Muriel Pemberton was born in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, on 8 September 1909.
Muriel was the daughter of Thomas Henry Pemberton who was a skilled amateur painter and photographic innovator. He invented a one-camera stereoscopic process. Her mother, Alice Pemberton, née Smith, retired from her career as a professional singer when she married. She was also a gifted designer and needlewoman.
At the age of fifteen, Muriel Pemberton was the youngest student at the Burslem School of Art. In 1928, she obtained a scholarship and received an award to attend the School of Painting at the Royal College of Art in London. In 1931, she was awarded the RCA’s first ever Diploma in Fashion. Pemberton persuaded the head of the school of design, Professor Ernest William Tristram, to introduce such a course. He then asked her to draft the curriculum.
Following graduation in 1931, Pemberton was employed to teach fashion drawing at St Martin’s School of Art. Over time, she was able to expand this role and became head of the UK’s first Faculty of Fashion and Design. The curriculum was much as she had originally proposed to Tristram.
Pemberton’s innovative approach to teaching fashion gave it a proper place in the art college curriculum. It attracted international attention. Her methods were widely copied. Teachers visited her from all over the world to study her approach.
Pemberton died at St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, on 30 July 1993.