Zika and Lida Ascher: Changing Fashion Forever

The fashion industry is continuously changing. New styles, patterns, and fabrics are discovered to create the next big thing every season. Starting in the 1940s, Zika and Lida Ascher were the people that created the next big thing. From their marriage in Prague to their textile empire based in London, their fascinating life story is exhibited in “The Mad Silkman: Zika and 
Lida Ascher: Textiles and Fashion” at the Museum of Decorative Arts.

Zika and Lida Ascher played an important role in the history of the fashion world and textile design. Zika, who was also a fearless Czech championship-winning downhill skier hence the name “Mad Silkman” started his own business with a small textiles shop in Prague’s Old Town. However, due to Nazi Germany’s annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1939, and since he was Jewish, soon after his marriage to Lida, they emigrated to London for their safety. 

In London, with Lida now helping in the business, the couple eventually created a very successful fashion fabric enterprise that reached designers from all over. The Aschers established their own company Ascher (London) Ltd. in 1942 for printing on fabrics to use for women’s clothing. Then he immediately collaborated with famous modern artists including Henry Moore, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso to use their original designs for a special collection of silk shawls and squares; soon enough after this, his prints were recognized all around the world. 

Zika’s own lively and unique designs stood out amongst competitors and allowed him to successfully reach international markets. On top of his luxurious designs on silk, Zika was able to convince fashion designers like Christian Dior that cotton was not just a fabric for light-weight summer clothes but could be used in high fashion design as well. Zika’s ideas for the use of cotton as well as silk for clothing shifted the fashion industry for decades to come.

The exhibition is split into four parts that each represent different phases of Zika’s work. The first part has the collaboration with designs on silk by famous modern artists in the 1940s with other colorfully designed silk scarves from the Ascher Squares collection. Other sections have later famous clothing designs from high-end dress designs to more affordable scarves, and jackets.

Large squares of different patterns are displayed to portray just how many and how different the Ascher’s designs truly were. Flowers, stripes, checkers, polka dots, you name it, it was there. These textiles appeared in prestigious fashion magazines from all over the world and were used by some of the most famous names in the fashion industry. Balenciaga, Dior, Y.S Laurent, Givenchy and others used these silk designs for their own fashion collections. The Ascher’s ability to transfer any design onto a fabric was unique and part of what made them so special. 

By 1961 Lida Ascher had created her own boutique in London; the Lida Ascher Boutique. Although based in London, Ascher’s designs and fabrics successfully sold not only in London, but in Paris and American markets. Fashion icons like Princess Diana wore outfits from Asher’s boutique and in the exhibit many of the clothing designs are photographed or on display. 

Zika and Lida Ascher had a unique way of seeing and using fashion in different styles. Throughout their career, this couple stayed true to themselves by creating original designs and patterns that will continue to be appreciated in fashion history. Since they created some of the most unique textile patterns in the 20th century, whether Fashion guru or not, learning about Zika and Lida’s influence on the fashion industry is something that should not be missed.

The exhibition closes Sept. 15, 2019. For more information see https://www.upm.cz/sileny-hedvabnik-zika-lida-ascher-textil-a-moda/

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