Celia Birt6well was born in 1941. She studied Textile design in Manchester, where in 1959 she met the fashion designer Ossie Clark, to whom she was married in 1969. Theirs was an almost perfect marriage of style, and their work together defined the era.
The collaboration began with a 1966 collection for the "Quorum" boutique in London, which they shared with the designer Alice Pollock.
It was the Clarks who began the modern catwalk show: the previous procession of modeled clothes was put to music, the London glitterati was invited, and the shows became events.
Birtwell worked at home designing textiles for Clark, who would use his skill in cutting and understanding of form, together with her knowledge of fabrics and textures to produce haute couture for the emerging 60’s culture. This included work for the Rolling Stones and Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd, as well as Pattie Boyd, Marianne Faithfull, Bianca Jagger, Verushka, Paloma Picasso, Talitha Getty and numerous other international celebrities.
They had two children together, Albert (born 1969) and George (born 1972), but their private relationship could not match their professional, and they divorced in 1974 due to Clark's hedonistic lifestyle and his homosexual relationships.
After the break-up of her marriage Birtwell continued in fashion, designing for the Radley label for a time, until in 1984 she set up a shop on Westbourne Park Road in Bayswater selling fabrics for the home. Again she built up a reputation for innovative and witty design.
Her first success came with her own take on a 16th century animal print she called ‘Animal Solo’, followed later by the first, and much copied, white on white Voile and Muslin fabrics. These fabrics are now to be seen in many homes, hotels and public spaces, including Claridges and The Lanesbourough Hotels in London; The Grand Hotel, Leeds; The Dubai Hilton, and many more.
More recently in 2005 it was announced that she would design a collection for the high street chain Topshop to be sold in 2006.
She has been a muse for the painter, David Hockney since 1968, and features in his 1970 painting 'Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy', one of Hockney's most celebrated and one of the most viewed paintings in the Tate Britain gallery on Millbank.
In 2005 it featured on the Today programmer’s shortlist of 'the Great Painting in Britain'.