Last night saw a wonderfully geeky series of talks at the London Transport Museum entitled “Moquette for London” as part of the London Design Festival.

Wallace Sewell moquette

Wallace Sewell moquette

If I’m really, really honest…

… I had read on past the event’s title on to “Transport for London’s design and heritage”, “Margo Selby” and “craft workshop”, before I decided to go along, because before tonight, I had no idea what Moquette was!

Mike Ashworth, Transport for London's design and heritage manager

Mike Ashworth, Transport for London's design and heritage manager

I can now reliably inform you that “moquette is a particularly versatile and hard-wearing material, predominantly wool with a small percentage of polyester. The fabrics are still woven in Yorkshire, using traditional techniques that are required to match exacting standards. Moquette is renowned for its hard-wearing, durable and fire resistant qualities which makes it ideal for any home or business environment.” (London Transport Museum)

And when they say “exacting standards” they mean it – Transport for London even specify the type of paper it needs to be wrapped in and the type of knot the string must be tied in!

It was wonderful to see that Transport for London’s commitment to commissioning original design lives on.

It was also fascinating to learn about some of the restrictions within the design process that have come about through 148 years experience; the material needs to be hard-wearing enough to support the structure of the seat, there are DDA requirements around colour contrast, patterns need to mitigate wear and reduce the effects of vandalism, texture is required to reduce slipping, there are ongoing debates around reflecting line colours and /or current trends… So much more goes into the design process than meets the eye – which made hearing from Wallace Sewell all the more interesting.

Wallace Sewell and their new moquette

Harriet Wallace-Jones and Emma Sewell and their new moquette

Harriet and Emma talked about their inspiration and how this came from ostensibly quite different sources; Bauhaus and Art Deco / Art Nouveau, but really was about taking images, be they architecture, paintings or nature, and distilling them right down to their simplest form until they became pattern – the example above takes London icons as its start point.

Margo Selby

Margo Selby

And last but not least Margo Selby, whose first collaboration with People Will Always Need Plates was the creation of this gorgeous textile design inspired by Trellick Tower, again a simple graphic representation of an architectural structure – something People Will Always Need Plates are well-known for.

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

This design led to a commission from Transport for London and the London Transport Museum for fabrics inspired by tube windows and doors and bus blinds now available at the London Transport Museum shop.

Further reading for the especially geeky: