'I was once asked "How do you know you are living?" and I said, "I create so I know I am living"'.Florence Broadhurst, 1968
Behind Florence Broadhurst’s extraordinary designs lies an equally extraordinary backstory. Florence lived an amazingly colourful life through a series of different characters, travelling the world and living life to the full.
We would love to have met Florence. By all accounts, she was an extraordinary woman. Fearless, flamboyant, charismatic and eccentric. A creative genius with an exquisite eye, and an astute business woman.
We can imagine chatting with Florence over cognac cocktails (a favourite of hers) at one of her lavish parties thrown for the Sydney socialites in the 1960s and 70s. Her flaming red hair coiffed to perfection and her flamboyant clothes making sure she was the centre of attention.
She undoubtedly would have regaled us with anecdotes from the many lives she had lived. After her childhood in the Australian outback, she lived a life of reinvention – changing her name, her appearance, even her voice to take on variety of different personas. We would love to have heard naughty stories from her glamorous life in the 1920s when, as the 'English' showgirl "Bobby Broadhurst", she toured the Far East. Mixing with the elite, she became quite the socialite and travelled widely. Influences from this exotic time are clearly evident in her designs.
The narrative from the lives Florence created over two decades in England would have been equally engaging. Here, as ‘French’ couturier “Madame Pellier”, she clothed the aristocracy from her Bond Street salon through the 1930s. Later, on returning to Australia, she took on the persona of an English aristocrat and became an artist, society figure and entrepreneur – rumour has it she even had tea with the Queen on a royal visit.
Or maybe we might have met Florence in her Sydney studio where, through the 1960s and 70s, she designed and printed her incredible luxury wallpapers and textiles. Beautiful chinoiserie and Far Eastern influenced motifs sat alongside flamboyant florals, bold geometrics, intricate brocades, elaborate tapestries and softer scenic designs. She was ahead of her time, experimenting with colours and techniques to create bespoke designs for clients all over the world, including the likes of Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
We can imagine being in her bustling workplace, splatters of paint adorning it with her favourite fuchsia pinks, lime greens and bright sapphire blues, being dazzled by both her creative output and her lurex mini-skirts. Sadly, it was there that, in 1977, she met a tragic end at the hands of a brutal murderer. The crime remains unsolved to this day.
We are honoured to have the opportunity to bring Florence’s designs back to life. Her legacy – the archive – is broad and eclectic, exhibiting influences from her extensive travels and the many lives that she lived, as well as the zeitgeist of the 1960s and 70s. The designs are as relevant today as they were when Florence created them – we are delighted to be reimagining and recreating them for the modern day.
'One shouldn’t be too serious or too sophisticated. Everything is so much fun if you’re not'Florence Broadhurst quoted in unidentified newspaper clipping