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George Haite - Victorian Textile Designer

Wandering around a second hand bookshop in Milan, Italy, I came across a tiny book called "Designs for Shawls" by Hilary Young. I fell in love with the colorful textile designs I found in there, below is one of them. (The image may take some time to load, as I want to show you the full image without compromising too much on quality and size.)

Textile Design by George Haite

I bought the book immediately, especially as I was wondering what new "interpretations" to add to the Gliftex graphic design program.

Not much is known about George Haite, because "it was the custom and object of (textile) manufacturers to keep their names secret". We do know that he was born in 1825 and died in 1871. We can see George Haite's designs today because his son (confusingly called George Charles Haite) donated 60 of them to the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) in 1911. We are lucky that he did!

George Haite was one of the most important pattern designers of the "old school" during Queen Victoria's ascension.

Haite's "Cashmere" patterns are derived from woven shawls made in the Indian province of Kashmir. The basic unit of design in Indian shawls was a slender flower, a Persian motif which later merged with another Indo-Persian motif, the vase of flowers. This became known in Britain as the Paisley 'pine cone' shape, which you can see in the image above. This shape became ubiquitous in shawl designs.

Here is another of Haite's designs in which you can see the stylised vase with interweaving abstract plant forms:

The Indian shawl was first worn as fashionable English dress during the 1770s and emulation of the original shawls by British manufacturers was happening by the 1820s. The designs got more elaborate and mixed and less influenced by the Indian originals as the years went by.

Towards the end of his life Haite recognised that designers were "slaves to the fashion of the hour, the style of the season and the middleman". More than once Haite declared that he would not allow his son to follow him into that trade. His Cashmere designs were his true love and passion. Having to create other more fashionable designs he felt as if he was "humbling, if not degrading, his Art".

In 1871 George Haite died of smallpox, the timing was sadly appropriate because, by the 1870s, the fashion for Kashmir shawls was declining.

Here are some more of his designs:



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