Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fabric Hall of Fame: Chinese Leopard Toile




Thank goodness for those great old prints that keep on keepin' on, and we have Brunschwig & Fils to thank for many of them. There is Le Lac, Les Touches, La Portugaise, and another print whose name does not begin with a le, la, or les: Chinese Leopard Toile. I've long admired this peculiar print, one in which in Chinese scenes are surrounded by intertwining red garlands, all set against a backdrop of leopard spots. I think that this eccentricity is what makes the print so charming.

I did a bit of digging, and thanks to a 1966 New York Times article, I found out that Chinese Leopard Toile was not only a favorite of Elsie de Wolfe but of Billy Baldwin too. (In the article, Mrs. Brunschwig said that Baldwin used "lots and lots" of this fabric.) I have consulted all of my books that contain de Wolfe and Baldwin interiors, and unfortunately I can't find a single photo which shows their use of the fabric. I did manage to find a McMillen Inc. designed interior in which the fabric was used on chairs and curtains, and I also uncovered a photo from an old House & Garden book.

According to the Times article, the original colorway for Chinese Leopard Toile was shades of red and blue, though a version with a yellow background was later added. Fortunately for us, both are still available. In both the McMillen and House & Garden photos below, it appears that the colorway used is different from what Brunschwig currently offers.


While I get that this print isn't for everybody, it has such an interesting history that it should be admitted to Fabric Hall of Fame- if there was such a thing. Oh, and cost of Chinese Leopard Toile in 1966? $5.80 a yard!


Chinese Leopard Toile as used by the designers at McMillen Inc.



Designer Rhoda Bright chose the print for window shades and a mattress cover.



You can see a close-up of the two colorways currently available. I pulled these two samples at the Brunschwig & Fils/Lee Jofa showroom at ADAC.


13 comments:

  1. Love, love this toile. The glazed chintz version of this pattern was closer to Twenty dollars in the early
    1970's. I'm happy to see the blue/red/brown colorway is available!
    This fabric made up beautiful libraries.

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  2. Bob, So glad that you too look it. Using it in a library is a great idea!

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  3. Great article, love the old photos!

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  4. Hi Jennifer! It's such a terrific and unique print. Jena at the Lee Jofa/Brunschwig showroom was most helpful!

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  5. Jennifer Dengel11:21 AM

    Such a charming ad! Wouldn't it be a great retrospective in design centers and schools to see the halls lined with these ads. Now that would really hold my interest and help to pass the time as I waited for an elevator!

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  6. Anonymous12:49 PM

    It came in a gray/brown colorway also.

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  7. Jennifer, Now that's a terrific idea!

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  8. Anon- Thank you for letting me know. I like the idea of the gray/brown combo.

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  9. Oh Bravo! Always one of my favorites! So was Brunschwig! My very first "open account" 41 years ago! Delores in the Los Angeles Showroom (way before the PDC)!

    I belong to the most wonderful old-fashioned club in Pasadena (where I grew up and lived until 14 years ago) and this was the wallpaper in the "handicapped" powder room!

    So, of course I always used that powder room!
    Once, as I came out; a man was yelling at me "YOU are not allowed to use the handicapped powder room!!!" (he was handicapped only mentally). I looked at his face and knew I had no chance of explaining how much I loved the wallpaper; so I fled back to the dining room.....!!!

    So happy the fabric is still around!

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  10. Penelope- What a funny story! I would have used that powder room as well!

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  11. Thanks so much for writing this great blog. I love discovering all these new (to me) things.

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  12. This is why I love blogs, it is a great way of finding new things that otherwise would be left un-discovered.

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  13. Thank you, Architects in london!

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