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Bernat Klein: Design in Colour

At the National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh

Design means to enjoy the exploration of new possibilities. It means to take pleasure in finding new solutions to old problems; or to have fun juggling with a number of old solutions until they suddenly click and coalesce into one, beautiful, new solution

Bernat Klein, 1976

I’ve been lucky enough to have one piece of luxurious Bernat Klein fabric in my vintage fabric collection but I knew very little about the textile designer. By chance, I stumbled across a free exhibition about Klein’s work when I was visiting family in Edinburgh last month. The exhibition is on until the 23 April, I recommend popping in if you are in Edinburgh.

Bernat Klein exhibition national museums of Scotland

A Jewish refugee, Bernat Klein fled Yugoslavia (now Serbia) during World War II. He moved to the UK and set up a textile business in Galasheils in Scotland in 1952. He was from a family involved in the textile industry and built on his knowledge to create an interiors and fashion textile business that lasted for 40 years.

The exhibition offers ‘a unique insight into mid-century design and reveals a progressive, highly-driven, creative who believed that design could contribute to personal wellbeing and serve as a force for good society’. According to The National Museums of Scotland who acquired the Bernat Klein archive in 2010.

Bernat Klein exhibition national museums of Scotland
One of Klein’s Colour Boxes or Colour Dictionaries

Klein is best known for his bold use of colour. ‘His signature was a process called space-dyeing or random dyeing which allowed a single yarn to contain up to eight colours. Klein designed what he referred to as a “5000 piece colour dictionary” to assist him in the process of balancing colours in the design of woven and printed textiles. Klein used this design development tool to create new colourways and to communicate with dyers and printers’. Here is one of the several colour dictionaries that is on display in the exhibition.

Velvet Tweed

Klein’s vast collection includes weaving with velvet ribbon and mohair to create velvet tweed in 1964 for Haute Couture designers such as Dior, through to working with less expensive, synthetic fibres for a ready to wear collection available through a mail order catalogue in the 1970’s. Klein also sold fabric by the yard for dressmakers to create their own designs at home.

Interiors also received the Bernat Klein treatment as he worked with Danish manufacturers to in the late 1960’s, particular upholstering chairs and even creating a carpet and rug collection.

Bernat Klein exhibition national museums of Scotland
Danish Modern Design