Alan’s pride at royal approval for his mother’s dress designs

Alan Farndon with the Paolozzi dress, exhibited at Pallant Gallery     Picture by Louise Adams C131224-1 Chi Paolozzi
Alan Farndon with the Paolozzi dress, exhibited at Pallant Gallery Picture by Louise Adams C131224-1 Chi Paolozzi

A ‘proud’ local man has discovered his mother was involved in designing the Eduardo Paolozzi dress currently on exhibition at the Pallant House Gallery.

Alan Farndon, 55, identified the work of his late mother and previous Horrockses fashion designer, Martha Pirn, in the exhibiton after attending a lecture about Paolozzi as part of the Partners in Art project at Pallant House.

“One of the heads of Pallant House started talking about the Paolozzi dress and started mentioning Horrockses.

“I went into the exhibition, saw the Paolozzi dress and said, ‘that looks familiar’. I then started revisiting some photographs my mother had stuck in a briefcase.”

The photographs showed evidence of his mother’s work, including the dress on show in the exhibition.

As well as this, there were also photographs of the Queen wearing his mother’s designs.

“The problem I have is that quite a lot of Horrockses fashion label was not too keen on accrediting designers with particular dresses. Therefore, it’s difficult to actually specifically accredit different designs to particular designers.

“However, because I can recognise my mother’s handwriting and that she did give me a few stories while she was alive, I can piece together various bits and pieces.”

Ms Pirn was born just outside Moscow but was brought up in Estonia where she learnt needlecraft and sewing to a high standard.

She came to London in 1936 where she stayed in the Estonian delegation and started making clothes for other emigres.

“Queen Mary visited the Estonian delegation and saw her work and as a result, recommended her to join Horrockses which at that stage was just a mill company.

“Horrockses used major artists for the designs of their fabrics. Some of the fabrics that were used were from people like Paolozzi.“

Mr Farndon is keen on finding out more about his mother’s life and is looking into getting some letters he found addressed to her in Estonian transcribed.

He joined Pallant House’s Partners in Art project, a community-based project that allows people who need additional support to create art, after suffering a stroke two-and-a-half years ago.

“I never knew much of my mother’s history. It’s opened up an incredible history for me, one of my mother’s life and one that I’m very keen to explore because I think she should get the recognition she very much deserves.

“Although it’s going to be difficult to find out precise details, it’s worth a try, isn’t it?”

l The Eduardo Paolozzi: Collaging Culture exhibition is currently on display at the Pallant House Gallery until October 13.