Bernat Klein Design in Colour is a free exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.  This centenary exhibition explores the life and career of one of the 20th century leading modernist designers, and is a feast for the eyes.

Tucked up in in the ‘new’ ( it was built whilst I was at university.) part of the museum, the 5 minute introductory video sets the scene brilliantly and shows how is influence is still felt in the textile industry today.

Serbian born in 1922, Bernat Klein, displaced by the second world war, arrived in the Uk in 1945 to study Textile Technology at The University of Leeds. It was whilst he was a student in Leeds that he met Margaret Soper. He and Margaret married in 1951 and she was his business partner and collaborator. A year later in the Scottish borders town of Galashiels, they set up their first company ‘Colourcraft Ltd’


Painitng: Seascape,  Bernat Klein. Oil on board. 1963

Coat and Dress: Bernat Klein Ltd, Woven velvet ribbon. 1964


I particularly enjoyed seeing the details of the branding and corporate identity that was used as the company grew in the early 1960’s. With the company renamed ‘Bernat Klein Ltd’, the use of Helvetica font meant that across garment labels, brochures, patterns and mail order, there was a consistency that kept his name linked to his textiles. This set him apart from his competitors. It was interesting to read that in 1962 Robert Sinclair Tobacco acquired a majority interest in Bernat Klein’s business, that allowed for great resources to promote the company to transatlantic markets.  A real signifier of how times have changed regarding where business funding comes from

These examples of interiors samples demonstrated an understanding of the way fabrics needed to be used – incorporatting sythetic fibres and availble in a range of colourways, the could be put in the washing machine. I find the contrasts betweent the colours interesting, something that worked well in the 1960’s but wouldn’t look out of place today for anyone looking for something that isn’t beige or grey. 

Interior fabric samples. Bernat Klein Design Consultants Ltd for Margo Fabrics, late 1960s-early 1970s. Woven cotton and spun rayon, paper,

Sunderland and Jedburgh woven furnishing fabric samples Bernat Klein Design Consultants Ltd, Doris and Siegfried Goerner for Margo Fabrics, Gateshead, England Woven wool and viscose, cardboard, late 1960s-early 1970s

Walking through the exhibition filled with the unique colour sample boards and the unique personal colour guides, it really is a reminder of how modern and new this was. With the idea that you should where colours that suit you not necessarily what is in fashion. The colour boards are something I find really inspiring particularly the colour shades – so many different hues to mix together.

Personal colour guides. Bernat Klein Ltd. c1965

Boards from Colour Box, Bernat Klein. Card, paper, plastic, gouache, wool. mid 1970s

Design boards. Bernat Klein Design Consultant Ltd and Department of Environment. 1969-1971

Bernat Klein Spring/Summer 1979 cloth colour selector. Bernat klein Desing Consultants Ltd

There is also a larger mention of the knitwear business – with Margaret developing the patterns for the yarns. The yarns had the same branding as the garment labels and the yarn was delivered in hat box style storage boxes.

Knitting Patterns. Bernat Klein Ltd. 1960’s

Knitting Patterns. Bernat Klein Ltd. 1960’s

Presentation box for Bernat klein knitting yarns. Bernat Klein Ltd 1960’s

The exhibition is open until the 23rd April and to accompany the exhibtion, a 224-page fully illustrated book celebrating the life and work of Bernat Klein (1922–2014) has been published by the Bernat Klein Foundation. I picked up a copy at the exhibition and it is well worth a read. More to come on that soon! If you can’t get to the exhibition, you can read more about the Bernat Klein Foundation and buy the book here