THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Inspired by... blog

25 November 2014

Maggie Semple turns the British Library's Olga Hirsch Archive into Fashion Collection

Maggie Semple OBE's career spans broadcasting, print and digital media. In October 2010 she founded Maggie Semple Limited (MSL) to coincide with the publication of her book ‘Women, Fashion, Stories’ and now uses the concept behind the book to host ‘Semple Secrets’ a series of conversations with inspirational women from a diverse range of fields. She also sits on the British Library Board.

The MSL Fashion team is proud to announce the launch of its first clothing collection designed by the incredibly talented Laura Ralph, in association with the Library. Laura is an up-and-coming designer whose signature ‘two-pieces’ have been featured in Italian Grazia, German Elle and The Telegraph.

The collection takes inspiration from the British Library Olga Hirsch collection of decorated papers, which includes over 3,500 sheets of paper and 130 books in paper wrappers or decorated with end-leaves. The papers can be marbled, embossed or block printed and have been collected from around the world, from Japan to Italy.

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Olga Hirsch, nee Ladenburg, came from a prominent Frankfurt family. After her marriage to industrialist and music collector Paul Hirsch in 1911, she became intrigued by the decorated papers used to cover music scores in her husband’s library and began to research and collect them. During the 1930s, the family moved from Germany to Cambridge and the British Library subsequently acquired both the music library and decorated paper collection.

The MSL Fashion team, recognising an emerging trend for coordinates, and with a passion to work with new British talent, chose to work with Laura Ralph to select three of the papers and turn them into beautiful prints. The final pieces are made from eco-friendly, 100% cotton and manufactured in the UK.

Being ethical is very important to MSL, therefore the printing, designing and creating was all done with this in mind. They worked with the Centre for Advanced Textiles to print the fabrics as their digital textile printing process is recognised as reducing dye wastage. Laura worked with a team of locally sourced and trained seamstresses who are paid above the UK living wage for their skills.

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Digitising patterns originally created for paper was a first for the team, and the process was trial and error. The first challenge was to create a repeating pattern and the second to redesign the original initial design. Following this, the prints were sent off to be printed onto cotton, steam washed and finished. The pieces are then completely hand made by Laura Ralph and her group of UK seamstresses – they were cut out individually by hand, sewn with an overlocker and then a sewing machine to finish the seams.

You can buy the pieces online.

Find out more about the Library's Olga Hirsch collection.

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