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London Underground’s iconic seating textiles get a modern makeover


Chairs upholstered with patterned textile. Kirkby Design

In 1923, the London Underground got a makeover. Ridding itself of hard wooden seats, the city’s train system started to cover its seating in tough but soft, wooly fabrics called moquettes.

The first fabric, called Lozenge, wrapped the seats in an elegant brown and black circular pattern. And they only got better from there. Throughout the years, the Underground has cycled through hundreds of patterns, many becoming iconic symbols of the transportation system.

Couch upholstered in bold pattern. Kirkby Design

Now, the designers at Kirkby Design are reviving seven of the Underground’s best patterns as luxe, velvety fabrics for a new line it showed off during London Design Week last month. Working with archivists at the London Transport Museum, the textile studio created modern takes on traditional moquettes, modifying their colors and shapes to fit today’s trends.

Take something like “Central” (named after the Central line), which draws from famed textile designer Enid Marx’s 1938 pattern. The fabric features rows of geometric herringbone patterns woven in subdued contrasting colors. Another design, “Piccadilly” (named after the Piccadilly line), takes its pattern from a 1994 refurbishment of the Underground trains.

All of Kirkby’s designs balance the patterns’ inherent vintage aesthetic with quieter color palettes that Kirkby’s brand director, Jordan Mould, described to Fast Company as “fashion-led color combinations and on-trend pastels.” You can check out all of the Underground textiles here.

Patterned textiles hanging from ceiling. Kirkby Design
Pillows upholstered in patterned fabric. Kirkby Design