I’m not going to pretend to know who came up with the idea of designer bed linens, but my guess it was in the late 1960s. It was the era of the uber-licensees and everyone from Oleg Cassini to Laura Ashley was putting his or her name on sheets and pillowcases. As Cassini put it in his book, In My Own Fashion, the licensing company would come up with the designs and he would approve them. You can see examples of these today, and you’d never guess that a designer’s name would be attached.
On the other hand, there were textile designers who also had agreements with bedding companies, and it is immediately apparent that there is a real connection between their work and the finished product. A good example of this is Vera Neumann. Her original art was adapted by her design team to that it would work on the large scale of a bed sheet.
I was surprised to find a set of pillowcases by the Finnish design house of Marimekko. In 1959 their work was brought to the US by Design Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1975 or so Marimekko and Dan River, a linen producer in Danville, Virginia, entered into a licensing agreement where Dan River made bedding with Marimekko designed fabric. To me this is interesting because, whereas you’d never in a million years instinctively know an “Oleg Cassini” sheet without his signature, the second I spotted these pillowcases in the Goodwill bin, I immediately thought “Marimekko.”
These were dated 1983.