Bernat Klein, 1922 – 2014

I’ve just today heard of the death of Bernat Klein, who in the 1960s and 1970s furnished the most wonderful woolen fabrics to designers from Chanel to Cashin.  I would imagine that most readers in the UK would recognize Klein’s name, but he never really gained name recognition here in the USA.  His death went unmentioned by the big fashion sites, such as Vogue.com and WWD.com, but it was news in Britain, and especially in Scotland where Klein lived and worked.

Several years ago I got an email from photographer Arthur Massey, who had worked with Klein in the 1960s and 1970s.  He sent along some fantastic photos, both of Klein at work, and of shots from some collections of Bernat Klein fabrics. To remember Bernat Klein, I’ve up-dated the post I wrote in 2009.

Klein studied art and textiles in Jerusalem and England, and in 1952 started his own textiles company, Colourcraft.  The company produced various woven fashion accessories such as ties and scarves,  but in the late fifties Klein began experimenting with producing tweeds.  These tweeds, based on years of color study and experimentation with dyes and weaving, were like nothing ever before seen.  They were so special that Chanel chose them for her spring 1962 couture collection.

That was only the beginning, as other couturiers – St. Laurnet, Cardin and Laroche – discovered the beautiful Bernat Klein textiles.   And thanks to the research by Jacqueline Field, it is now well documented that some of the fabulous mohair blend tweeds used by Bonnie Cashin were produced by Bernat Klein.  (See her article in Volume 33, 2006, Dress)

In the late 1960s Klein began working in polyester, developing ranges of color-coordinated separates in printed jersey knit, mohair tweed and wool twill.  Production continued throughout the 1970s, with the firm closing in 1981.  By that time, Klein had turned to painting, something he worked at until his death on April 17.

Please note that all photos are property and copyright of Arthur Massey, and may not be used without his permission.  That means don’t put them on Pinterest, please.

A mid 1960s fashion shot

Note Klein’s paintings being used as props in this shot.

Bernat Klein and his wife, Margaret

The remainder of the photos are from a 1970s fashion shoot showing the range of coordinating fabrics.

9 Comments

Filed under Designers

9 responses to “Bernat Klein, 1922 – 2014

  1. Thanks for the info, Lizzie; I’d never heard of him! Love those fuzzy Chanel jackets.
    Seeing those coordinating fabrics made me miss how we used to be able to buy “separates” that went together, so you could get a blouse, skirt/pants and jacket that worked without a lot of hassle.

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  2. What sad news, I missed reading about it here in the UK. I wax lyrical about him to customers..several times a week! All my Bernat Klein pieces have stunning fabric design, same as in the last few of these wonderful photos you share. I love his fabric designs – beautiful, textural and organic and always wanted to see his paintings in the flesh, so it’s great to see these images. What a life he had, he’s someone I’d have loved to have met and talked to. The kaftan I have is much admired..it uses so much fabric it’s like a giant wearable canvas! Taken on a special poignancy now.

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  3. New to me. I learn so much here.

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  4. Christina

    Thank you for posting this Lizzie. Bernat Klein was a major figure in textile design who has been credited with revolutionising woven textiles. Hopefully by way of your Blog readers will take a look at his work. National Museums Scotland and Heriot-Watt University have archives of his work. I hope a restrospective of his work will be in the pipeline.

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  5. So fascinating. Thanks, Lizzie.

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  6. This is a lovely post. I remember my mother having a Bernat Klein skirt and coat that she loved. And a consultant I knew in Brighton who had found a gorgeous yellow coat in a charity shop. Thank you.

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  7. I knew the name, but had though it was a company only until he passed away – I’ve come across it a lot in old knitting magazines. Thank you for the post.

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  8. Pingback: What I Didn’t Buy – Wool Bonnie Cashin Coat | The Vintage Traveler

  9. A retrospective is in the pipeline. I handle Marketing for Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh – we are to hold an exhibition of Klein’s work as part of this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival programme. Lizzie – can we be in touch regarding these incredible images by Arthur Massey? My email address is lizziecowan@dovecotstudios.com

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