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Fabulous Florence – Signature Prints, History and Collaborations

by Jenny Butler
Tuesday 14th September 2010

After leaving Chanel for true love x2 [David & wallpaper], Helen’s life is no less connected with designers of note. Apart from being surrounded by Florence Broadhurst’s designs, Helen also works closely with Akira Isogawa & Cadrys. Whilst Helen’s posts are bursting with content, her stories are truly fascinating! – Jenny x

Above left to right – Japanese Bamboo print on matt gold paper being rolled up, drawing art work on acetate sheeting, rolls of printed paper in our heated drying room, many screens on the drying rack after being washed down.

At Signature Prints we enjoy and pride ourselves on maintaining the standard of excellence that was set by Florence Broadhurst over 40 years ago. With the support and expertise of our dedicated staff we have continued to hand-print high end, quality wallpapers, fabrics and limited edition art and these are continuing to appeal to the 21st century. Our workshop and showroom is based in Sydney’s Rosebery, and we export to twenty three countries around the world. The creative hub of our business is the workshop, we have five huge tables enabling us to print up to 800 meters a day on either fabric or paper. Along the length of these tables, mounted on the wall is our collection of 530 Broadhurst screens. Beside our printing area lies a small art room, the office of Huang Chongfu. A very talented artist who spends hours painstakingly restoring and repairing Broadhurst’s precious artwork to its former glory. Original Pieces of Florence’s work are now so rare they are now collected by the Powerhouse Museum.

Left – Solar in Purple and Black, right - Horses Stampede.

Over the last ten years we have been working to usher Florence’s work back to the main stage, this hasn’t been without a great struggle of course. Signature Prints was once seen as a manufacturing company, we are now recognised as a world leader in product design, marketing and branding.

Left – Tudor Floral Print in black ink on silver paper, right – Tortoiseshell Stripe, a stripe that experiments with an organic notion of vertical stripes.

When Signature Prints first acquired our collection of 530 screens, we thought that only 112 were of Broadhurst’s. After days of printing each screen he realised that actually, there were 530. David couldn’t believe he had acquired such a dynamic collection. At the time, in such a minimalist environment, and at a time when Florence had been forgotten, these ballsy prints were not worth a thing. It was cheaper to dispose of the prints than it was to store them.

David and I met one evening in Sydney and six weeks later I left my job working for the French label Chanel. I rolled up my sleeves, came to work at Signature Prints, and we were married within a year. David thought that coming from a luxury background, I might be the key to opening doors for this company.  At the time I obviously didn’t have a clue about how a manufacturing company was run, but I loved these prints and believed that we could make it a successful business. We had a library of prints that had been on top of the world, our challenge was bringing it back to life without a million dollar advertising budget.

From left to right – A selection of our many printing inks, flooding of The Cranes screen, The Cranes screen being washed and a selection of screens from our collection.

Our key was aiming at the very top of the luxe market, taking things slowly and gradually we began re-introducing Broadhurst again. Our prints have been used by Akira Isogowa, and can be found at international hot spots including Liberty of London, John Lewis and Donald Trump’s international hotel in Las Vegas. We have also been recognised many times for our contribution to Australian design.  As the home of the Florence Broadhurst library, Signature Prints is now considered to be a “National Treasure”. Our commitment to Florence Broadhurst continues to be identified as putting Australia on the map for international design.

Akira Isogawa is a Japanese born couturier, and an influential player in Australian womens fashion. Akira visited our studio during the early part of 1999 as a final attempt to solve a printing problem.   Akira was designing and creating costumes for a dance production being performed at the Sydney Opera House. Isogawa wanted net covered robes, upon which were printed ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale’ Japanese calligraphy. After an hour in the workshop we found a solution and began to work together.

Akira’s had never seen anything like Florence’s work before, he was surprised to see so much variety, from the abstract and art deco to textured European prints. Two of our four colour screen designs jumped out at him, the first being Nagoya (A pattern of pendulous fruit hanging from heavily leafed branches). The second print was Chelsea, a fluid, dynamic pattern of long petalled chrysanthemums – a flower Akira feels expresses his childhood in Japan. Akira began to visualise how he could use these prints within his clothing range, and instantly began producing designs in his head.

Its been a long time in the making, and David and I are both really pleased to be showcasing the work that we’ve been doing with the airline Qantas. Together we have developed a great set of amenity kits for their business class customers!

Above left – David and I photographed here with two Qantas flight attendants. In the foreground is the renowned and simple Honeycomb repeat. Above right – David and I photographed with the very popular Japanese Floral on the easel. Below – Qantas business amenity kit containing travel size Malin and Goetz products in Oriental Filligree reverse

After much deliberation, and looking through our brilliant 530 strong collection of Broadhurst Prints, Qantas decided to use two different prints for their business class amenity kits. These were Oriental Filligree Reverse and Hollow Squares both in curtain call (a charcoal colour). Hollow Squares is a modern geometric, graphic print where Broadhurst deliberately played with dimension. These prints work really well, and are in keeping with the Qantas colour scheme, as well as being appealing to both male and female customers. Each kit contains some great flight essentials and a little summary of information about Florence, informing Qantas customers about her work.

Florentine Tapestry Alternate Rug and Swedish Strip Rug by Cadrys

2009 has seen the international release of the first collection of Florence Broadhurst luxury hand knotted rugs for the Asia-Pacific and American markets by Cadrys under license to Signature Prints. Ten designs have been carefully chosen for the first range of Florence Broadhurst rugs. Each design is available in a variety of customised colourways, from the strength of the original Florence colours right through to a more subdued and restrained tonal palette. With Cadrys overseeing every aspect of the manufacture from design to production, the collection offers remarkable value for unparalleled quality. Hand-woven in Nepal in a traditional manner, the pieces feature Tibetan hand-spun wool, hemp, nettle, bamboo silk and luscious pure silk. Cut and loop pile, along with soumak kelim weaving techniques are used to create a unique accent and texture.

Until tomorrow,

Helen

The Cranes Rug by Cadrys

by Jenny Butler
Tuesday 14th September 2010

6 comments

  • JULIE 4 years ago

    I’m really enjoying learning more about Signature’s background, thanks Helen.

  • Meaghan 4 years ago

    Lovely!

  • PInky 4 years ago

    I’m with Julie, I’m absolutely loving seeing behind the scenes at Signature Prints.

  • Sonya 4 years ago

    I am engrossed and don’t want each days blog to end. As others I am soaking up all of Helen’s info behind the scenes, keep it coming!!!!

  • Lucy 4 years ago

    Wow such lovely comments thankyou guys! I am LOVING the guest blog this week too! So detailed and informative…

    Helen and Jenny will be so chuffed to see your sweet comments… thankyou! x

  • Terese Grove 4 years ago

    This is fantastic to hear all the behind the scenes. They are always so busy when I go in there for their sales. Always seem to buy heaps too when the sales are on. I’ve made so many things out of Florence designs, they are all so beautiful.

    Thanks Helen and David, and your staff are always so helpful and charming.

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