Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The Sad Tale of the Moquette

"Moquette" is the robust, deep-pile material used to cover the seats on the London Underground and on London buses.

For many years these seats were simple wooden benches. When the decision was made to upgrade to padded seats, the Royal Geographical Society despatched explorers to points throughout the British Empire to find a material tough enough to withstand the rears of thousands of Londoners.

The breakthrough was made by Sir Magnus Larchwood in south-west Africa. In 1923 he discovered a species called the moquette (a relation of the meerkat) that had checked fur in a variety of striking colours, notably orange, purple, blue and brown. A trade in the moquette was set up and Tubes were furbished with their hides.

Sadly, such was the demand for moquette skins that the native population quickly dwindled. The ranks of this noble beast were further eroded after the second world war when they fell prey to Wrigley's Disease, a malady spread by discarded chewing gum. The last moquette died in captivity at the Royal College of Fashion in 1974 during a desperate attempt to equip the new Jubilee Line.

27 Comments:

Blogger Gerry said...

Actually, the fabric for the underground was designed by Marianne Straub, a rather brilliant Swiss-born, bauhaus educated textile designer who lived in Cambridge and did much to revive the Welsh Woollen Mills. She was mates with Paul Klee and Meret Oppenheim and was a fantastic advocate for contemporary design and craft in this country She is sadly deceased.

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Blogger Smacked Face said...

I think you mean Meerkat Oppenheim.

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Anonymous Carruthers said...

A type of artificial moquette is found on the seats of South West Trains, which blight our beloved Waterloo Station.
This particularly robust brand goes by the name "Uncomfort-O-Fab"(TM) on account of the fact that its bristles can be felt through plate armour.

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Ok ok, blame me. I selected the wonderful design for the District Line seats that were recovered a couple of years ago and the new covers on the Metropolitan line which I designed from scratch.......

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