Czech Republic – Textile Empire of Central Europe

Czech Republic – Textile Empire of Central Europe

Czechs Rely on Great Tradition and Skills

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Czechs had to wear face masks during the pandemic. At first, however, it was not possible to get this protective device, so they managed to help themselves. In Czech households, masks began to be sewn in large numbers. This is definitely not the first time the locals have had to deal with a shortage. The tradition of working with textiles has been inherited here for generations, and there are places throughout the Czech Republic that are worth knowing in this regard.

A family dynasty

Reichenberg (Liberec) in northern Bohemia has been one of the most important centres of the textile industry since the 19th century. The founder of the family business was Johann Liebieg. He trained as a draper and in 1822 founded a company with his brother Franz. They were inspired by factory production in England and began to produce various types of woollen fabrics on a large scale. They soon gained clients throughout Europe. They turned the provincial Liberec into a modern town, where they invited renowned architects. They designed villas, factory buildings, breweries, sugar factories and a bank for Liebieg. In 1891, Johann's grandson Theodor took over the management of 14 family companies and initiated the construction of Liebieg's town for working-class families. Their employees lived in a residential area full of greenery. The unique architectural complex is still preserved and definitely worth a visit.

Elegant veterans

You can explore the history of the Liebieg textile dynasty in the Technical Museum of Liberec. Here you will see period machines and photographs from the family life of the manufacturers. The museum also has a permanent exhibition of bus and tram transport, and one section is dedicated to cars from the past century. You can admire, for example, the legendary Roll-Royce, Cadillac or hundred-year-old Maxwell cars. For lovers of science and technology, we can recommend the interactive science centre IQlandie. Both young and old visitors can try chemical or physical experiments and explore other scientific disciplines. If you come to Liberec for a whole-day trip, then you definitely cannot miss the dominant feature of the town – the Ještěd Mountain television transmitter, which was built in the years 1966-1973 according to a design by architect Karel Hubáček. His design was awarded the prestigious Perret Prize by the International Union of Architects. There is a restaurant open on Ještěd, from where you can view the whole area. The transmitter also serves as a renovated hotel, where individual rooms are equipped with period furniture.

Villas of famous manufacturers

Another important centre of the textile industry was Brno. Entrepreneurs here also started in smaller draperies and spinning workshops and invested in the development of their companies. One of the main business families was the Löw-Beers, who owned several factories and were also active as patrons of the arts. Their daughter Greta married a prominent businessman, Fritz Tugendhat. They invited the renowned architect Mies van der Rohe to Brno, who designed an original family villa for them. Visit this architectural gem, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and also head to the nearby Villa of Löw-Beers, for an exhibition on this family business. A famous architect was also invited by the factory owner Alfred Stiassni, who ran one of the largest textile factories in Brno. In 1905 he married Hermína Weinmannová and they wanted a residential house that was not only for the future family, but also a representative place for business partners. Architect Ernst Weisner completed the building for them in 1929, which had all the equipment of a modern home and an elegant exterior. The villa was occupied by the Nazis in 1940, and after the war it served as a so-called government villa, where the communist government hosted important guests such as Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev. The villa is open to the public and displays the period interiors as they looked in the Stiassny era.

Blue and white legacy

The history of the textile industry is not only firmly connected with factory production, but also with the legacy of traditional crafts. There were different costumes in each region, which differed not only in colour but also in embroidery or printing. In Moravia, blueprinting has been used since the 18th century, which is a handicraft technique where blue fabric is printed with matrices. There is a chemical on their surface that stays on the textile base and creates a light décor. In Olešnice near Blansko, this handicraft production has been inherited for seven generations. The Danzinger family still follows traditional work practices and organises workshops for the public where you can learn to create a blueprint.

Costumes in the capital

You do not have to look for examples of traditional textile crafts outside the capital. The Ethnographic Museum in the Kinský Garden in Prague hosts an interesting exhibition where you can see what life was like in the countryside in the 18th and 19th centuries. There are not only costumes, but also handicrafts from rural households. You will learn how our ancestors celebrated significant events throughout the year. The exposition includes, for example, demonstrations of carnival masks or harvest celebrations. You can also see the works of Czech artists who continue the craft tradition in the Museum of Applied Arts in Prague. This institutional museum regularly presents the work of important artists and fashion designers.