It’s amazing to think that a woman, born in 1899 in a remote rural part of Queensland is responsible for a design archive that is still at the top of designer’s lists around the world today.
The charismatic and fearless Florence Broadhurst.
I first came across Florence a few years ago in a friends apartment. On cushions. Sorry Florence, that’s hardly exotic is it. But my friend RAVED about you and so I decided to do some more research.
In a time when women were expected to stay at home and support their husbands in the dutiful role of ‘loving housewife’, Florence left Australia and travelled across Asia and into the UK. Working as a singer, comedian, a finishing school madam, music teacher, dance instructor, fashion designer, landscape painter and finally… a wallpaper designer.
She was a chameleon. With every life change or move to another country, Florence became somebody new – new hair colour, new accent, new history. Even on occasion a new name. OK then.
Forever flamboyant, she announced she would colour Australia. And she did. AND the UK and US. Her designs are still popular and available today in wallpapers, art prints, interior furnishings and fashion. I like to think of her as a glamorous, 70’s version of William Morris sans beard.
So let’s have a look at Florence more closely:
- Clearly she couldn’t wait to get out of Australia. Away from her farming roots and used her talent as a singer to jump the pond as soon as possible!
- She married up. An english stock broker who afforded her the ability to start her own fashion salon.
- And one of her first incarnations was born, ‘Madame Pellier’, a French couturier of note who spent her time dressing the rich and famous.
- She moved back to Australia in the 40’s as an aristocratic English lady; an entrepreneur, society figurehead and landscape painter. Another incarnation. I believe she kept her posho English accent also.
- At the age of 60 she incarnated again, launching in Sydney her defining venture – an internationally successful, luxury, hand-printed wallpaper business.
- Her brightly coloured geometric and nature-inspired oversized designs were all hand printed. Just stunning, stunning work.
- By 1972, her wallpapers reportedly contained around 800 designs in eighty different colours, while by the mid 70s she monopolised the quality end of the Australian market and was exporting worldwide. Golly gosh, I think there must be a few very well to do houses in Australia featuring original Florence Broadhurst wall papers!
- In late 2008 a rug collection featuring ten Broadhurst designs was released in Australia and the US.
- The French swimwear company Vilebrequin released a collection using a print by Florence Broadhurst for Father’s Day 2019 titled “Rabbits and Poodles.” They cite her designs as being the “perfect antidote to aging.”
- Florence died in 1977. Very sadly she was murdered in her Sydney studio. The crime remains unsolved.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this interesting lady.