Jack Lenor Larsen (b. 1927), based in New York and of international reputation, has been deeply involved in the design of hand woven fabric and its application to modernist interior design. An international entrepreneur, Larsen also has written books on design and has been a frequent lecturer.
Larsen was born in Seattle, Washington to parents of Canadian/Scandinavian descent; his father was a building contractor. Larsen studied architecture at the University of Washington and became interested in materials design, receiving his M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan in 1951. Following graduation, he opened a studio in New York and established Jack Lenor Larsen Incorporated. Just months later, Larsen successfully competed for the commission to design draperies for the important glass walled Lever House building on Park Avenue designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.
Larsen was highly successful in marketing his ideas and innovations, which included combining metallic thread with natural polished linen and hand woven fabrics consisting of varied yarns in random and repeating patterns. This later style of fabric became known as the "Larsen Look" and was synonymous with modern design. Larsen's firm successfully adapted technological advances to fabric design but also used ancient techniques; they were first to design fabrics for jet air planes, stretch upholsestry and printed velvets.
In 1958-1960, Larsen represented the United States Department of State in Vietnam and Taiwan, studying those countries' crafts with the goal of developing industry to create jobs and products for export. Larsen then saw the opportunity for international fabric design and production. He travelled to Latin America, Africa and Asia to study local crafts and weaving with an eye towards business opportunites, focusing on hand spun and hand woven silks. By the 1990s Larsen was producing fabric in over 30 countries. In 1997, Jack Lenor Larsen, Inc. merged with the British fabric house, Cowtan and Tout and became the United States subsidiary of the British company, Colefax and Fowler.
Many museums have collected and/or exhibited Larsen fabrics. Notable among them are The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Musee des Arts Decoratifs (in the Louvre Museum), Museum of Modern Art, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In addition, Larsen is the author of several books relating to fabric and fabric design including Material Wealth: Living with Luxurious Fabrics (an international survey of contemporary fabric design) and an autobiography, Jack Lenor Larsen: A Weaver's Memoir.