Textile designs (5), silk / rayon, various designers, art direction by Gerard Herbst, Prestige Ltd, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1945-1955
After WWII German emigre industrial designer, Gerard Herbst and Prestige Ltd attempted to introduce a European-inspired design aesthetic to Australian industry, in particular to mass produced Australian textile design.
These five textiles, including William Salmon's painterly 'Fantasy in Collins St' scarf design which captures a busy downtown Melbourne streetscape, and Ostoja-Kotkowski's bold designs which show the influence of early 20th century European abstract art (in particular the work of Pablo Picasso and Jean Miro), are reflective of the range of designs produced in the Prestige Ltd design studio under the art direction of Herbst. With the support of the managing director, Mr George Foletta, who was the son of a Swiss migrant family (1), this Melbourne-based textile company initiated a Bauhaus-inspired program of experimental textile design, creating artist-designed fashion fabrics that could compete effectively with imported fashion fabrics.
As well as overseeing all aspects of Prestige Ltd's fabric design and production at the time, Gerard Herbst also developed product and packaging materials and a visual merchandising strategy using illustration, photography, film, events and exhibitions. These aspects of his activities at Prestige are well documented in the Powerhouse Museum's Gerard Herbst / Prestige Ltd design archive (Powerhouse Museum object number 91/503).
These five textile designs complement and extend that archive while contrasting effectively with the artist-designed silkscreen printed textiles of Prestige Ltd's main Australian competitor at the time, Silk and Textile Printers which was established in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney in 1939 but moved to Hobart in Tasmania in 1947 where it operated until 1990.
1. Mr George Foletta became the Chairman of the Rayon Weaver's section of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures formed in 1948 and founding President of the Australian Industries Development Association (AIDA), an organisation which became a major advocate for the creation of the Australian Department of Trade and Industry.
Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator. February 2008
These printed textile designs were designed by various artists (including William Salmon and Joseph Stanislaus (Stan) Ostoja-Kotkowski), in the Prestige Ltd textile design studio in Melbourne under the art direction of Gerard Herbst from around 1945 to 1955. They were usually produced as hand-drawn artworks on silk or paper, but were occasionally collaged experimentally using found objects, photographic film, cardboard and other materials. These designs were then developed for production and produced as strike-offs for review before going into production.
1922: Established as Atlas Knitting and Spinning Mills by George G Foletta to produce quality silk stockings.
During WWII shifted to production of parachutes.
After WWII, under the art direction of Gerard Herbst began producing fashion textiles.
1951: Prestige Ltd exhibits at the International Textile Exhibition in Lille, France where it was the sole Australian exhibitor.
1964: The company merged with Holeproof Hosiery Company (Australia) Pty Ltd in 1964. Both were taken over by Pacific Dunlop Ltd in 1968. The Prestige name was dropped around 1978 or 1979.
Herbst set up and oversaw Prestige Ltd's open plan textile design studio after WWII, recruiting artists, colourists, designers and technicians to work together collaboratively as a team to develop a range of textile designs. Art students formed the core of the studio, bringing a receptive and fresh approach to textile design. Under the direction of Gerard Herbst they were encouraged to directly link their technical skill with their artistic creativity thereby developing unique fashion fabric designs for the Australian market. Austrian-born designer Susan Tandler brought to the studio a unique ability to develop colour variations of a single design. Others designers working in the studio included Pat Mason, Shirley Hudson, Pauline Gray, William (Bill) Salmon, Max Wymant, Maurice Gunn, Joseph Stanislaus (Stan) Ostoja-Kotkowski and Nan Gooderham.
"Often designers in collaboration were responsible for a solution resulting from the ingenuity of one member and the dexterity of another. This at times freed the design of the constraints so often experienced by a draftsman / person. Colourways for a design are an example, seen in the bird design [where the] form [was] by Kotkowski, colour by Susan Tandler. Idea and execution were shared also with the production staff headed by Max Wymant. The only competitor for Prestige was the capable studio of Alcorso, Tasmania [Silk & Textile Printers]. Francis Bourke and Hoad served the craft and furnishing industry."
Reference: Gerard Herbst, correspondence with Powerhouse Museum curator, Anne-Marie Van de Ven
Paul Gerhard Herbst (Gerard Herbst) - graphic artist, textile / industrial designer, photographer, art director, poster collector, teacher.
1911: born Dresden, 1 February 1911.
1930s: studied Cottbus, Germany. Attended Realschule.
1931: Obtained Diploma Industrie & Handeskamer (Industrial design / weaving and textile design).
1931-1938: Works in Berlin, Munich, Zurich, Prague and Paris, including on the German pavilion of the International Exposition in Paris during 1937.
1938-1939: Interned in Germany prior to the outbreak of WWII, escapes Germany, emigrates to Australia.
1939: Arrives in April. Works with Prestige Ltd., Melbourne.
1940: Presented with Honorable Mention award in the first Annual Australian Commercial and Industrial Artists Association (ACIAA) exhibition in 1940.
1939-1945: Serves with Australian Military Services
1945/46-1955/56: Art Director, Prestige Ltd, Melbourne.
1950: With Cine-service film writer and producer Geoff Thompson, produces the film 'Language of Design' featuring Indigenous performer, Georgie Lee in the lead role.
1951: 'Language of Design' wins Cine-service Documentary Film award. Film accompanies Prestige fabrics exhibit to the World Exposition of Textiles held at Lille in France during 1951 where Prestige Ltd was Australia's sole rayon industry exhibitor.
1951: Teaches evening classes at Royal Melbourne Technical College.
1953: Wins first prize in the Outdoor Advertising Association of Australia (OAAA) poster design competition for his 'The Sun: daily at dawn' poster.
1955-1960 Teaches part-time in School of Art at Royal Melbourne Technical College (later RMIT).
1960: Becomes full time Principal Lecturer in the Department of Industrial Design, School of Art, Royal Melbourne Technical College (later RMIT).
1966: Member of the Industrial Design Education Council established at the University of New South Wales.
1967: Robin Boyd, architect of the Australian Pavilion at th 1967 Montreal World Expo selects Herbst's visual presentation of the Snowy Mountain Project for inclusion in the Pavilion.
1969: Guest lecturer (and listed on the schedule of regular guest lecturers) at Pratt Institute, New York.
1976: Retires from RMIT
1986: Receives L'Ordre Du 'Merit Culturel', Warsaw
1987: Awarded the RMIT Centenary Medal for his commitment, dedication and pioneering work in the school.
Undertakes lecture tour to Mexico, USA (Chicago, Los Angeles), and Italy (Florence).
1991: Donates Herbst / Prestige Ltd design archive to Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
1995: Deposits papers relating to his service with the Labour Battalion at Albury to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
1996: Donates poster collection to Ian Potter Art Gallery, the University of Melbourne.
1997: Features in 'The Europeans: Emigré Artists in Australia 1930-1960', edited by Roger Butler for the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
1999: Inducted into Design Institute of Australia (Victorian Chapter) Hall of Fame
2001: 'Paul Gerhard (Gerard) Herbst : an emigre designer' display mounted at Powerhouse Museum, Sydney in conjunction with the 'Anne Frank & the Courage to Care' exhibitions.
Joseph Stanislaus/Stanislaw (Stan) Ostoja Kotkowski (b Poland 1922, arrived Australia 1949, d 1994)
Painter, fabric designer, photographer, film maker, sculptor, inventor, theatre set designer, laser and computer artist, sound sculptor, educator and writer.