Monday, May 24, 2010

Florence Broadhurst -Judy

“How do I know I’m alive? I create, that’s how I know I’m alive.”

Eccentric extraordinaire, Florence Broadhurst was Australia’s foremost fashion chameleon.
She lived in Australia, Asia and England, changing her name three times, befriending royalty, winning acclaim as a singer and comedienne in South East Asia, a performing arts school founder in Shanghai and, back in Sydney, a landscape painter, dress salon owner, trucking company magnate, charity worker, crusading feminist, mercurial mother, and – finally and most famously – a revolutionary designer of wallpaper.

She single-handedly revolutionised the world of wallpaper with her handmade, vividly coloured avante garde and geometrically inspired designs. By the mid 70s, she was at the peak of her powers, with 800 designs in 80 colours, a monopoly on the local market and global exports. As a wallpaper designer, she took the bright hues of the experimental '60s and '70s and magnified them, creating retina-crunching pastiches of bright pinks, fluorescent yellows and racy greens. She used metallic foils and printed on fabric and glass for wealthier clients.

She saw her 'peacock' wallpaper as being one
of her best mature works. it became a 'signature' piece when she
posed in front of it for her business advertisements of the 1970s.
the full set of screens required to print the original 'peacock' design
were acquired into the powerhouse museum's collection in 1997.

Her colourful design legacy is matched by her status as a colourful style icon. She painted her nails bright red, coiffed her hair high in bright red shades, fluttered huge fake eyelashes that were red. She was one of Australia’s most outrageous designers and, when she was alive in Sydney, a very noticeable person, dressing in clothes people half her age would have loved to wear – mini skirts, plastic boots and so on. She adored making a scene and was literally and metaphorically colorful, she was a shocker; she loved to shock people.”

Her factory was a magnet for the hip and avant-garde. It was crowded and frantic, with music blaring from a radio while artists and printers worked side by side. The floor was greasy with turpentine and the fumes overwhelming, but there was always something going on - celebrities popping in, parties being held. And the boss was a blast.
"She was just such a naughty woman - she loved young men," marvels another of her artists, Sally Fitzpatrick, who watched in awe one evening as Broadhurst - by then in her 70s - seduced a boyish young pilot for a one-night stand. "I've had a fabulous weekend," Broadhurst would announce to staff when she turned up on Monday mornings, her scarlet eyelashes askew. "Now can you fix me up?"

Today, 40 years on from first unveiling themselves, Broadhurst’s luxurious patterns are booming – in permanent exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum, in collections by international designers Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney, and deified here at home by local label legends Akira Isogawa, Nicole Zimmermann, and Karen Walker, all of whom use her designs for high-end fashion pieces and accessories.

Akira Isogawa using a Broadhurst print


Read more at Design*Sponge


  1. I love her work! It is beautiful and over the top, sounds like her personlity!
    Interesting how someones 'way out' artistic creations can become almost commonplace.

  2. nicely woven big personal life info with her design work obviously influenced by her travels in asia.

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