Time Line

Celia Birtwell was born in Bury, near Manchester, on January 2, 1941. Her mother, a housewife, had once worked as a seamstress. Her father was an estimating engineer, calculating how machines for textile production should be designed.

Aged 13, Celia went to Salford Technical College, in Salford, Greater Manchester, where she studied textiles and pottery. A big influence on her was the artist John Piper. LS Lowry, who frequently painted Salford, also made an impression on her.

Through her friend, the artist Mo McDermott, Celia met 16-year-old fledgling fashion designer Ossie Clark, her future husband and collaborator, in Manchester.

Celia moved to London, putting down roots in the Notting Hill/ Ladbroke Grove area. She mixed with an arty crowd, mainly Royal College of Art students, including pop artists Pauline Boty and Derek Boshier. She worked early on as a wig-dresser for London’s Aldwych Theatre and for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Celia worked at the RSC as a customier and it was here she met film costumier Anthony Powell and artist Hugh McKinnon, who encouraged her to resume her work as a textile designer. Shortly after, she designed some Op Art-inspired furnishing fabrics for Heal’s in London.

Celia and Ossie moved in together in a little Notting Hill flat, more out of convenience. It was during this time their appreciation of each others creative talents sparked the exciting and ground breaking collaboration. In the same year Alice Pollock, owner of hip London boutique Quorum, commissioned Celia & Ossie to design a dress fabric collection.

Celia and Ossie were commissioned to design a mail-order paper dress for Nova magazine by its legendary fashion editor Molly Parkin, which was photographed by cool snapper of the day Duffy and modelled by Jane Asher. Celia and Ossie were soon fêted as London’s dream fashion duo, dressing the era’s jetset and rock aristocracy: the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Twiggy, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Talitha Getty and Marianne Faithfull.

Celia and Ossie married at Kensington Registry Office, with only his sister Kay and David Hockney as guests. Celia wore an Ossie creation with her famous Mystic Daisy print on it. Celia's first son, Albert was born.

Hockney began painting his famous double portrait of Celia and Ossie, Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (completed in 1971).

Celia and Ossie’s catwalk show at London’s Royal Court Theatre – with its thunderous rock ‘n’ roll music, models gyrating in sexy, diaphanous dresses and star-studded audience – was a media sensation. Their runway shows of the late 60s/ early 70s broke with convention for being wild and exuberant. She gave birth to their second son George.

Celia and Ossie divorced after what had become an increasingly unstable marriage.

Celia worked as a paid model for Hockney in Los Angeles, and did so for five years.

Celia started designing home fabrics, and opened her shop selling these in Westbourne Park Road. One of her first prints was Little Animals – which is still a best seller over 25 years later.

Celia’s career in fashion enjoyed a spectacular renaissance with her sellout capsule collection for Top Shop. Its Oxford Street flagship store sold out of 1,000 special-edition garments in six minutes. Celia brought in her son, George and daughter-in-law, Bella to run the business. Celia is nominated for Best British Talent at the Walpole Awards.

Celia designs her 3rd collection for Top Shop. as well as products for Habitat & Heals and luxury departments for Dubai firm, Luxe Interiors. She is awarded "Greatest contribution to fashion in the home' by Elle Decoration.

Millets invites Celia to collaborate on a series of subtle and soothing tents and camping equipment. Celia tests the equipment personally by a weekend camping under the stars.

Boots collaborates with Celia to produce a range of beauty accessories depicting the iconic Mademoiselle. Wild and Wolf develop a range of Celia Birtwell gardening products and gifts from her fashion archive.

John Lewis launches a range of Celia Birtwell fashion, accessories and home products. The brand new Celia Birtwell website is launched with an on-line shop, selling vintage Ossie Clark/Celia Birtwell.

Celia is named a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in recognition of her services to the fashion industry.
Celia launches her first book, Celia Birtwell, a retrospective of her life
in print.
Celia Birtwell returns to exhibit furnishing fabrics at Decorex International.

Celia Birtwell collaborates with Uniqlo to design a Spring/Summer collection that launches globally in March.