What we can learn from Florence Broadhurst

Broadhurst - Branding Brisbane

October 20, 2012

It’s one thing to make an impact in your time, but to have enduring popularity, with a style that transcends trends and decades is another thing all together. Imagine if the work you created was just as popular in 50 years as it is today? Such a feat can be claimed by Queensland-born Florence Broadhurst, known best for her incredible wallpaper designs.

Born and raised on a cattle station in south-east Queensland, not only is the woman’s story amazing (cliff notes include an international stage career, stint as a music and dance teacher in Shanghai, a secret marriage, several fake names and identities – and her design career and amazingly successful Sydney design studio that didn’t launch until Broadhurst was 60!) but her influence is incredible also. Although she was tragically and mysteriously murdered in her Paddington showroom in September 1977, there is a lot we can learn from this trailblazer of Australian design.

Lesson 1: Be a pioneer

Declaring Australia afraid of colour, the notoriously head-strong designer launched her hand-print wallpaper studio in Sydney, going on to produce more than 500 top-selling designs. Broadhurst moved in the right circles, seeing her designs soon find their way from Australia to London, New York and Saudi Arabia.

Taking every opportunity for what she could, Broadhurst clued on to the American-developed sheeting called mylar, importing the new fabric to print her designs on, experimenting with spectacular new metallic finishes that are still in practice today.

Lesson 2: Incorporate international influences

While her outlook was that of an Australian, Broadhurst’s wallpaper design elements ranged from fruits inspired by Grecian vases to graphic Moroccan motifs and Japanese flowers, which remain some of her most popular today. Australian cockatoos and Aboriginal rock art found their way into the mix, but it was largely a range of exotic inspirations that saw the range of designs find popularity.

Now that the world has become an even more global community, Broadhurst would no doubt be amazed at the access to inspiration from around the globe designers have today.

Lesson 3: Connect design and fashion

Current owners of the Florence Broadhurst archive, Signature Prints, soon realised the potential of their new acquisition when they took possession in the 1990s. Since, Broadhurst’s designs have been reinterpreted by Australian fashion design houses Akira Isogawa and Zimmerman, as well as finding their way to adorning homewares, bedding, furniture and fashion accessories. Sometimes we forget the connection between fashion and design, but at the end of the day beauty and creativity go hand in hand, whatever form they take.

What inspires you?