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Posts from the ‘Fashion’ Category

Bath in Fashion 2015

Bath in Fashion gives the historic spa city its chance to show, tell and share fashion stories whether historical, bang up to date or revealing what’s coming next. Now in its sixth year, the event attracts some of the biggest fashion players with many talks and events staged in the Georgian Assembly Rooms, where the fashionable set of 18th Century Bath crowded to be seen.

Jolly's window display for Bath in Fashion

This year the city welcomed designers from established names such as Anna Sui and Roksanda Ilinic to the latest Fashion Week sensation Ed Marler, and fashion commentators including Susie Lau and Grazia’s Suzannah Frankel. Unfortunately I was out of the country for most of the events, but was still lucky enough to be one of the first to hear the Dress of the Year announcement, learn more about the art of embroidery and sit frow at one of the catwalk shows.

yarnbomb Bath in Fashion

Fashion permeated the city via these colourful yarn bombs by Emma Leith & creative crocheters raising money for Kids Company.

Dress of the Year reveal

The Bath in Fashion audience was in for a treat as the Dress of the Year 2014 was revealed. Gareth Pugh’s plastic dress was chosen by editor-in-chief of Love Magazine, Katie Grand. The announcement closed an event charting the making of a fashion book, Dress of the Year, celebrating 50 years of the scheme with author Richard Lester, Bath Fashion Museum manager, Rosemary Harden and publisher, Matthew Freedman.

At the end of the talk, Rosemary Harden unveiled the winner, and we were invited downstairs from the Assembly Rooms tea room to the out of hours Fashion Museum for a sneak peak at the Dress of the Year.

Dress of the Year reveal at Bath in Fashion

It had to be the Pugh dress for Katie Grand:

“I’m delighted to have been asked to select the Dress of the Year and to me Gareth’s plastic dress sums up 2014. I like the idea of how fancy and complex the dress is in structure, yet made of something so disposable. I had a super time photographing this with David Sims for Love 12; it was so easy as it gives a couture silhouette yet is ‘punk’, it’s Edwardian, forties, seventies and two thousands all at the same time. It is familiar in its historical references yet utterly new in its execution.”

Watch the Dress of the Year in the context of Pugh’s collection:

 

The sculptural piece comprises a tube dress which has iridescent plastic wrapped around to make a coat tied with a Japanese inspired obi belt. The wedge boots and trousers merge into one twisted around the leg. The everyday material of the dress contrasts with the architectural structure of the design (Rosemary Harden said it was like hanging a Dior).

Gareth Pugh's Dress of the Year in the Fashion Museum

Plastic is a recurrent material in Pugh’s work, and for the designer:

“I love the fact that is has such industrial connotations. The idea of making something beautiful from something that is generally used in a much more heavy-duty way is very interesting. It’s also an innately modern material and implies a mechanized method of production, which I think provides an interesting counterpoint to the labor-intensive handwork and historicism that is quite often present in my work.”

The idea of using throw-away, unwanted materials to create a beautiful garment swishing down the catwalk is appealing – and even better if recycled plastic. What do you think of Katie Grand’s choice of Dress of the Year?

The Dress of the Year story

Initiated by costume collector, Doris Langley Moore (pictured below), the founder of the Fashion Museum in Bath in 1963, the Dress of the Year scheme is a powerful and astute concept.  A leading fashion voice is invited to choose the outfit which encapsulates the year. The scheme works well in PR and marketing terms with a clear story to sell in to the press. But it also adds to Fashion Museum’s collection, as the outfits are donated at no cost ready to delight fashion historians and designers alike.

The selector of the Dress of the Year is almost as important as the designer. Colin McDowell, fashion writer says:

“But it was the Dress of the Year, initiated in 1963, that was the most exciting thing of all because it took account of a new profession in the fashion world: that of the professional fashion journalist who was an expert in her (or, indeed his) field.

“Previously, newspaper editors thought that fashion could be lumped together with cookery, flower arrangement and knitting as subjects that any female journalists could write about. But, by the time swinging London was born, the role of a fashion journalist was as specialist and precisely focussed as that of a theatre, art of music critic, a position it still holds today.”

For the first three years of Dress of the Year, the Fashion Writers’ Association were the pickers but then, marking their increasing power, fashion journalists were granted the honour. Significantly, Susie Lau of top fashion blog, Style Bubble, was the selector last year, showing the influence of style blogs, choosing the Christopher Kane dress below.

Christopher Kane Dress of the Year

Another quirky feature of the Dress of the Year is that each time a mannequin is designed and donated by Adel Rootstein Display Mannequins and styled to match the chosen fashions – and sometimes has a resemblance to the selector or model of the period.

The art of embroidery

Earlier in the afternoon, Rosemary Harden shared her obvious love and knowledge of fashion history and admiration for embroidery, stressing the art of the craft. I was reminded of artist Hannah Höch, who wrote a manifesto on embroidery urging women to take up the form.

“Embroidery is very closely related to painting. It is constantly changing with every new style each epoch brings. It is an art and ought to be treated like one… you, craftswomen, modern women, who feel that your spirit is in your work, who are determined to lay claim to your rights (economic and moral), who believe your feet are firmly planted in reality, at least Y-O-U should know that your embroidery work is a documentation of your own era.”

(Embroidery and Lace, 1918)

The story of embroidery was told from being an ecclesiastic and royal preserve right up to its appearance in the Dress of the Year in the early 21st century. Embroidery features heavily in Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen in 2011 with her snow queen evening dress combining embroidery with symmetrical cutting to the skirt. Embroidery is again brought up to date in Raf Simons for Christian Dior which won in 2012 (below).

Raf Simon for Dior Dress of the  Year 2012

Vintage Jaeger

Young Jaeger won the Dress of the Year in 1966 with a black and white linen mini dress, worn with a space age visor hat by Simone Mirman and a clear PVC coat by  Michèle Rosier. Ernestine Carter from the Sunday Times was the first editor to choose a Dress of the Year replacing the Fashion Writers’ Association. The Young Jaeger label was very much of its time aimed at 20 and 30 somethings with disposable income, who desired to look different from their parents’ generation.

Jaeger, one of the sponsors of Bath in Fashion, had a display mixing vintage with current trends illustrating the fashion conversations which go back and forth in time.

Jaeger vintage display at Bath in Fashion

Jaeger wool at Bath in Fashion display

Jaeger display mixing vintage and new

Jollys statue

Spring/Summer 2015 Frow

chandelier in the Assembly Rooms Bath

In a spot of mid-week indulgence with my Mum, we headed to Bath in Fashion for a frow seat to view Spring/Summer 2015 designs. The seventies influence was apparent right from the start with high waist trousers, suede skirts and victoriana lace necked blouses, whilst the warm colour palette took us far from chilly Bath. Kimonos, fringing, culottes, head to toe white and bold floral patterns are all wearable versions of the high couture Spring/Summer looks.

Mirror Assembly Rooms Bath

catwalk shot at Bath in Fashion Spring Summer 2015

A fine vintage 

Time to check out your local vintage store for a touch of seventies or invest in pieces which will not date this time next year but still nod to the trends, such as Kitty Ferreira’s colour palette.

After the catwalk show, we headed to Bea’s Vintage Tearoom round the corner for coffee and buttermilk scones. A perfect end to our visit to this fashionable city.

Bea's Vintage Bath

vintage ornament in Bea's Tearoom Bath

vintage mirrors in Bea's Tearoom Bath

If only I could have caught more of the talks at Bath in Fashion… but I will put it my diary for 2016, and in the meantime enjoy browsing through all 50 Dresses of the Year for vintage influences at my leisure.

Ethical fashion meets city chic: Kitty Ferreira

For ethical fashion houses moving from ‘green’ ghetto to city chic can be tough. But Kitty Ferreira shows how it’s done.

I came across the brand recently at a Fashion SOURCE Brand Preview event, where it really stood out.

The sustainable fashion business oozes both style – vivid colour palette, unique patterns, and wearable designs – and substance in terms of timeless design, sustainability, and innovative business practices. Kitty Ferreira exemplifies how ethical fashion can break through.

Kitty Ferreira Zephaniah trousers

As a marketing consultant, I’m interested in how brands manage to promote themselves as ethical, but with broader appeal. Valerie Goode, London College of Fashion graduate, the woman behind Kitty Ferreira, kindly agreed to fill me in on her sustainable business.

Valerie Goode

Valerie Goode, Creative MD and Founder of Kitty Ferreira

Inspired by past generations

Working as a senior womanswear designer in China and witnessing so much pollution was her inspiration to start up a sustainable brand. As she worked on ways to reduce the fashion carbon footprint, her thoughts turned to her grandmother, the eponymous Kitty Ferreira.

“I then began thinking about my grandmother’s lifestyle in the Caribbean, growing her own fruit and veg, going to the market to buy her chickens and goats, which she would keep in her yard, and used to feed her family. The general ‘make and make do’ ethos that was very much part of my upbringing.

“So for me, being ethical and sustainable is not a fad. Rather it’s about celebrating the way she had lived and generations before her, as the norm. This throw away and over consuming society we’ve all grown accustomed to is actually not what is normal and definitely isn’t right.”

sustainable fashion pieces.

Natural dyes: veg patch to catwalk

Sustainability runs through Kitty Ferreira from its exclusive production in the UK to manufacturing high quality garments built to last past the current fast fashion trend. Sourcing textiles is of course paramount, especially as dyeing has such an impact on the environment. (An average t-shirt will use 16-20 litres of water Cambridge University, Well Dressed report).

Rather than producing new fabrics exclusively for the latest collection, Kitty Ferreira sources upcycled materials and uses a hand-dying process inspired by practices from the West Indies. For instance, the Delice Dress (pictured below) is made using upcycled lightweight wool from the UK, and the sheer sleeves and waistband are created through eco dyeing using onion and pomegranate.

Kitty Ferreira Delice dress

 Valerie explains:

“These natural materials are also used to dye fabrics as a traditional technique originating from India – a large Indian community within the West Indies has created beautiful juxtapositions of cultures including cuisine. I came across pomegranate and onion skin dyes and tested out various degrees of colour intensity (it’s amazing how many shades of colour originates from one natural material), until I finally settled on the version you see on the website.”

Kitty Ferreira Pomonion coat Kitty Ferreira Pomonion Shirt

And the theme continues in the names of her silk shirts – Saffron, Cinnamon and Spice. This hand-dying process means that each print is unique offering a piece of bespoke luxury without the associated price tag.

Sustainability – an added benefit

The clothes speak for themselves in fashion terms, and the brand is aimed at the city set, who may not immediately be connected with ‘ethical’ fashion. For Valerie:

“I’m a Londoner born and bred, so a city girl at heart. I cannot ignore the more ‘sustainable’ values my parents have taught me, so the collection really is a juxtaposition of these two different worlds. The collection therefore has been designed in a city chic way, items you can from boardroom-2-bar, work and play; timeless silhouettes that can work with a variety of your existing wardrobe.”

Kitty Ferreira Petal Dress

The brand’s eye-catching yet timeless mix ‘n match pieces make them highly coveted by fashion fans, and also back up its slow fashion credentials. Valerie continues:

“Timeless is also a key word here, as following fashion trends is not part of the Kitty Ferreira ethos – rather knowing yourself enough to wear what feels right for you. They see that each garment can be worn for multiple purposes.

“It has been quite easy therefore, for people to recognise a good design with the sustainability angle being an added benefit.”

Innovative partnerships

Kitty Ferreira is also sustainable in terms of encouraging the next generation to enter the industry. The brand won an award from the Royal College of Art to train disadvantaged young people to offer a made-to-measure service to their customers of city professionals. Valerie said, “It’s all encompassing – from UK job creation and juxtaposing a luxury service with a down-to-earth conscious ethos.”

Kitty Ferreira lace shorts

Kitty Ferreira’s just returned from The Green Closet, a trade show in Milan, where they hope to secure further orders on top of those from other European boutiques. And Valerie has just been named runner-up with special commendation in the SCAP Extending the Life of Clothes Award (SCAP ELC Award).

I’m looking forward to seeing what this brand does next, but for now I’ll end on Valerie’s inspiring views about the fashion industry as a whole:

“Being ethical and sustainable is not a fad but rather a lifestyle choice and indeed a mindset. How models are shown are all reflective of an industry or institution that could do with a shaking up. This is what being sustainable & ethical is really all about- encompassing all aspects of life, not just fashion.”

 

What do you think about Kitty Ferreira’s designs and sustainable business model?  Tweet me at @carolynhair, contact me on Google + or Linkedin, or add a comment.

Beats, portraits and tennis coats

As it’s now the weekend, here are three cultural treats of my week…

Hey Daddio, it’s Beat Girl

Swinging cats, strippers and squares all star in Beat Girl (dir, Gréville, 1960), an exploitation film revelling in the seedy side of Soho and the bad deeds of 1950s teens. The soundtrack by the John Barry Seven is the epitome of hip coffee bar cool. Just check out the entrance of the eponymous, rebellious ‘Beat Girl’, Jennifer (played by Gillian Hills) in the opening credits (and a young, zoned out Oliver Reed).

Jennifer is disgusted when her father remarries a much younger French women, Nicole, and sets out to reveal her stepmother’s murky past. One of the movie posters proclaims – “my mother was as stripper, I want to be one too”. Another warns, “this could happen to your teenage daughter”, but the moral panic offers an excuse to linger on lengthy strip scenes, explicit for the time.

The post-war generational divide is addressed awkwardly in the film, with the disaffected young men discussing their experiences of growing up during Blitz and hiding out in the underground, just like the cavernous clubs they now swing in.

In contrast, City 2000 is the obsession of Jennifer’s architect father, offering a rather sterile vision of the future, and her rebellion is a way to get attention from him. Ultimately, after she gets into danger with strip club owner (played by Christopher Lee), she is pulled back into the family unit.

While Beat Girl is not quite “over and out”, it’s worth a watch for the “straight out of the fridge” lingo, Gillian Hill’s pouty, beatnik disdain, and the recurring theme song. You dig.

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2012

For an afternoon treat this week, I headed to see the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition. You can explore some of the chosen photos in this gallery. This portrait photography competition received over 5,000 entries, which were narrowed down to the 60 displayed in the exhibition. There weren’t any portraits which I felt would linger with me long after the exhibition, but I enjoyed seeing the variety of contemporary photos from the famous to family, from friends of the photographers to those they met on the street. Most of the portraits were staged, whether strictly commercial or not, and often full of drama and imagined stories behind their faces.

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2012 M Shed

A sense of discomfort emanates from the winning portrait, Margarita Teichroeb (2011) by Jordi Ruiz Cirera, and as a viewer you wonder why the subject of the piece is covering her mouth and whether you or the photographer should be sharing this moment. Margarita is from a Mennonite community in Bolivia, living without electricity and cars, and where photography is often forbidden. The photographer spent time with them, but they were very uncertain about having their portraits taken (understandable in the circumstances). You can see blurred glimpses of her mother and sister in the background, in the context of the photo, seeming to shield themselves from the camera’s gaze. In comparison the second prize-winner, captures a woman at ease, almost incidentally naked with a chipped mug in her hand.

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2012 is on at the M-Shed in Bristol until 3 November. This year’s prize starts on 14 November until 9 February 2014 at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Tennis Coats… at last

When in Tokyo, we wanted to say “sayonara” to the city by going a gig on the final night of our holiday. One of the city’s coolest married couples, the Tennis Coats (Saya & Takashi Ueno), were playing so we headed off to see them, got a little bit lost and ended up arriving just as they were playing their last song. (We hadn’t realised that the main act plays first in Japan, but at least we got to see the support act.)

Serendipitously this week, I noticed they were playing a surprise gig at Cafe Kino in Bristol. Although both feeling a little under the weather, we knew the holiday circle had to be completed. We came away feeling more than a little warm and fuzzy. Memories of our time in Japan, combined with the lovely, mellow but energetic atmosphere the musicians created, delightful tunes and the way that random people took to the stage throughout to join the act. A perfect way to spend a Tuesday evening.

What were your cultural highlights this week?

Fix Up Look Sharp Pop-Up


tenket

Upcycled fashion at its best – the tenket. Last used perhaps to shelter revellers at a festival, now still keeping them dry, but in a little more style.

Tent and t-shirts Fix Up Look Sharp Popup

The tent was sartorially transformed by fashion label, Fix Up Look Sharp, whose upcycled and vintage fashion will be on sale today and tomorrow at Cabot Circus in Bristol. The pop-up proceeds will all go to CLIC Sargent, a charity for children and young people with cancer and their families.

Fix Up Look Sharp is run by the charity, and a large donation of tents lead to the tenkets, while other unloved, donated fabrics from bed sheets to curtains are used to create one-offs. The Fix Up Look Sharp fashion brand was created by Ruth Strugnell, fashion graduate and deputy manager of the Bishopston CLIC Sargent charity shop, and her partner Gemma Pope.

The pop-up shop got off to a flying start yesterday, opening earlier than planned with passersby keen to have a browse, and selling a tie-dye fix in the first five minutes. I attended the launch event on behalf of Bristol Ecojam, an online space to share green events, jobs and organisations in Bristol.

Fix Up Look Sharp popup shop

Upcycling is certainly a greener way to indulge in fashion. Research by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) shows that around £140 million of textiles are sent to landfill every year in the UK, around 350,000 tonnes. Reusing fabrics is cheaper than recycling, and reduces this shocking amount of waste languishing in landfills and the resultant greenhouse gases. And of course in fashion terms, upcycling means that you get a one-off so you won’t turn up to the party in the same chain store outfit.

The designers will be ready to create bespoke pieces in the store, so that you can see how the fix happens and get involved. Choose your hitherto unwanted fabrics, and go home with an original piece.

Mood board Fix Up Look Sharp popup

sweatshirts at Fix Up Look Sharp

Bikini and skirt Fix Up Look Sharp popup

The upcycled range includes playsuits, sweatshirts with reused fabrics, tie-up shirts and menswear, as well as vintage clothing, accessories and retro bric-a-brac. With the pop-up’s sunny, relaxed vibe, I couldn’t resist grabbing a vintage summer frock (which I’ll need to nip and tuck a little). Only because it’s for a good cause of course…

So if you’re in Bristol, head to Fix Up, Look Sharp’s pop-up in Cabot Circus Glass Walk One today and tomorrow. Enjoy seeking out your own upcycled outfit or vintage piece, and raise money for CLIC Sargent. Let me know what you find…

If you can’t make in person, you can still get your hands on upcycled style at asos marketplace.

Sewing machines Fix Up Look Sharp

Couture in Colour: Abraham’s silks in Antwerp at the Fashion Museum

Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Balenciaga… you may know their haute couture designs, but how much do you know about the fabrics that give body to their creations?

On a recent visit to Antwerp’s fashion museum, I learnt a little more about the luscious fabrics that give couture its colour. The Musée de Mode’s (MoMu) latest display is ‘Silks and Prints from the Abraham Archive: Couture in Colour.’ This fashion exhibition combines beautiful fabrics hanging like works of arts, key haute couture pieces and photographs from the Abraham Archive – a Swiss silk company, whose work is intertwined with couture from the 1930s onwards.

Haute couture and Abraham Ltd

Abraham Ltd meant nothing to me before attending the exhibition. The origins of this Swiss silk company can be traced to 1878, but it was not until after World War II that it became an international fashion heavyweight. In the 1930s, Abraham was run by Gustav Zumsteg, who mingled in the artistic environment of 1930s Paris with the likes of Georges Braque, Marc Chagall and Alberto Giacometti, and famous fashion designers, including Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior, Elsa Schiaparelli and Yves Saint Laurent. This creative atmosphere influenced his designs, helping to position him as one of the top fabric suppliers to haute couture designers.

swatches of Abrahams fabric

Abraham archives interactive swatch files

Prêt-à-porter from the 1960s ushered in a new era for Abraham Ltd; as the demand for high quality silks diminished, they adapted to the high-end ready-to-wear market. In 1995, when the firm’s collaboration with Yves Saint Laurent ended, Abraham’s time was numbered. The company may have closed in 2002, but they left behind an extensive archive of textiles, sample books and fashion photographs telling a vibrant story of twentieth century extravagance and couture.

Christian Dior and Abraham partnership

Dior’s New Look, with its luxurious and excessive fabric contrasting with war-time austerity, was a perfect match for Abraham’s high quality silks, and thus an important fashion partnership was born in the 1950s.

Dior exhibit Fashion Museum Antwerp

This sweet, but nonetheless grown-up, Dior cocktail dress exemplifies the 1950s silhouette and style. Abraham’s flower print, “Apricotine” could hardly be more aptly named.

Dior orange dress

Yves Saint Laurent and Abraham

Yves Saint Laurent met Gustav Zumsteg at Christian Dior’s funeral in 1957, marking the start of a working relationship and lifelong friendship. The red and black silk satin dress from 1985 was the stand-out piece for me, with its bustle and large exotic flowers spreading across the fabric.

Yves Saint Laurent dresses

Balenciaga and Abraham

Balenciaga also came to Abraham for fabric, in particular for gazar (a crisp, sheer, plain-weave silk cloth), which was a speciality of this silk manufacturer, and was perfect for Balenciaga’s sculptural creations.

Fashion Museum Antwerp Balanciaga and monochrome display

Balanciaga black dress in the centre

Balanciaga blue dress Fashion Museum Antwerp

Fabrics everywhere

Fabrics weaved throughout the exhibition providing, not just a pretty backdrop to the fashions on display, but literally the material for them. From checks and animal prints to monochrome, from matte to sheen, a wide range of Abraham textiles, textures and patterns were on show.

monochrome fabrics hanging

Monochrome fabrics

Checked fabric fashion museum Antwerp

animal prints - fashion museum

Fashion Photo from Museum of Fashion Antwerp MoMu

Luxurious fabrics hanging Fashion Museum Antwerp

Flowers, and in particular roses, were a recurrent motif in Abraham’s designs, from traditional bouquets to more abstract, larger patterns.

Roses fabrics

roses catwalk

Fabricand shadows Fashion Museum Antwerp

Luxury shines through these heavy, glittering cloths. The high production costs of such fabrics meant that they were often the preserve of haute couture.

Luxurious fabrics Fashion Museum Antwerp

Givenchy and Abraham

Givenchy, whose fashion idol was Balenciaga, also collaborated with Abraham Ltd. Givenchy has become synonymous for dressing two stars in particular: Audrey Hepburn appeared in Givenchy on screen, for instance in Sabrina (for which costume designer Edith Head won an Oscar), and Jackie O wore one of his designs to JFK’s funeral. The yellow evening dress and cape below is from 1973 in silk gazar, and the similarities in shape between it and the blue Balenciaga dress (pictured above) are apparent.

Givenchy evening dress in yellow gazar

Givenchy dress black and green

The Givenchy piece above from 1987 is made from Abraham silk in crêpe de chine falconné imprimé. Although the puffball feature would probably be best avoided by almost everybody, this dress with its 1940s silhouette stood out for me (perhaps a nostalgia trip to the 1980s and reminiscent of a dress that my Mum wore and loved).

Kronenhalle

Towards the start of the display, this sweet table-for-two tableau greeted visitors. It represents Kronenhalle restaurant, a Zurich institution with a guestbook of the big names of the time across the spectrum from politics to art. Gustav Zumsteg helped his mother, Hulda, run the business and used the restaurant to house his growing art collection. His artistic connections helped in designing the restaurant: Alberto and Diego Giacometti designed lamps and other furnishings for its bar which was designed by Robert Haussman.

Kronenhalle Zurich at Fashion Museum Antwerp

Before Pinterest…

Long before Pinterest, the pleasure of preserving memories and aspirations was played out through cutting out and sticking in scrapbooks. On display were twenty scrapbooks from between 1947 and 1996 creating a picture book history of fashion, textiles and Abraham Ltd. 

Scrapbooks at Fashion Museum Antwerp

The Abraham Textile Archive is housed at the Swiss National Museum. Abraham Ltd began archiving professionally in 1955 preserving 50 years of creativity, and I imagine this collection would be invaluable to fashion students and designers now.

Fashion Museum Antwerp Musee de Mode MoMu

I would recommend an Antwerp adventure full stop, and if you do, check out the Fashion Museum (MoMu). “Silk and Prints: From the Abraham Archive: Couture in Colour” is on until 11 August 2013.

Michael Jackson’s costumes by Michael Bush

Watching Michael Jackson’s Thriller (Landis, 1982) for the first time at a friend’s birthday party as a kid must rank as one my earliest cultural treats.

Videos were much more of an event in the 1980s anyway, and with music videos still in their infancy, there was an aura of anticipation of watching this extended horror pastiche. Primarily it was the dancing that we loved, but with Jackson, the style is as stage-crafted as the moves.

Michael Jackson costumes at Michael Bush talk

So I was intrigued to hear more about the man behind the King of Pop’s costumes, Michael Bush, who was interviewed by Ali Vowles as part of Bath in Fashion. Bush (as the other Michael called him) has just written, The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson – the first art-driven book about his costumes. Although it was Deborah Nadoolman Landis who derived the iconic red jacket from Thriller, Bush along with his late partner, Dennis Tompkins created 800 to 900 costumes for Michael Jackson over a 25 year period, and was the only person whom the iconic pop-star would allow on stage with him. Indeed Bush and Tompkins’ names have been sewn into all the costumes at Michael Jackson’s insistence.

Back in his childhood home of Ohio, Bush used to watch his grandmother dress-making, thinking it was the last thing he wanted to do with his life. However it must have been in his blood, albeit with a showman’s twist, as he headed to Las Vegas to work in show business, which gave him valuable experience in creating fashion designed for performance.

Dressing Michael Jackson was a constant challenge to combine elaborate show-stoppers with functionality. Jackson wanted outfits that were ready for ‘showtime’ and matched his performance on stage, with his outfits “as entertaining on the hanger as they were on him”. Complex dance moves necessitated costumes that could absorb sweat without damaging the fabric, and multiple versions of his outfits were created as during a stage performance Jackson could lose four to five pounds, so needed different-sized trousers for the beginning and end of the show. It was also useful as Bush admitted that Jackson would often give his outfits away to fans or friends. Costume changes were designed to fit in with the songs and energy levels, so they might start with a lightweight piece for the vigorous numbers, heavier jackets for ballads, and returning to lighter fabrics for the finale. The belt pictured above may look too heavy to dance in, but Ali Vowles picked it up for the audience to prove it was actually lightweight, created from thin gold.

Michael Jackson red heels boots

A regal fashion influence was only fitting for the ‘King of Pop’, for instance pearls nod to King Henry VIII’s, while red heels are drawn from Louis XIV (pictured above). During Louis XIV’s reign, red signified wealth and power as the cost of red dyes was high, but he went further and created an edict so that only nobility could buy red heeled shoes. Emphasising strength and masculinity, military styles with embellishment and wide shoulders are another Michael Jackson staple. Authenticity was important to Jackson, so Bush sourced originals such as military buttons. He once discovered 300 military buttons from a dealer in Camden Lock without name-checking Jackson. The dealer would have been pleased with the final owner as he confided in Bush, “if only Michael Jackson could see them!” Bush told of how he and Tompkins were paid by Jackson to visit the UK to get inspiration from the Crown Jewels – it was important to soak up the aura of majesty. Movie influences are also evident from gangster films, hence the fedora hat and spats shoes (pictured below) as well as taking inspiration from street style.

The costumes were also part of the ‘Michael Jackson’ performance. Short trousers (which grew shorter and shorter) helped draw attention to his dancing feet and rhinestone socks which sparkled under the stage lights, and he liked to ensure that people at the back of large auditoria could see the tiny details too. Jackson also wanted to illicit a questioning response from the audience, by adding quirks, such as a band on one arm.

Michael Jackson shoes

The craftsmanship and technical effort that went into creating the costumes was immense, such as the single glittering, sequinned white glove, or the anti-gravity shoes. These high-tech shoes, which were patented by Jackson, Bush and Tompkins, allowed Jackson or his dancers to lean beyond their centre of gravity via a special heel which slotted into the stage. Despite all this fancy footwear, he always wore loafers to practice dancing – an everyday brand called Florsheim.

At the end of the interview, an audience member asked Bush where he’d got his cowboy boots. (I’m sure we’d all been wondering… ) He answered London, and asserted it was the best place to buy them. There, I have to disagree – it’s Bath. My boyfriend bought my trusty cowboy boots in The Yellow Shop, and they have been re-heeled and re-heeled. It will truly be a sad day when the cobbler finally says, enough.

Over 1,000 lots of Jackson items were auctioned last December, and 55 of them caught the eye of Lady Gaga, who is keeping them Stateside in the public domain. You can find out more about Michael Jackson’s costumes by reading Michael Bush’s book, King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson. There is also a interesting piece on the influences on Jackson’s style in ‘Worn Through‘.

Who’s your fashion pop idol? Let me know in the comments box below.

A young dance troop gave a surprise performance before the interview to a mash-up of ‘Thriller’ and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs’, ‘Heads Will Roll. But I’ll finish with the original Thriller moves…

Vintage Fashion fair – Bath in Fashion

What better way to spend a spring Sunday than a meander around a vintage fashion fair? And that’s exactly what I did last week at Bath VA Fashion Fair during Bath in Fashion week. The vintage fashion fair was the culmination of a week of fashion in the city, and over 50 traders came along to enjoy a vintage day out. Victory rolls were curled on demand courtesy of Artizan, tunes from yesteryear (and now) belted out, and vintage cocktails were supposedly supped (which alas I missed). Here are some of the styles and vintage-lovers I met along the way…

Summer is coming…

Straw hats and sunglasses embody vintage glamour, and made me yearn for summer days.

Vintage fashion fair - sunhat with sunglasses

Vintage Fashion Fair - big eyed dummy in a sunhat

vintage glasses

Refound Reloved

Refound Reloved was the first stall I stumbled upon, full of vintage fashion and objects for the home to covet. I just had to snap one of its owners in her fabulous 1950s rock ‘n roll style.

typewriter

refound reloved woman

Vintage dolls and toys at Bath Antiques Vintage Fashion Fair

Charmed by two ladies in vintage

Kate’s Cottage stall-holder and my lovely friend Emma (on the left) from Come Step Back in Time look gorgeous in their vintage outfits I think you’ll agree. Emma is a clever seamstress, and her dress was made using a modern Butterick Retro pattern ’55 (B5556). The gloves are original 1950s, belonging to her late grandmother, whilst her handbag (pictured below) is courtesy of me. Her ‘make do and mending’ is inspirational – in a previous life the faux-fur hat she is wearing, was a large hat brought from M & S, but she cut-off the rim (which she used as a collar on a black cardigan) and this left her with a 1950s style pillbox faux leopard hat.

Kathryn and Emma

fake leopard skin bag

vintage fabric and mirror

70s blue lady photo

Cock-a-Doodle Vintage

This pitch of 1940s and 1950s men’s and women’s fashion really stood out for me. Partly because of the cool Americana style mannequins, but mostly due to the smiling faces and vintage style of the owners. If you fancy an outfit from the post-war rock ‘n roll years, go and meet them at several upcoming vintage events.

Cock a Doodle Do  stand

couple

Baseball shirts from Cock a doodle vintage

Vintage reporter

It was a pleasure to meet Kate, Junior Vintage reporter for Vintage Explorer. Her faux-fur coat and vintage-coiffed do by Artizan at the event, completed her glamorous look perfectly. She also created the cute vintage tap rings below, which could help you make stylish hand signals.

Kate

Kate's button rings

hat on mannequin

Colour everywhere

Camera in hand, I enjoyed browsing the fair taking snaps of the colours, shapes and styles.

Vintage fashion stand

Pink

Coloured threads

vintage hat

red velvet hat

vintage military style

Time for tea

On any vintage shopping trip, there comes a time when you just need to take off your gloves, powder your nose…

vintage gloves and compacts

… and enjoy tea and cake. On this occasion with the lovely people from Velvet Teas.

cupcakes

vintage tea cups

Vintage tea rooms

A very vintage romance…

I loved the way this couple’s style seemed to match up. And indeed it was more than just compatible looks, Lucy and David were at the fair to declutter and save for their wedding. Congratulations!

engaged couple

kids books and bags

vintage bags

Gin and It Girl 

The prize for vintage store name of the day would certainly go to Gin and It Girl. And there are lots of ‘It’ girls on display as backings for these wonderful vintage brooches below.

Gin and IT Girl Brooches

Gin and It Girl Looking at Clothes

Shoes

The shoes on the right seem to be trying to step away from the others… and asking me to buy them. But I resisted.

shoes set apart

Thanks to Bath in Fashion and Bath VA Vintage for a perfect Sunday trip down vintage lane…

Bath VA Vintage Fashion Fair at Green Station for Bath in Fashion

Vintage fun to try at home or at a fair near you …

Fashion your future: top 10 tips for getting a career in fashion

Fashion may be your lifeblood, but how do you make a living from the passion in your veins?

That’s what I aimed to find out at Fashion your Future, a free Bath in Fashion event last weekend.

Fashion your future panel at Bath in Fashion

Fashion your Future was hosted by Louise Pickles, Head of Fashion at Bath Spa University and Creative Director of Bath in Fashion, with a panel comprising fashion professionals from a variety of roles in the industry from design to fashion writing. The experts were:

  • Seren Colley, Menswear Design, Tom Ford
  • Emma Askew-Miller, Senior Lecturer in Pattern Cutting, Bath Spa University
  • Marie Baluti, Product Developer Knitwear, Ben Sherman
  • Meera Stannard, Assistant Buyer, Liberty
  • Naomi Smart, Fashion Features Assistant, Vogue
  • Chloe Jones, Bath Spa University Graduate and winner of the Gold Award at Graduate Fashion Week 2012

Informative and perhaps a reality check, the discussion gave me a greater insight into the processes and job roles involved.  I was surprised at the limited amount of time allocated for pure design – although, Seren Colley from Tom Ford, travels to get inspiration for the collections, she only has three weeks to transform her concepts into garment designs, with the rest of the time more about refining and product development.

So, do you want a dream job in fashion? I’ve tried to distil the panel discussion into top 10 tips.

1. Passion

With the fast-pace of the industry, long hours, and hundreds of competitors ready to knock you off your stilettos, you really need to be sustained by fashion.

2. Teamwork

As with many cultural industries, the myth of the sole artist or star designer may be overplayed. The panel illustrated the need for teamwork in the ‘fashion family’, for instance the collaboration between the designer and pattern cutter. Divas need not apply.

3. Internship

From listening to the panel, it sounds as if an internship is an essential step in securing a fashion industry post. Louise Pickles admitted that it may not be right, but often working for free was expected. Unpaid internships certainly can exclude those who are economically disadvantaged, and in the current competitive job market, this trend will surely grow unless there is legislation or incentives to pay interns. Of course, this is not just in fashion but in a variety of sectors, particularly the arts. In fashion, it also seems to be the catch-22 of agencies not working for you until you have some experience…

4. Be a sponge

… but all this means you need to maximise any opportunities work experience or un/paid internships bring. Each member of the panel reiterated this, and urged soaking up all you can like a sponge. Pattern cutting expert, Emma Askew-Miller challenged everyone to learn something new every day.

5. Connections

It’s a cliché, but the connections you make are vital for your career, and from your first placement or job onward you should be building relationships which can help you in the future. Pretty much everyone had got a job from knowing a man or woman who knows a man or woman…

6. Don’t be defined by your role

Even if you are looking to get into a particular function or area, don’t be too confined by this and take opportunities when they arise. Seren, although trained in menswear, took a first position in women’s fashion, whilst Naomi too tested out different skills at Vogue. For Chloe, a recent graduate, she found that each of her internships had been completely different, helping her gather skills in different parts of the industry from mass-market to higher-end.

7. Expand your skillset

Whether budgeting or desk top publishing and CAD, it is important to develop other skills to improve your chances. For Meera in a buying role, she felt that keeping abreast with digital was vital, and also for fashion writing with Naomi noting that Vogue iPad sales were doubling month by month.

8. Get creative with your CV

This is not a euphemism for lying, but rather to get creative with how you deliver your resumé. Louise Pickles mentioned that Matthew Williamson had sent out his scarves as a calling card, which got him noticed. Seren Colley also suggested going old school and printing and snail-mailing CVs, which could actually be more effective than trying to sneak into someone’s cluttered inbox. In fact, it may even be advantageous to head to the company that you’re interested in working for.

9. Grasp your chance

After sending out hundreds of letters and emails with little response, you also need persistence to keep going. But when you get that chance of a face-to-face interview you need to make it count. Marie Baluti’s story was inspiring, as without a background in fashion, she got an opportunity at Celine – knowing it was her best shot, she was honest saying that she would work hard to learn everything with them. Meera from Liberty mentioned their three-minute Best of British Open Call where every second counts to pitch your designs.

10. It’s only fashion…

When asked what was the best piece of advice she’d ever received, I loved Marie Baluti’s comment that “It’s only fashion, you’re not saving lives”. She said that at times she has even cried when things have gone awry at work, but this quote helps her get perspective.

The panel at Fashion your Future answered the audience's questions afterwards

I was particularly impressed with the way in which the panel took time to answer audience questions after the event in the Komedia cafe, and I’m sure those wanting to get their foot in fashion’s door, or strengthen their emerging career, left the event with renewed determination. I met designer Jan Knibbs at the event, who had studied her MA at Bath Spa. She told me:

“I found the forum really useful and it gave me much more of an insight into how a fashion house is run. It also made me realise that as a designer with my own small label I am trying to fulfil all the different roles (designing, product developing, pattern cutting, making, marketing and PR) myself so it’s no wonder that it’s so difficult, especially when you’re not based in London. It was great to speak to Naomi Smart from Vogue, and I’m going to send her a piece of my statement jewellery which hopefully she will use in a shoot.”

From a careers seminar to Vogue, that certainly would be nice work! You can find more fashion careers tips on the Guardian website. Would you still like a career in fashion? Do you have any additional advice for people wanting to get into the fashion industry?  I’d love to hear your tips and experiences.

Dior wins Dress of the Year at Bath in Fashion

The 50th Dress of the Year frees the ballgown. Raf Simons’ winning dress for Dior embodies all the glamour of couture, but updates it, replacing a restrictive full skirt with elegant ease.

The winner, chosen by Vanessa Friedman, the fashion editor for the Financial Times, was revealed during Bath in Fashion Week. Each year Bath Fashion Museum asks an expert to pick a dress that exemplifies the time’s fashion mood or tone, and that’s why this Dior piece is such an appropriate choice. Raf Simons’ debut couture collection for the House of Dior was so hotly anticipated, and this dress manages to pay tribute to the status of this fashion house behemoth without compromising on the Belgian designer’s fresh, modern vision. Indeed the flared hip silhouette of the dress has been taken from an original pattern in the Dior archives, but cut off and worn with slim pants.

Dress of the Year

Dress of the Year at the Fashion Museum. Photo: © Come Step Back in Time

As Vanessa Friedman states:

“This dress, or rather (this) evolution of the dress, from Raf Simons’ first collection show for Christian Dior, represents not just a generational shift in fashion – the moment when a new designer took over at the intimate couture house – but also an aesthetic new direction. It signals a move away from the most escapist, extreme garments of the fin de siècle and forward to a new 21st Century post-recession balance that blends functionality with fantasy…”

Detailed shot of the embroidered embellishment on the Dress of the Year © Come Step Back in Time

Detailed shot of the embellishment of the dress. Photo: © Come Step Back in Time

The ballgown may be cut short, but glamour abounds, and the intricate design of the bustier is complemented by the simplicity of its line and slim pants.  Pale blue and pink flowers are appliquéd and embroidered onto fine tulle which covers the silk dress, more than nodding to Christian Dior’s love of flowers, “where designs for dresses played second fiddle to the studies of flowers that inspired them.” (see Impressionist CouturierAll hand-sewn, the embroidery is covered with gemstones, pearls, tiny petals, and metallic thread. 

The heavy dress is corseted inside, and there’s a mini silk tulle petticoat, which you can see in the picture above. For the exhibition, the Dress of the Year is accessorised with a net veil by famous milliner Steven Jones and kitten heels. It is a look that is easily transferable to a vintage-lover’s wardrobe by shortening an evening gown and pairing with trousers.

For this small, but fashion-packed museum in Bath, it is a coup to display this piece, and it was wonderful to see the dress up close as part of visit to Bath Fashion Museum during Bath in Fashion. Raf Simons said:

“It is a great honour to have one of my debut Christian Dior Haute Couture collection’s looks chosen as Dress of the Year… The way the Museum’s collection is such a distinct document of, not just fashion, but history in general makes me proud that my clothes can feature amongst those looks and say something about today.”

Raf Simons’ debut show for Dior did not disappoint back in July last year. Take time out for a stylish reminder of his collection, referencing New Look silhouettes, parading down the floral-covered catwalk in the video below.

For the past 50 years, a fashion heavyweight has picked his or her Dress of the Year for Bath Fashion Museum, and you can relive fashion history via their list of the previous 50 winners. With wedding dress designs on the minds of many in the fashion industry and beyond in 2011, Sarah Burton’s exquisite “Ice Queen” wedding dress for Alexander McQueen was the winner last year, especially fitting as she was later revealed as the creator of the Kate Middleton’s bridal gown.

Dress-of-the-Year---Dior-2---(c)-Come-Step-Back-in-Time

Dress of the Year – Raf Simons for Dior. Photo: © Come Step Back in Time

There is more Dior at 50 Fabulous Frocks, an exhibition to celebrate the Fashion Museum’s 50th birthday, featuring an opera coat, which, though not couture, exemplifies the trademarks of this fashion house.

If asked for my Dress of the Year, I just wouldn’t know where to start… but I feel that this dress really fits. What would have been your Dress of the Year? Does this piece embody fashion’s mood in 2012? Let me know…

Look out for more blogs about my Bath in Fashion adventures coming up…

Fifty fabulous frocks – Bath Fashion Museum

Think of the biggest names in fashion, and you’re likely to see their creations have made it to the party to celebrate 50 years of the Fashion Museum in Bath. Fifty Fabulous Frocks curates pieces from the top fashion designers from Vionnet, Schiaparelli and Chanel to Quant, McQueen, and Erdem, as well as historical creations.

Frock may mean dress to us now, but it actually has a wider meaning:

“Frock: historically referred to an article of clothing; in the 17th century specifically a workman’s outer garment; in the 18th century a man’s loose fitting coat; a religious robe; more typically a woman’s dress.”

As a keen frock lover myself, I headed to the museum for some vintage fashion inspiration. Here are my top five from the collection, not in any particular order…

1. Red mini, André Courrèges, 1960s

Andres Courreges red mini dress

Swinging sixties chic with the optimism of the decade is conjured by this simple, angular mini dress in block red by André Courrèges. A designer for Balenciaga before establishing his own fashion house, he introduced a radically different line in 1964 with dresses like this worn with flat boots, goggles and helmets – outfits ready for the ultra-modern space age. This frock was worn by Ernestine Carter, fashion editor for the Sunday Times (1955-1972), who called 1963 the Year of the Leg. Indeed, as Courrèges  started to shorten skirts at the same time as Mary Quant, the debate on the mini’s originator rages on. An engineer by training, his designs are functional and in heavier fabrics, and he also helped to popularise trousers for women. Go back to the future in ’60s style with this footage of one of his fashion shows. (I’m unsure whether the girls are being locked away for another fashion show or being sent into space…?)

2. Mickey Mouse Dress, 1930s

mickey mouse dress

This quirky dress from the late 1930s made it into my top five, despite a dislike of product placement or branding on clothes, and an ambivalence towards Disney. The maker of the dress is unknown but according to the exhibition, from its skimpiness and narrow seam allowances, it appears to have been mass-produced for wholesale. Without the Mickey motif, the puffed sleeves and fitted waist make it a style I would wear today. Fashion seems to maintain a fascination with cartoons from Minnie Mouse hairstyles at Zac Posen to Manga inspired fashion at Gucci

3. Opera Coat, Christian Dior, late 1950s

Dior coat

The Dior New Look was such a fashion shift that this red satin opera coat had to make it into the top five. Dior’s lines marked a return to a ‘feminine’, curvaceous shape and a luxurious look using lots of fabric after war-time’s less restrictive lines and scrimping on fabric. The bar was the ultimate hourglass outfit with narrow shoulders, nipped in waist and padded hips and full, flared skirt.  Dior was also a marketing innovator by devising theatrical shows, creating trends every six months and diversifying his market. This coat is not couture, but from Dior London, through which his designs were licensed and sold at cheaper prices.  I can just picture this coat modelled in one of Norman Parkinson’s photographs, epitomising effortless glamour.

4. Opulent mantua, 1760s

Mantua 1760s

To show the breadth of the collection, I wanted to include a pre-20th century piece, and so opted for this mantua from the 1760s. Although highly impractical, its sheer opulence and beautiful embroidery made it fit for a top five. This piece was created around the same time as the Assembly Rooms in Bath, home to the Fashion Museum today, but it would have likely been worn in even grander venues, perhaps weddings or birthdays at the Royal Court. The expensive fabric and design would signify the wealth and status of the wearer immediately, and although the owner is unknown, the Museum thinks it is likely it was worn at the court of King George III, who succeeded in 1760.

Before ‘make do and mend’ and the resistance to fast fashion, in the 1760s, fabrics were re-used and clothes ‘upcycled’. The exhibition quotes from a Mrs Papendiek in the 1780s:

“Fashion was not then… the matter of continual change. A silk gown would go on for years a little fashioned up with new trimmings.”

5. Green silk dress, Jeanne Lanvin, 1919 

Jeanne Lanvin dress 1919

This green shot silk pannier dress by Jeanne Lanvin illustrates the word ‘frock’ perfectly. The influence is 18th century with the full skirt requiring panniers, which are sewn into the dress. Lanvin began designing for children, and this fashion house’s logo remains a mother and child. As the Museum suggests, this dress certainly has a child’s birthday party feel. I love the way that now looking back it’s going against our idea of the period with its streamlined flapper look. Alber Erbaz now heads up the Lanvin label, and one of his dress won the 2005 Dress of the Year award showing some affinity with this dress. The footage below features the designer herself in fittings. Don’t miss the pockets in the first dress shown – the detail is absolutely beautiful. 

Happy Birthday Bath Fashion Museum

Fifty Fabulous Frocks is just part of the Fashion Museum’s fiftieth birthday celebrations. The museum was established in the sixties (initially called the Museum of Costume Bath) by Doris Langley Moore and Bath City Council. Fifty Fabulous Frocks runs until the end of 2013. If you’re in Bath next month, check out Bath in Fashion 2013 too.

In case you can’t make the exhibition, look out for another post featuring the next top 5. After all, there are another 45 fabulous frocks to choose…