With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Celebrating Britain’s Transport Textile project at London Transport Museum has uncovered some of the fascinating stories behind the commissioning, design, manufacturing and use of moquette through the ages.
Moquette, which comes from the French word for carpet, is a tough woollen fabric that is used in upholstery on public transport all over the world.
The fabric is produced using a weaving technique known as jacquard and is typically made of 85% wool and 15% nylon. The woollen pile has good thermal properties, making it cool in summer and warm in winter.
|Moquette was first applied to public transport seating in London in the 1920s
when the patterns were designed by the manufacturers. The first moquette
pattern was called Lozenge, made in 1923 by Firth Furnishings Ltd. It followed
the fashions in home furnishings and art deco styles of the day.
With the creation of London Transport in the 1930s, Chief Executive, Frank
Pick and his Publicity Officer, Christian Barman commissioned established
artists and designers to create stylish, contemporary patterns for the Capital’s
transport system. Under Pick’s direction, design was key to producing and
promoting a quality public transport system.
|It was at this time that moquette was transformed from a practical seating
fabric to a design icon. Textile designers such as Enid Marx, Marion Dorn
and Paul Nash were commissioned by London Transport to produce
exclusive moquette designs. Geometric and contemporary, these new
moquettes were radically different from the floral patterns produced previously.
The designs were used on a variety of tubes, buses and trolleybuses during
this period and had to work well in daylight and artificial light.
|In the 1950s, industrial designer Douglas Scott was commissioned to
design the Routemaster. The new double decker bus became a design
classic as well as a symbol of London. Scott devised the colour scheme
for the interior of the Routemaster carefully; the maroon, yellow and green
of the interior mirrored in the moquette design.
|The next development in moquette design began in 1964 and was born
out of the work of Professor Misha Black. Black worked as a design
consultant on the construction of the Victoria line, coordinating every
aspect of its design. Professional designers Marianne Straub, Jacqueline
Groag and the Orbit Design Group were commissioned to design a new
moquette to highlight the newness of the line. However, due to the limited
time scale these designs were never used and a design already developed
for the A stock was used instead.
|During the 1990s Transport for London experimented with giving each line
its own moquette to give each line its separate identity. Moquette patterns were
its own designed specifically for use on certain lines, incorporating the colour of
the line as well as complementing the colours used throughout the carriage.
|Today, moquette patterns can be designed in house by Transport for
London, or by an external design company. Often there are many people
involved in the development of a new moquette design or colourway. The
colours and patterns have evolved over time, but the tradition of producing
distinctive designs continues today.
The London Transport Museum collection holds over 400 samples of moquette, and over 300 photographs from 1920 to the present day. Explore the moquette collection here.
Hear stories behind the commissioning, design, manufacturing and use of moquette on London Transport network in our oral history collection.
Moquette Collections Care Guidelines
Read about the care of moquette collections including instructions on labelling and rolled storage for moquette samples. The guidelines are aimed at collections staff and volunteers at museums or heritage institutions.
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