Alexander Girard (1907-1993) was widely known for his textile design which introduced vibrant colors and playful patterns to mid century modern design. Girard was born in New York City to an American mother and an Italian father, but raised in Florence, Italy. Girard studied architecture in Europe. He returned to the United States in 1932, and started a career as a designer. His career took off after designing “For Modern Living” exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1949. Three years later, he was offered a position as the head of the textile division at Herman Miller, Inc.
At Herman Miller, Girard successfully introduced a new concept in textile design with his vibrant color palette and playful patterns inspired by traditional folk art he cherished. In early 1950s, fabrics were merely functional, but they tended to be dull and plain. His textile designs complemented the furniture designs of his fellow mid century modern designers, Charles Eames and George Nelson. Girard’s work at Herman Miller continued until 1975, designing hundreds of fabrics as a result. He also developed a seating collection for the company between 1967 and 1968. Originals from this collection are rare and highly desirable among many collectors today.
Apart from Herman Miller, Girard designed three restaurants in 1960’s: the La Fonda del Sol restaurant, in New York City; the L’Etoile Restaurant, also in New York City; and the Compound Restaurant, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He also contributed in a design project of Braniff Airlines in mid 1960’s, totally redesigning everything from the condiment packets to the planes themselves. During 1960’s, Girard and his wife Susan moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he founded the Girard Foundation to manage more than 100,000 pieces of his folk art collection. This enormous collection was donated to the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe in 1978 and recognized as the world’s largest folk art collection today.
After retiring from the design industry, many of Girard’s designs fell into disuse. Partnering with the Estate of Alexander Girard, a company called máXimo reintroduced Girard’s designs in 2000. Products available today include fabrics, cushions, wooden dolls, toys and carpet tiles. Girard’s unique, colorful and charming designs remain fresh and vibrant and are still cherished by many people today.