. So I asked Rubelli in Italy to work with it. But a problem was that I didn’t find the real fabric in the Lyon archive. I only found a pattern card on which the design had been drawn by hand. Thecard provided the pattern to be realised on the loom and it also gave the relationship between all the elements. So it’s drawn on graph paper, and annotated with all the measurements you need to transform the design from paper to fabric.

I took a hi-res photograph of that card and asked Rubelli to realise that image, rather than just the pattern itself. So they realised all the technical notes, the stamp of the museum archive, the grid. Everything. I wanted the pattern, but also the memory of the card.

What did you do with the new fabric?
The fabric is silk: very complex, with a very thin yarn. It takes, in a contemporary loom, one hour to produce just one metre. They have to move so slowly because the yarn is as thin as a hair. But once it was ready we upholstered some iconic Moroso pieces in this fabric. The most fascinating pieces we have in our collection: armchairs from Patricia Urquiola, Nipa Doshi and a few others. The new pattern changes the soul of those objects. These versions are like young girls dressed up for a very special party. Not for a common date.

The heart of the exhibition is Moroso’s relationship to fabric. What is that relationship like?
Our main job is upholstery. Upholstery is what you see of an object and it’s the most important thing. A sofa is a sofa because of the fabric. Ok, shape is important too, but when you touch an object you touch the fabric. When a designer shows me a new object, the personality is in the cover. Doshi Levien work a lot on surface; Front works on that too; and Patricia Urquiola loves fabric. She’s really just making dresses for furniture.

Do all the designers you work with have that attitude towards fabric?
Not Ron Arad. He’s absolutely not interested. The shape is what matters to him. So you can’t dress a piece by Ron in a normal fabric. You have to use felt, because felt is just colour and so it covers the object in a perfect, seamless way. You don’t see the fabric, you just see the shape and the colour. Imagine a Ron piece upholstered with a fabric, so that you could see the warp and weft. Impossible!