Risk-taker par excellence, style maven extraordinaire, Florence Broadhurst’s most exhilarating legacy is a design archive making waves around the world today. Born in 1899 in a remote rural corner of Australia’s Queensland, the light went out on Florence Broadhurst designs in 1977 when she was tragically murdered in her studio. But this is where her legend begins. In between, she lived a series of vivid, fantastic lives.
Charismatically fearless from the word go, Florence Broadhurst (pictured top — Photograph courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales) spent the roaring Twenties singing across the Far East’s colonial reaches and ran The Broadhurst Academy, a school of performing arts in Shanghai from 1926–27. In London in the 1930’s she became “Madame Pellier” a French couturier proud to dress the rich and famous. She moved back to Australia in 1959 as an aristocratic English lady; an entrepreneur, society figurehead and landscape painter.
With every incarnation Florence became somebody new — new hair colour, new accent, new history… even, on occasion, a new name. At the age of 60 she did it again, launching in Sydney her defining venture — an internationally-successful, luxury, hand-print wallpaper business.
She announced she would “colour Australia” and in so doing she re-drew the world. Everywhere she had been, and everything she had seen, found voice in a whirlwind of creativity. Years ahead of her time, Florence Broadhurst created hundreds of beautiful hand screen printed wallpapers and textiles. These were unique and luxurious patterns with rich and vibrant colours, perfectly reflecting Florence’s flamboyant personality and style. Her archive grew to over 530 images ranging from tapestries to geometrics, florals, psychedelic and delightfully eccentric chinoiserie. Yet however dynamic and diverse her designs became, her personality was more compelling still.
After her untimely death in 1977 and the decline in popularity of wallpaper in the 1980’s, Florence Broadhurst prints had all but disappeared.
Today, however, they are experiencing a resurgence in popularity thanks to the passion of Signature Design Archive, and she is stepping back on to the international stage with designs that transcend fashion — work so boldly glamorous and versatile it speaks to innovators in every field.
Licensed across a range of product categories including wallpaper, homewares, limited edition art, soft furnishings, Manchester, toiletries, gifts, stationery, luggage, apparel and accessories, key collaborations include Kate Spade NY, Qantas, Black Sheep Cycling (pictured below) and David Jones department stores.
To Deborah Lloyd, creative director of global luxury brand Kate Spade, the Florence Broadhurst archive is quite simply “ground-breaking and sensational” — “one of the most creative things that has come out of Australia.”
Gail Mitchell, CEO of Signature Design Archive says “Behind each image is the woman herself, an endlessly restless spirit. Her eye was exquisite, her appeal fascinating, and her approach at times very naughty indeed. A revolutionary in design and business in her own lifetime and beyond, Florence is a role model for women whose inimitable work continues to inspire the world today. She is a life, an enigma, a legend and a legacy, but the story is not over yet.”Gail Mitchell, CEO of Signature Design Archive
This article originally appeared in The Bugg Report Magazine Edition 43