Helen Persson: This is a piece that we found in Egypt in the 19th century and it’s a piece of cotton ikat made in Yemen. The ikat is a very special technique of decorating fabric, you dye the warp threads and when you later weave you get this kind of blur, shady pattern in it. This piece has also got this lovely writing in gold, which is part of a prayer.
In Japan, it is tradition to give gifts in a box or on a tray and over it you would drape a very decorative textile. They are called ‘fukasa’ and [this one was] given to the Englishman William Rogers at the Imperial Palace in Japan. Cranes were believed in Japan to live for a thousand years and when you have a lot of cranes on one piece of fabric it means that they’re wishing the recipient to live a long and happy life.
This piece is made by the Hong Kong (although New York-based) designer called Vivienne Tam. This is from her ‘Mao’ collection of 1995, where she took the very famous image of Mao Zedong and changed it around – put a bee on his nose, put him in pigtails - just to shake things up a little bit. Parts of the ‘Mao’ collection by Vivienne Tam were donated to us by the designer herself in 1998. We have a close relationship with designers who donate to us, but also they come to the collection for influence and inspiration for their new design collections