Designer Althea McNish dies

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A report by Keino Awamber for Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday.

Iconic fabric designer Althea McNish died on April 16 in a nursing home in London. She was 95.

A release from Courtney McNish, chairman of the Merikin Commission said McNish had been ill since 2018 after her husband, John Weiss, died.

She made a significant impact on the international fashion industry, with clients such as Cardin, Dior, Schiaparelli, Givenchy and Lanvin. Liberty’s, the famous department store in London, carried clothes with her fabric designs such as Cebollas (1958) and Hibiscus (1958).

Her 1959 prints Tropic and Giselle were in fashion magazines across Europe. When Queen Elizabeth II visited Trinidad in 1966, McNish designed fabrics for that official wardrobe.

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McNish, one of the Merikin community from the company villages in south Trinidad, went to the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts, the Central School of Arts and Design and the Royal College of Art.

She was the first Caribbean woman and black textile designer to achieve international prominence.

Her work can be found at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Whitworth Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture and the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

In 1976 she was awarded the Chaconia Medal Gold for her contributions to art and design and an honorary doctorate of fine arts from the University of TT in 2006.

McNish will be cremated on May 7 at 3 pm in London. However, attendees at her service will be limited to ten people because of covid19 restrictions.

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