Carol Alayne

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Archive for February, 2011

I’m going to sit right down and write myself a letter

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I was delighted to be told that my letter to the Economist in response to their excellent article Suitably Dressed ( 18 December  2010)  had been accepted.

The article refers to the (possible) 150th anniversary of the lounge suit.  Interestingly, it is referred to in militaristic terms as the ‘battledress’ of the world’s businessmen.

Uniform dress fulfils a number of different purposes depending upon one’s profession, and for some this is more regulated than for others; from peaked caps and epaulettes to a mutually agreed dress code (I believe that the Swiss bank UBS has issued a 44 page guidebook to its 65,000 employees, male and female, on staff dress code at work – including the amount of cleavage allowed on public show!).  While we may consider our clothes a vehicle for personal expression, what we need to wear professionally may have to be much more sobre and perhaps reflect the changing times.

It was interesting to note how the recent financial meltdown caused a reappraisal of dressing standards, and how the dress-down Friday was supplanted back to the well-cut suit and tie.

Perhaps you recall the hemline theory of economics that was tipped as a measure of stock market fluctuations?

Men in some ways have it easier.  Their suit has been developed over some time and has become an accepted standard.   Not so for women, and this was the point of my letter.  For both sexes however, when a uniform needs to be a specific colour or style, ‘fit’ is of paramount importance and unquestionably an ‘edge-giver’.

The appellation ‘bespoke’ is often attached to a variety of objects and services.  There are indeed many clothing outlets that lay claim to this mantra.  Their authenticity however is somewhat questionable and it shows immediately in the fit of a garment.  The real purpose of bespoke is to respond to the individual requirements of each person’s figure, to disguise the idiosyncrasies (don’t worry, we all have them!) and to address fit, proportion and balance.  There are opportunities too, for a personal choice of accents or details which add an additional charm.

Michel Roux’s Service (BBC TV)

Friday, February 4th, 2011

When I received a phone call asking if I would make eight suits for eight contestants in a television series little did I realise that it would become such a compelling piece of viewing, and that I would play a cameo role in the last programme.

Michel Roux Jr assumed the mantle of his father at the world famous Le Gavroche Restaurant in London’s Mayfair some years ago.  It was the first restaurant in the UK to receive three Michelin rosettes, and it was Michel’s crusade to improve the standard of front of house service throughout the hospitality industry that prompted the idea for the series.

In the UK we are almost drowning in the number of food programmes all fronted by so called celebrity chefs, but this was different.  As we talked about my role in the programme it became obvious that there were considerable parallels between the philosophy behind high class dining and my own profession.

In both cases, the high standards of quality and suitability are a given; in fact in one of the programmes they talked about tailor-made dining.  What sets our respective businesses apart from other similar providers is the quality of the relationship one builds with one’s client or customer.  High quality dining and bespoke tailoring are both about creating memorable experiences.

And for the eight young contestants, in the same way that they were given gustatory experiences to complement their growing knowledge of ‘front-of-house’ management, they had the opportunity to find out what it means to experience the process of bespoke tailoring, and the care and attention which accompanies it; something which was quite alien to one or two of the contestants.

The series is rather a triumph.  It showed not only the thought and precision which lies behind high class service, but also documented a life changing transition for a group of young people.  They were transformed from a somewhat unruly, disenchanted group of individuals into a team of open-minded young trainees who understand the place of the finer things in life, and with a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for even more experiences.

Bravo Michel!

Biography

Recognised as a pioneer of bespoke tailoring for women, Carol Alayne has over 25 years experience of creating striking garments for arts, sports and media personalities and business wear for professionals and executives.

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