From the Archive: Wiener Werkstatte’s fabrics
The Wiener Werkstatte (Vienna Workshop) was an artist collective based on an interest in eliminating the gap between fine arts and crafts. Founded in 1903 by architect Josef Hoffmann and artist Koloman Moser, the Wiener Werkstatte’s objective was to design and produce all objects needed in daily life. Consisting of a design school, studios for established designers, a production workshop and retail outlet, the Wiener Werkstatte’s goal was to improve everyday life through excellent design and craftsmanship. From large scale architectural commissions to furniture and small decorative objects for the home, the designers associated with the Wiener Werkstatte envisioned all aspects of life united under a single artistic aesthetic, with all elements blending into a harmonious whole. The designs were brought to life by skilled craftspeople who worked under extremely progressive conditions.
From as early as 1905, the Wiener Werkstatte produced occasional textile designs and created a workshop to print their own textiles a few years later. These fabrics were designed to be applicable to furnishing, wall-paper, curtains and clothing, such versatile uses were encouraged by the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) approach.
In 1910, the Wiener Werkstätte launched a dedicated fashion department. 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 including Hoffmann and Moser to design textiles, lace, needlework, hats, bags, and other fashion accessories.
Fashion and textiles became one of the most lucrative parts of the Wiener Werkstätte, influencing the dress of stylish Viennese women and artists and designers abroad. Though the aesthetic of the workshop leaned towards relatively unornamented geometric shapes and solid colors in architecture, furniture and graphic design, Wiener Werkstatte textiles were exuberant in both color and design. Very avant-garde and art nouveau indeed.