Exhibition

Couture in Colour

Campaign image Silk & Prints from the Abraham archive - Couture in Colour (13/03 until 11/08/2013) at MoMu - Fashion Museum Antwerp. Cristobal Balenciaga, winter 1955/56. Photo: Tom Kublin. Graphics: Paul Boudens

Campaign image Silk & Prints from the Abraham archive – Couture in Colour (13/03 until 11/08/2013) at MoMu – Fashion Museum Antwerp. Cristobal Balenciaga, winter 1955/56. Photo: Tom Kublin. Graphics: Paul Boudens

We are very proud to present our new exhibition Silks & Prints from the Abraham Archive: Couture in Colour. During the 1950s and 1960s, the couturiers Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Cristóbal Balenciaga all worked together with the Swiss firm, Abraham, for their exclusive fabrics. This company was specialized in printing silks. Today, the Abraham archives, an impressive collection of sample books, couture photographs and textiles, are housed at the Swiss National Museum in Zurich.

MoMu recaptures and expands on the exhibition, Soie Pirate: The Abraham Textile Archive Zurich, held from 22/10/2010 – 20/02/2011, at the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. Silks & Prints from the Abraham Archive: Couture in Colour, tells both the story of the Abraham company and that of European couture, art and luxury throughout the 20th century.

MoMu complements the original exhibition and completes it with couture silhouettes by Dior, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga. The exhibition reveals which colourful textile prints were created by the Abraham firm. Contemporary designers, including Dries Van Noten, Diane Von Furstenberg and Peter Pilotto, were invited to experiment with Abraham prints.

During the 1930s, Abraham was under the leadership of Gustav Zumsteg. He regularly stayed in Paris and became acquainted with the art dealers Aimé and Margherie Maeght. They introduced him to a number of influential artists, from Georges Braque to Marc Chagall and Alberto Giacometti. Zumsteg began collecting art at the same time that he was designing textiles. In Paris, he also met couturiers, such as Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior and Elsa Schiaparelli. These great names from the art and fashion worlds had a considerable influence on Zumsteg’s artistic creations. In a short period, Zumsteg became a key figure in manufacturing textiles for haute couture.

In 1947, Christian Dior used Abraham fabrics for the New Look, the new silhouette after World War II, which once again presented luxury as the image of fashion and which enjoyed enormous success. Abraham’s rich weaves with deep colours were the perfect match for Dior. Ten years later, at Christian Dior’s funeral, Zumsteg met Yves Saint Laurent: it would be the beginning of a 40-year collaboration.

After the arrival of prêt-à-porter, from the 1960s, the demand for top-quality silks tapered off. Zumsteg adapted to the new situation and began designing prints for the high end of the ready-to-wear market. The company did continue, albeit on a smaller scale, to produce silk prints for the Scandinavian and Middle Eastern markets. In 1995, when their close collaboration with Yves Saint Laurent came to an end, the future of the Abraham company became especially uncertain. The firm finally closed its doors in 2002.

In the summer of 2007 the Hulda und Gustav Zumsteg Foundation donated the textile archive of Zurich company Abraham Ltd. to the Swiss National Museum, their archives are rightly considered a national heritage. The Zurich Silk Association came along as an additional partner and got involved in studying the archive and in presentation and publication.

Silks & Prints from the Abraham Archive: Couture in Colour will run from March 13th until August 11th 2013.