Bernat Klein, Textile Designer and Manufacturer, Galashiels

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Records of Production 1960-1973; Records of pattern design 1966-1967; Sales records 1960s-1981; Marketing and public relations records 1960s-2005; Photographs and drawings 1964-1990; Fabric and costume 1960s-1980s; Relations with external bodies 1983.

Administrative / Biographical History

Bernat Klein is a painter and textile designer and manufacturer whose business was based in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. He was primarily interested in colour and texture, which can be seen in his range of woven and printed fabrics and blends for interior furnishings.

Klein was born in 1923 in Senta, north of Belgrade in what was then Yugoslavia. His father ran a textile wholesale business and looking at the ranges of bright colours in the warehouse was an early inspiration for Bernat's brilliance with colour. In the Summer of 1940, he moved to Jerusalem to study at the Bezalel School of Art, and from there attended the Leeds University Textile Technology course in 1945. In 1948 he was employed by Tootals Mill in Bolton as a Designer. He then worked with Munroe Spun for two years. Based initially in Edinburgh, he was then moved to Galashiels.

Klein started his own company Colourcraft (Gala) limited in the sheds between Netherdale Mill and Schofields of Galashiels, now destroyed, in 1952, weaving rugs, head squares and ties in a small shed with 4 looms. This involved the employment of local workers and the management of his shop, the Boutique' in Edinburgh. In 1956 he moved to the High Mill which is now part of the Scottish Borders Campus of Heriot-Watt University. Trial lengths were produced at the High Mill by Klein and his designers, full-scale production was carried out at Gibson and Lumgair. The group of technical designers included Jeremy Hooker, Grant Gilligen and CarolineBowyear.

A major inspiration in his work was his attempt to translate the colours from nature into woven and later printed fabric. In this he was greatly influenced by the impressionist painter Seurrat who broke colour down into component parts and conveyed this by dots of colour. Klein wanted to create this effect in textiles. He began painting in the early 1960s and his artwork became a great influence in his textile design.

Klein's first real success was a rush mohair loop yarn. This was Section dyed - a hank of yarn was clamped twice – producing a two coloured effect with a grading between the two. Klein built up trade with the likes of Marks and Spencer, but in 1962 the fabrics were bought by the couture market. The first break was a check mohair tweed taken up by Chanel inspired by a rose. This proved successful, with customers including British Designers Hardy Amies, Ronald Paterson and John Cavanagh, also selling extensively throughout the United States and Europe, including some pieces for the French Fashion Houses of Balenciaga, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Christina Dior, Nina Ricci and Pierre Cardin. French couture described Klein's fabric as Fantasy'. In 1964, a honeycomb fabric was used to fill Harrods windows.

Following the success in couture, in 1962 the company was renamed Bernat Klein Limited. Robert Sinclair Ltd, a subsidiary of the Imperial Tobacco Company Ltd., acquired a major share of the business. This company later also acquired Gibson and Lumgair. In 1963 the range was extended to include knitting patterns, wool and coordinated fabric lengths. The company also produced men's and women's suiting fabric. Because of the cost of the designer clothes, many women bought the fabric from the Mill Shop in Galashiels and made clothes themselves. This echoed his philosophy that all women should be well dressed, rather than fashionably dressed, and this should be affordable for everyone.

In 1965 he produced a set of Colour Guides. These had a range of six eye colours and showed the appropriate colours that should be worn. He believed that colours that were fashionable did not suit everyone, and both men and women should wear the colours that suited their colouring.

Klein resigned from the company in 1966 and established Bernat Klein in a purpose-built building at High Sunderland, on the outskirts of Galashiels, carrying out design consultancy work. In the 1970s he began a ready to wear collection with shops in Edinburgh and London as well as mail order selling. This included a printed jersey known as Diolen which featured patterns which were a blow up of photographs of his paintings. He also carried on with design consultancy work and produced tapestries and rugs.

The business closed in 1980 and he established a knitwear cottage industry at one time employing 250 hand knitters gathering fabric at 3 collecting points. He finally retired in the 1990s and passed away in April 2014..

Arrangement

Chronologically in accordance with the classification scheme.

Conditions Governing Access

Records are available by appointment at the Scottish Borders Campus of Heriot-Watt University, Galashiels.

Acquisition Information

The collection was stored at the High Mill as part of the Scottish College of Textiles collections. It has been added to by subsequent donations.

Other Finding Aids

A printed list is available in the search room.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

The collection includes fabric and costume. Some fabric is large and stored in separate storage for rolled textiles.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents. Permission to publish material from the Archive must be sought in advance from the University Archivist. Responsibility for obtaining copyright clearance rests with the applicant.

Accruals

Accruals are expected.

Related Material

Gibson and Lumgair (HWUA GL) includes sales and financial records relating to Bernat Klein.

  • The Royal Museum of Scotland holds hispersonal archive.
  • National Library of Scotland Accession 11216
  • Victoria and Albert Museum hold fabric and costume.

Bibliography

Eye for Colour. Bernat Klein, published Bernat Klein, Scotland, and Collins, London 1965. Design Matters. Bernat Klein, published Martin Secker & Warburg Limited, 1976. Galashiels; A Modern History published by the Galashiels History Committee and Ettrick and Lauderdale District Council 1983. Bernat Klein:Textile Designer, Artist, Colourist. Bernat Klein and Lesley Jackson. Bernat Klein Trust 2005.