Thea Porter Retrospective at the Fashion and Textile Museum
“Both fashion and interior decoration require that you take the most beautiful fabrics in the world and cover the body seductively”
Thea Porter (1927 – 2000)
Thea Porter was a painter, interior designer and fashion designer. She was passionate about textiles and has been described as the pioneer of hippy chic in the 60s and 70s. The first retrospective of her work, at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, gives a real insight into the designer, her life and her work, aided by her scrapbooks of letters, drawings and press clippings, which formed part of her unpublished memoir, Thea Porter’s Scrapbook.
Porter grew up in the Middle East in Jerusalem and Syria and her upbringing heavily influenced her interior and fashion designs. After a period as an embassy wife in Beirut Thea moved to London in the mid 60s and set up shop in Greek Street, Soho, selling furniture, homewares, textiles and clothing from Syria. Visitors to the shop loved her textiles and asked her to make clothing and she started designing menswear and then womenswear. The abaya and the kaftan, both in luxurious fabrics, were two of Thea’s signature styles.
Her designs were snapped up by the jet set and Hollywood stars. Liz Taylor and Barbara Streisand were both fans. It is said that Barbara Streisand asked her to design a dress for every room in her Malibu home. The Beatles purchased her interior accessories and Pink Floyd wore Thea’s clothes on the cover of their 1967 album the Piper Gates of Dawn.
A recreation of Thea’s Mayfair flat with Suzani covered floor cushions, peacock upholstery,one of Thea’s designs front right and just seen a gold trimmed abaya in the background.
One of Thea’s exotic coats displayed in a recreation of her Greek Street shop. The coat is made from an Iraqi Samawa carpet cleverly cut to show the human figures and animals typical of these carpets along the opening.
Djellaba style tunic top from African batik and Chazara jackets featuring gold brocade and velvet.
Left: One of Thea’s sketches with fabric she commissioned. Right. A gypsy style dress from Ikat fabric.
Thea Porter’s designs are now sought after collectors items and her legacy is clearly apparent in the 70s fashion revival today yet she isn’t as well-known as her contemporaries. Her designs were popular amongst the rich and famous and were regularly featured in Vogue but she was a true creative and struggled with the business side of things, often consulting astrologers for business advice, so she didn’t have the financial success she deserved. This carefully curated exhibition, featuring over 80 of her designs, her sketches and press clippings and a documentary on her life, gives her the recognition she deserves and is a must see for textile lovers.
You can see Thea Porter’s designs featured in Vogue photo shoots here.
To find out more about the exhibition, opening times, location etc. click here.