Textiles in Transit

Kirby Design collaborated with the London Underground to recreate these vintage textiles.

Hi, all,

I just found this cool article about the fabrics used in the London Underground. NYC uses all hard plastic surfaces and has for decades. But what if we did use fabrics for the subway seat cushions? What would they need to be to withstand the wear and tear of a given month of riders?

Guardian article about vintage textiles of London Underground

Many of the textile patterns used in London Underground and bus cushions date from the 1930s and 1940s and still have a bright, modern feeling. These have been so popular that the interior design company Kirby Design has collaborated with Transport for London to recreate 5 of these patterns for purchase by clients.

Kirby Design: Underground velvets

a patterned cloth of alternating rectangles in black, brown, gold and orange
A geometric moquette used on London’s District Line.


The fabric used is a hard wearing wool and nylon blend called moquette. The London Transport Museum recently launched an online exhibition discussing popular patterns and their design history.

London Transport Museum: The Moquette Project


Woman walking past vintage NYC subway car
Woman in vintage clothes walks up to vintage subway car in December, 2018. Photo by Scott Lynch for Gothamist


New York’s transit does not incorporate bright colors or textiles. But nostalgia for the buses and subway cars of the past is celebrated every December. For three Sundays in December, the MTA puts vintage subway cars and buses on short runs on a few popular routes and lines. New Yorkers often dress up in vintage clothes for the occasion. Gothamist did a great photo essay on last year’s riders.

Gothamist photo essay of vintage subway riders and their vintage dress and music

For more about historic subway cars, check out the NYC Transit Museum’s page on them:

New York Transit Museum: Holiday Nostalgia Rides




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