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Tibor Reich ‘Colour has an energy’

Tibor Reich was jointly responsible for the bold impact of vibrant and exciting textiles after the Second World War. His confident use of bold colour palettes was a wake-up call to the austerity of post-war Britain. It took a Hungarian emigré to shake up the existing dourness of greys and neutrals which were so prominent after the war.

Tibor Reich age of kings

Reich was born to wealthy Jewish textile industrialists in Budapest, on 1st October 1916, his grandfather had developed a textile spinning machine to manufacture colourful braid and trims for Hungarian national costume and this love of colour and daring combinations had a profound effect on the young Tibor. His early work was influenced by the contemporary legacy of the Wiener Werkstätte and the Bauhaus. He came to the UK in 1937 to escape Nazi oppression and studied Textiles at Leeds College of Art.

After the war, he settled near Stratford-upon-Avon. As a foreign national, he was not permitted to be named as an owner of his company for two years. Reich made a policy of hiring unemployed Eastern European ex-prisoners-of-war in his factory.

His innovative designs and combinations of colour, such as vivid pink and black, often seen as risqué, were chosen by, amongst others, the young Queen Elizabeth II and were evident at 10 Downing Street; embassies; the Festival of Britain; Liberty’s; the Royal Yacht Britannia; Coventry Cathedral and the first Concorde. Later on, his work was also used by Denby.

Tibor Reich concord seating textile design

Reich's designs for the first Concorde flight, 1966; image credit: 


For inspiration, he would take a camera out into the local countryside and return with images of bark, leaf patterns and stone walls. He would then print the photos - as positives and negatives - cut, assemble and collage distinctive layouts to create different textural effects, as can be seen in this Pathé clip:

Tibor Reich was awarded a Design Council Award in 1957 and a Textile Institute Medal in 1973. He died in 1996.

On a personal note: I really love his textural understanding and creative colour combinations. I think his employing displaced persons after the war was inspired too. The Pathé clip is such a timepiece: designers in suits and waistcoats and how he pre-empted Apple Macs with his collaging. He makes it look so effortless and his work really deserves current recognition.


Tigo-ware, 1955, later produced by Denby;  credit: the Tibor Reich archive

Tibor Reich 1916 – 1996 FSIA, FRSA ‘Colour has an energy’

Credits: Wikipedia; The Guardian; Youtube