The Collier Campbell Archive

The Collier Campbell Archive

If you love fabric design, you'll want to immerse yourself in this book about sisters Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell, whose work revolutionised textile design from the 1960s.

By Abby Trow
Tambourine, 1990, for P Kaufmann

A limited edition version of The Collier Campbell Archive has been launched. Two hundred fabric-bound copies, signed by Sarah Campbell, are available at £150, while the standard book, The Collier Campbell Archive: 50 Years of Passion in Pattern, first published a couple of years ago, is now available at Blackwell's for £37.99, down from £50. Anyone with an interest in fabric design will find it fascinating, as it traces the sisters' remarkable career from the 1960s. Susan Collier died in 2011 and the book is dedicated to her memory. Pictured above is a painting of Tambourine, designed in 1990 and produced by P Kaufmann Fabrics.

Textile designs are everywhere and we have strong instinctive responses to them, i.e we like them or don't like them.

And if you find you have a negative response to patterns, the root of that instinctive dislike may well lie in the repeat. Because a repeat can be too repetitious, which is why the wallpapers of the 1930s, say, seem so intolerable to us today.

Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell, whose designs are recognisable around the world, did wonders for textile designs because not only did they paint their patterns in watercolours, so they always felt like art, but they moved away from stiff, predictable repeats.

Susan, who died two years ago at the age of 72, said the success of a fabric relied 'on the skill of the repeat' and her and Sarah's designs were based around fluid patterns which had a spontaneity and which allowed the eye to meander around the fabricrather than roll up and down in straight lines.

Sarah (left) and Susan in the early years of their collaboration
The book is available from Ilex Press, while the Limited Edition is available from
Tambourine roomset
1983, Cote D'Azur .. a hugely popular design.. Susan Collier's love of Matisse shines through
The sisters talent as artists was always evident in their work
Gypsy Caravan roomset - another huge hit for bedlinen and soft furnishings
Painted artwork for Gypsy Caravan
Mary's Room, 1987, for 3 Suisses, France. The sisters always loved flower motifs. This fabric features a loose posy
Hand-painted artwork. Susan Collier was a self-taught artist and textile designer
Carte Blanche, a painterly scene, 1987, for P Kaufmann

The Collier Campbell Archive, published by Ilex Press, has forewords by Sir Nicholas Serota and Sir Terence Conran and features some 900 photographs showing hand-painted artworks, fabrics and roomsets. Written by Emma Shackleton with Sarah Campbell, it tells the story of how the Collier Campbell studio came to be so dominant in the soft furnishings market from the 1970s, as well as in fabrics for fashion and accessories.

The sisters were brought up with a love of nature and their work often featured flowers and plants, but interpreted so their motifs, while often very pretty, were never sickly or twee. They loved the work of artists such as Matisse and their skill with colour ensured a warm, Mediterranean ambience was transmitted into the bedrooms of northern Europe via bedlinen sets from Habitat and other mid-prices retailers. 

Two designs from the late 20th century became almost ubiquitous, Cote D'Azur (designed in 1983 for Fischbacher) and Gypsy Caravan, and while the patterns may seem very busy to those who came of age in the noughties when plain beiges and taupes ruled the minimalist roost, people loved them because they had an exuberance and they told a story.


Woodgrain Stripe
Colourful chevrons, Palermo for Habitat, late '80s
Barcelona, designed for Habitat 1987
Artwork for Woodland Rose. Fabrics were screen-printed for many years
You'll almost certainly recognise some Collier Campbell designs - and may well have had duvet covers with them on
Woodstripe and Paysanne designs in accessory form
Still Life artwork, 1991, an elaborate, fantatical composition

Collier Campbell fabrics were designed for LibertyHabitatM&SHouse of FraserWest Elm (US firm opening a store in London) and many others, including huge homewares and fabric producers in the US.

Whether you buy the limited edition book or the standard version, this is a book that tells the story of contemporary pattern and you can see how the sisters' influence remains strong. It's a book for textile designers and for people who love pattern.

Dancing Squares, with subtle colour gradations
Dancing Squares in bedlinen form, for Utica (Stevens, US)

Sarah Campbell works independently under her own name. She's presently working with West Elm and M&S.

Collier Campbell Archive is available at bookstores. To buy products printed with Collier Campbell designs, visit