In 1930s Paris, Lina Zervudaki was one of several designers to develop an eco-chic fashion for wicker mannequins that helped to reinvigorate the traditional French craft of basket weaving. Her clientele included Elsa Schiaparelli and, later, Christian Dior. In the decades that followed, wicker—a material that is flexible, light, strong, washable, pleasant to touch, and resistant to woodworm—was used for applications including furniture and exhibition design. This development was part of a wider revival of interest in materials and techniques perceived by many at the time to be old fashioned or rustic, such as stoneware pottery and handwoven wall hangings.

Zervudaki was born and educated in Athens. Her interest in the arts was encouraged by her mother and a teacher who introduced her to the great museum collections of Europe. At the age of 20, following the death of her father, Zervudaki and her mother moved to Paris. There she studied painting and design at the studio of the celebrated poster designer Paul Colin. In the course of her studies, she presented theater settings, posters, and signs at various Paris exhibition salons, including posters for the annual TSF (wireless telegraphy) salon held in the Grand Palais. At the Salon d’Automne in 1934, her installation of a completely white setting titled Pays de l'âme (“landscape of the soul”) attracted public attention and resulted in commissions for retail displays from the Galeries Lafayette and Elsa Schiaparelli, for which Zervudaki made her own rattan mannequins. At the opening of Schiaparelli’s gallery on the Place Vendôme, Zervudaki’s work was shown alongside that of Alberto and Diego Giacometti.

In collaboration with a traditional basket maker on rue Caroline, Zervudaki created a line of rattan mannequins branded “Caroline,” which were exhibited at the Salon of Decorative Artists of 1936. The following year, while continuing to collaborate with couturiers and dressmakers from Paris to New York, she was invited to participate in the Pavillon de l’Elégance at the International Exhibition of 1937. During World War II she took refuge in Switzerland, returning to Paris after the Liberation. She continued to exhibit at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs and at the exhibition Arts de la Table in 1950, developing further applications of rattan for children’s nurseries and a wide range of indoor and outdoor furniture.

The research for this text was supported by a generous grant from The Modern Women's Fund.


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