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
Collier campbell Cote D'Azur

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 Cote D'Azur, designed in 1983 for Christian Fischbacher 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 remain instantly 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 a decade 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.

Collier Campbell Egyptian Birds
Collier Campbell designs were exuberant
Fragments of fabric printed with a classic Collier Campbell chevron design
Barcelona for Habitat 1987

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.

Collier Campbell fabrics were designed for LibertyHabitatM&SHouse of FraserWest Elm and many others, including huge homewares and fabric producers in the US.

Whether you buy the limited edition book or the standard version (and this book isn't that easy to come by it must be said..) 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.

Sarah Campbell works independently under her own name. She's also collaborated with major brands including West Elm and M&S.

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