It’s 1968 in the world of Mad Men. Or so say pundits speculating on the time jump for series six which debuts with a two hour special 7 April (US) and 10 April (UK). Your scribe is unable to watch since cable poached MM from BBC4, so no plot spoilers please. Nevertheless it’s hard to avoid blog speculations on MM6 set design and fashions.
Newsletters from a certain vintage and modern US design site drop into your scribe’s mailbox weekly. Adherence to a blog code not dissimilar to Queensbury Rules means your scribe won’t name the site, but 1) they seem to believe years beginning with 19 refer to the 19th century, and 2) their prognostications for MM6 sets are skewed to the pop end of the design scale. Yes, there will be pop art inspired elements, but your scribe hopes they are curtailed to clothing and the MM office is dressed to emulate textile maestro Jack Lenor Larsen.
Jack Lenor Larsen Mercury textile, 1969, Verel, metallic gimp, rayon, cotton leno weave. Collection Cowan & Tout. Image from Jack Lenor Larsen Creator and Collector by McFadden, Friedman, Stack, Larsen, 2004
Wealth was still largely “quiet” in the 1960s meaning it wasn’t the done thing to crassly broadcast earnings as is now the norm. Madison Avenue ad merchants might wear à la mode madras suits, but office decor would veer to luxe moderne rather than a surfeit of pop art modernity. Larsen’s 1969 Mercury cabin dividers for Braniff International Airways, prioritised materials, technology and technique without sacrificing a richly designed surface. Understanding the “worth” of Larsen designs was a sign of design discernment, and your scribe suggests senior partner Bert Cooper would recognise how Larsen textiles would complement his Asian art collection.
Jack Lenor Larsen Nimbus made for curtain wall windows. Saran, polyethylene monofilaments; woven and heat shrunk. Collection Cowan & Tout. Image from Jack Lenor Larsen Creator and Collector by McFadden, Friedman, Stack, Larsen, 2004
Larsen’s innovation-led textiles were appreciated by like-minded clients. Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP commissioned Larsen to design vertical space treatments for Lever House (1952), which coincided with their growing renown as the progenitor of International Style glass curtain wall skyscrapers.
Nimbus – still in production – demonstrates how Larsen’s decision to use the three metre width newly achieved by European textile mills in the 1950s as length, allowed him to dress skyscraper curtain walls from mullion to mullion with a single textile width. Simple idea? Sure. But Larsen was the one who spotted the potential, and it’s this type of irrational creativity that inspires the superlative set designers and writing staff of MM, and they in turn will drive millions to watch Mad Men this weekend. Your scribe thinks it’s time to buy that Sky subscription. DJ