"The Fabric of Pop" Exhibition 1974 Victoria & Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert exhibition poster, 1974
Fabric of Pop poster, 1974

By 1974 the Victoria and Albert museum had caught up with the changes that were happening with Street Fashion although they were still hesitant about how they should approach something that had very little historical reference. Michael Regan was a young V&A research assistant, he had travelled the USA collecting clothes that had been synonymous with PopArt. He managed to persuade the Exhibition directors at the V&A that a Pop Art title would give a street fashion exhibition an acceptable identity. The exhibition was called 'The Fabric of Pop'. It ran from 18th. July to 18th. August 1974. Regan curated the exhibition and wrote in the catalogue:

'Pop Art's influence on textile and fashion design owed all it's inspiration and much of it's success to our mass-produced urban culture. It found it's full expression in the commercialism it poked fun at and came full circle by ending up on the pages of those glossy magazines that had originally provided Pop Art with much of its imagery.'

Elvis print for T-Shirt

Screen printed single knit jersey fabric with diamante decoration.
Designed by John Dove and Molly White, 1969
Produced by Wonder Workshop

We were on a USA trip to check out an Anglo-American offer of starting a shop for our designs on Sunset strip, opposite Tower Records. We hung on a decision for a week or so while we checked out Los Angeles. We loved the LA culture and were shown a good time by our Wonder Workshop outlets at the Los Angeles 'Granny Takes A Trip', next to the Roxy and at 'Vibrations: in Century City. We decided against the business venture on Sunset and followed up on a dream we'd always had of driving across the American deserts. We needed to return to London for the 'Fabric of Pop' private view but we decided to follow that dream and take out a few more weeks driving up the California coast and across the Yoshomite mountains, into the Nevada Desert and on to Las Vegas. Then down to Utah and through Arizona and up the coast back to LA. It was an unforgetable adventure.

Silver Surfer Print

"Silver Surfer" (a tribute to Jack Kirby) Screen printed brushed cotton-satin fabric with diamante decoration
Designed by John Dove and Molly White, 1972
Produced by Wonder Workshop

After the Victoria and Albert dates, 'The Fabric of Pop' travelled to most major museums in the UK. - one of them was at the Norwich Castle Museum, our home town. Anglia TV and BBC East did news features so Molly and I were invited to talk about our work and do some PR for the exhibition. The travelling exhibition was also covered widely in the national press and by the establishment Arts magazines. The usual snappy newspaper cliches described the show as 'Pop Rules!' 'The Pop that stuff is made of' 'Art with Humour' and 'The Jokes On Us'.

Arts Review ran a couple of pages - Michael Shepherd described the show:

Michael Regan of the V&A has had the splendid idea of investigating the influences of Pop Art on contemporary textile design, in this exhibition of furnishing and dress fabrics as used by St Laurent, Mr Freedom and Zandra Rhodes, and those made by new designers such as Wonder Workshop and OK Textiles. The re-establishment of a genuine popular art may at last be with us; and thats always a good omen for art in general.

John Dove and Molly White's 'Strawberry' Bomber Jacket

Strawberry Bomber Jacket Screen printed satin with diamante
decoration and jersey trimming incorporating the strawberry motif.
Designed by John Dove and Molly White, 1968 (Molly is wearing the jacket)
Produced by Wonder Workshop

The Guardian article by Hazel Shaw gave a refreshing review of the show including some pictures of the Wonder Workshop exhibits:

Textile designers have always been interested in using objects in designs, generally taking care to simplify and integrate the idea so that it is hardly recognisable in the final statement. Not so with pop fabrics. These brashly defy all the laws of tasteful design, blatantly using every kind of commercial imagery in a most haphazard way. 'Strawberry', a white cotton satin fabric printed with enormous diamonte` studded strawberries has been made into delightful high - waisted jackets by Wonder Workshop.Whether you love it or hate it, 'The Fabric Of Pop' happened and as Michael Regan pointed out, in 50 years time it will be at the Victoria and Albert Museum for students to study. I hope I am still around to see their reactions.

wild Thing!

Screen printed single knit cotton jersey fabric with diamte decoration and satin aplique
Designed by John Dove and Molly White, 1971
Produced by Wonder Workshop

At the end of '74 we embarked upon a lecture tour of English Art Schools. we travelled around the country in our 1958 Dodge Regent enjoying our 15 minutes of fame from the reverberations that had come from the 'Fabric of Pop' exhibition.

My Baby Loves The Western Movies!

"My Baby Loves The Western Movies" Screen printed calico
Designed by John Dove and Molly White, 1973
Produced by Wonder Workshop

A centre-page feature in the Norwich Evening News was a little excessive but along with the TV exposure, it unexpectedly gave Molly and I some local recognition. Jenny Belson wrote:

The travelling exhibition organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, with accompanying rock 'n' roll music explores the influence of Pop Art on textile and fashion design over the last 12 years. Although the T-shirt explosion has been sullied to some extent by blatant advertising, John and Molly see it as a creative market. John told me when we met in his in-laws home at Newmarket Street, Norwich. 'I think T-shirts are a true art form.'

newspaper cutting

Newspaper cutting from Norwich Evening News, written by Jenny Belson