For the longest time, when thinking about the European textile and clothing industry, Nanushka was the only Hungarian name that came to mind. It wasn’t until our trip to Budapest that I learned about the country’s rich fashion history at the Goldberger Museum. In the former residence of the Goldberger family, we traced how a small family business turned into an internationally recognised textile mill, all the way down to a tragic end. Now, I want to give you a glimpse into the company’s success, as well as the personal story of the family behind it.
Visiting the Goldberger Textile Museum – opening hours and ticket prices
The museum is open daily between 10am and 6pm, with the exception of Mondays. Tickets are 1400 HUF for adults and 700 HUF for children (£3 and £1.5, respectively). The official website doesn’t mention it anywhere, so we were pleasantly surprised when we visited on the first Sunday of the month and got in for free! Entrance is very affordable either way, but I used the money to buy a cup of coffee afterwards. It was essentially like getting free coffee – and I can never say no to that!
How the Hungarian fashion industry all started
The history of the Goldberger family dates back to the 18th century. In 1784, they established a textile mill in the Óbuda neighbourhood. Textile dyeing is a water-intensive process, so opening a factory by the Danube river made perfect sense. It became famous for printing fabrics using indigo dyes. Several generations of Goldbergers led the factory through war-ridden years and financial hardships until it closed its doors for good in 1989. A decade later, it reopened as a museum that pays tribute to over 200 years of tradition. Here’s what you can expect from the Goldberger exhibition…
Inside the blue-dyeing workshop
There are two main themes throughout the exhibition. The first part focuses on the journey from a small family-owned workshop to a world-renowned factory. It illustrates the process of blue-dyeing in an interactive and engaging way – from the preparation of raw linen and indigo dye through mangling to textile printing.
The entire exhibition is very hands-on. You can become a blue painter apprentice and learn how to make indigo dye. There’s also a station where you can play around with various printing blocks. And if it makes you wonder whether you’d suit blue-dyed clothes yourself, there are a bunch of garments you can actually try on! Once I put on the closest thing to a dress I could find, an apron, I came to the conclusion I could definitely see myself rocking one of these…
The introduction of roller-printing
Another reason why the factory became so successful was the constant modernisation of manufacturing technologies. The exhibition shows how they evolved from the 1800s to the 1990s. Perhaps the most decisive factor was the installation of the roller-print, which revolutionised the process of textile printing. Not only did this invention allow the Goldbergers to print 8- and 12-colour patterns alongside blue dyeing. It also made carving complex patterns into printing cylinders much quicker – from 2-3 weeks to just a few hours!
By the 1930s, the mill had grown into the most developed and modern textile factory in Europe. Its output also significantly increased – at the time, the factory was able to market 1,500 patterns in 18,000 colour variations! Throughout the exhibition room, you can find various technological tools, pattern books, sketches, textile samples, and finished garments. There’s also a small loom where you can try your hand at weaving.
Or, if manual labour isn’t your thing, there’s a station where you can put your fashion styling skills to the test! What do you think about the outfits my boyfriend and I put together? Hey Anna, if you’re hiring, you know where to find me…
The factory’s operation
The second part focused on the impact of external factors on the factory’s operation and demise. It described the 1840s movement that supported independent Hungarian industries, resulting in the establishment of applied art exhibitions where domestic producers could present their offer.
The textile mill grew rapidly, becoming the fifth largest in Budapest by the beginning of the 1900s. The exhibition also shone some light on the 1908 textile industry crisis, which forced manufacturers to cut production and pushed the Goldberger factory to the edge of bankruptcy.
It was actually the outbreak of WWI that pulled the factory out of that state, as it fulfilled the army’s orders. In the post-war years, the company flourished under Leo Goldberger’s reign with the introduction of new silk-like material and regular fashion shows.
This cycle was broken when Leo Goldberger was arrested by the Gestapo and died in the Mauthausen concentration camp in 1944. The factory was then socialised. Since the 1960s, it operated under the name Budaprint, but it was unable to maintain the high quality of products. Despite Leo Goldberger’s daughter’s best efforts to revitalise the factory, it went bankrupt and closed its doors in 1989.
Did you find this post interesting? Check out the rest of my fashion exhibition reviews from around the world!
Whether you’re interested in the textile industry or simply love visiting unique museums, I would definitely recommend the Goldberger Museum! As someone who had no prior knowledge of the Hungarian textile industry, I found it really enlightening without overloading you with information. My favourite part was all the interactive elements, and it means that entire families can enjoy the exhibition. Who knows, you may find your true calling as a designer/stylist too!
Would you consider visiting the Goldberger Museum? And would you like to try on any of these blue-dyed garments?