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24 May 2022

Wallace Sewell have turned purple for the day...

Keen Wallace Sewell fans will know that as well as designing textiles and home furnishings for retail, we also work on commissions for a range of clients - one of them being Transport for London.

In 2010 we entered and won an open competition to create a new moquette for the London Underground. This now iconic 'Barman' design depicts various city landmarks such as the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) and Tower Bridge, and can be seen on the Northern, Central, Jubilee, and Piccadilly lines.

We have worked with TfL on numerous projects and have, to date, designed moquette for the Croydon Tramlink, TfL Rail, the Overground, the Bakerloo and the soon to be opened Elizabeth Line!

The Crossrail project was approved in 2007 and construction began in 2009, with an original plan to open in 2018. There were initial delays and then a pandemic to work around, which brings us up to 2022... the official date is still not yet released but there have been lots of trial operation days so all we can confirm is the Elizabeth Line will open to the public very soon!

And if you get to travel on one of the brand new, smooth and speedy trains (the British Rail Class 345 Aventra to be precise), you will be sitting on our latest TfL moquette design.

Emma was recently a guest on Hidden London Hangouts, a brilliant and insightful YouTube series from the London Transport Museum that uncovers the secrets of the Underground and takes you behind the scenes at sites across the network usually unseen by the public. Presented by a team of experts, headed up by host and self-confessed moquette super fan, Alex Grundon, this episode gives us all a sneak peek at what we can expect from London's newest train line, and Emma talks about the inspiration and challenges of designing the unique and very purple fabric!

We were invited by TfL to create a distinctive moquette that would become part of the identity of these trains but the overall colour had to be purple, a regal tone chosen in honour of the Queen, to represent the new Elizabeth line. Taking their original TfL Rail moquette as a starting place (see below), Emma and Harriet evolved the design using the same grid inspired by a building spotted at Stratford station.

Many designers find purple a difficult colour to work with, but the team rose to the challenge. We can work with any colour, and as Emma says, "it's just what you put with it." The overall impression is definitely purple but close-up it is a mix of horizontal blocks of violet, lilac, cream and grey, with occasional pinstripes of red, blue, orange, white and mint green. Not only do these pinstripes add a feeling of movement and speed to the design, but they are a nod to the other tube lines that interact with the Elizabeth Line route. Moquette is a hard-wearing fabric but the design needs to work hard too - the busy pattern works like camouflage to hide inevitable dirt and stains from use (seats are reupholstered every seven years on average) and yet it can't be too distracting for passengers either.

In the words of Harriet, “With a transport fabric, you should be able to sit on it and it just works. It’s utilitarian and in some ways, you shouldn’t even notice it."

If, however, you love moquette almost as much as we do, the London Transport Museum shop has a full range of purple Elizabeth Line merchandise - from socks to scarves, laptop cases to travel bags, and even deckchairs!

To follow in the footsteps of design pioneers such as Marianne Straub and Misha Black, to have the opportunity to create an iconic moquette design for TfL was something Emma and Harriet only dreamed of when they were at college together. Winning the competition back in 2010 was a dream come true and a creative ambition and a huge lifetime achievement so now having six designs whizzing around London, being the backdrop to people's daily lives, they are immensely proud.

Thanks go to the brilliant team at TfL for commissioning us to dress your trains, to Camira Fabrics who produce all the wonderful moquette, to Alex and the Hangout crew for their special episode and to the fantastic London Transport Museum.

We can't wait for you to have the chance to travel on the Elizabeth Line yourselves - and if you do, let us know what you think!