A Brief History

Kim Bentley and Sally Spens both studied at Goldsmiths’ College, on the textiles/fine art course, before working in the applied art of textile design. Engaging with fashion and interiors, and designing both printed and painted textiles, their work has been featured in magazines worldwide, including World of Interiors, House & Garden, The Face, ID, Tokyo Calender, Marieclaire Japan, British and American Vogue.

In the eighties their hand painted men’s shirts were sold by Paul Smith and New York stores Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendal, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Collaborations with interior designers led to collections of hand printed fabrics, which were specified in projects in the UK, USA, France, Japan, New Zealand and Germany. Liberty of London retailed the range and in 1992 also displayed Bentley & Spens’ painted textiles in the atrium of the store.  

The connection with Japan began in 1992 when Bentley & Spens were invited by Yoichi Nakamuta of the E&Y Co. to join other designers in the interior design field eg. furniture, lighting etc. as collaborative artists. Exhibitions at E&Y Co., Tokyo and Spazio di Naoki, Toyama City (1998) showed painted works and printed textiles.

In 2001 Bentley & Spens were commissioned by Kawashima, Kyoto to design a range of contemporary prints for yukata  (summer kimonos). This was to continue for seven years and result in seventy seven designs. Interestingly, Kawashima was one of the companies that brought Japanese design to Europe in the 19th century. In this way the handmade traverses the world. The curator of textiles at the V&A wrote about this work in an article, “Collecting the Contemporary” for the Journal of Cloth and Culture, and has documented and archived this collaboration as the only instance of western designers being commissioned by a Japanese textile company. The Victoria & Albert Museum first added Bentley & Spens’ furnishing fabrics to their collections of twentieth century design in 1989, and have included pieces in their recent publication: 
British Textiles – 1700 to the present.

Bentley & Spens have also featured in two V&A exhibitions:
1995 The European Art of Textiles : British and Continental Textiles from the 11th Century to the 1990’s. Touring exhibition in Japan.
2004 Recent Acquisitions 1992 – 2002 : A Decade of Collecting Textiles

Bentley & Spens still work together on specific projects, most recently the Shared Histories exhibition.

© Bentley & Spens