Celia Birtwell is a textile designer based in London. Her printed gossamer chiffons, silks and satins, tailored and cut into romantic dresses and shirts, defined the ethereal look of the late 1960s and 1970s.
Born in Lancashire in 1941, Birtwell remembers drawing figures obsessively from a very young age, and at 13 was accepted to Salford Art School, where she studied textile design. During her studies, Birtwell met Ossie Clark, the fashion designer who would later become her husband. In 1961 she moved to London to join the bohemian community in Notting Hill. Soon after, the young and passionate textile designer joined the Ossie Clark and Alice Pollock partnership to create a collection of bold nature-inspired printed fabrics for the Quorum boutique in Kensington. The textiles were translated into easy-to-wear dresses that anticipated the mood of the hippie years and quickly attracted a high-calibre of followers.
By 1973, Birtwell had left the fashion world to raise her children, following her separation from Clark. She returned to designing in 1984 by opening her fabric shop in Westbourne Grove, selling textiles for garments and home furnishings with her identifiably Birtwell motifs such as stripes, stars, flowers and hearts.
In 2006, Topshop launched four sell-out Celia Birtwell collections, and she later collaborated with Boots on an exclusive range of sunglasses and toiletries. Following these successes, Birtwell then launched her new book, Celia Birtwell (2011) by Celia Birtwell and Dominic Lutyens, collating her lifetime of colourful, quirky designs crammed into a scrapbook-style publication. Another celebrated feat saw Birtwell awarded a CBE for Services to the Fashion Industry also in 2011.
She notes that although, ‘youth and beauty may be revered, the wisdom gained with age is priceless’. For this reason she designed a capsule collection for John Lewis, specifically catering for older women.