Carol Alayne

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Archive for 2016

Strike up the brand!

Friday, November 25th, 2016

I recently had some interesting exchanges with a friend on what is meant by ‘personal branding’. We agreed about how branding works with consumer goods, hotel chains, etc., but we both found it difficult to imagine how it might work for an individual woman with a demanding professional career. Many of my clients at TfW fall into this category, but they often have little time (or energy, I suspect) to embrace the concept, let alone explore the possibilities. Here is a good way to think of branding. (more…)

Taking craft global

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Global tailorI’ve already written several times about the high profile networking organisation, the City Women’s Network. And not so long ago I was asked to give a presentation at one of their regular meetings. In fact it was a forum about how to develop a global aspect to your business. These days, it’s not just multinational companies that can operate globally. Even a small, specialist trade like mine can – in fact needs – a global dimension. And of course it’s now possible thanks to the internet.

I was one of a panel of four speakers. You can read about the others here. They all had legal or commercial backgrounds so at first felt I might be rather out of place, talking about my very specialised craft. But when I started to mull it over, I hit on the idea of looking at the issue in reverse.

Most people think of ‘globalisation’ in terms of establishing a presence on every continent. But my kind of globalisation is about bringing the world to my doorstep. I was reminded of a quote by my famous countryman, Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbour, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door’.

I was able to relate how important it was for specialist crafts to group together when marketing to clients globally. TfW has alliances with specialist shoemakers, hat makers, and even gunsmiths. But the big difference between our respective trades and most global brands is that we offer something unique to every client. A can of coke is the same in every corner of the globe, but a TfW suit is unique to the person wearing it.

It was flattering that everyone had favourable comments, mostly responding to the visuals of colour, texture and the look of quality in the products. I had shown images of a hand made shotgun, a set of shoe lasts and broadened my talk to include taking craft global. In Britain, there is an authentic tradition of proper training in these crafts. Support of the ancient guilds and titled craftsmen are renowned.  This attracts clients from all over the world.

I explained how the brand is not the item, but the person – the maker; and how that develops through one’s professional relationships with individual clients. An important part of the bespoke tradition is the degree to which a client may participate in the conceptualizing and creation of a unique luxury product. And in talking with colleagues in companies such as Jaeger or Holland & Holland, bespoke is becoming the new luxury experience and ownership means not just buying the product but buying into its creation.

The audience was intrigued with how different my business was to theirs – TfW is not about putting a widget on every coffee table in the world, the opposite in fact. But it was a good fit for the forum.

Tools of the trade

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Da VinciI make no secret of my love of craft – the special skills, the attention to detail, the creativity. This week I’m privileged to speak at a meeting of the City Women’s Network (London), a forum for female professionals from all sectors and I’m going to return to my favourite theme of craft in the guise of tailoring. Quite by chance I came across an episode of the UK cult TV series ‘The Dragon’s Den’ the other day. (more…)

Sensational Butterflies

Monday, June 27th, 2016

‘The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity’, supposedly said the comedian George Carlin.

I guess this is true in most cases.   The finished product is far more attractive to look at than the work in process.  But then, both can be equally amazing.  I am talking about the brilliant mosaic mess you can find on my cutting room floor after a job is done!

So let’s not discount the whole metamorphosis thing; what we think is an unremarkable worm is anything but.  It is part of a process that continues to be at the forefront of scientific research.  Aesthetic appeal and diverse opportunities in the sciences have kept butterflies at the centre of evolutionary and behavioural research.  And the more we learn about the way butterflies communicate, the better understanding we have of our own sensory world.

Butterflies have become synonymous with freedom.  Charles Dickens, Elton John and I all agree on this.  I set another garment free the other day.  A beautifully delicate tea dress made from 3 layers of fine silk.  The design was based around the middle layer – a bold jacquard print by Hanae Mori, the most honoured female designer from Japan and an icon to the liberated woman (she has also released a perfume called ‘Butterfly’).  You can all have one guess as to the theme in the print.

The challenge was how to place the pattern pieces on the fabric to capture the great swirls in the design while featuring the image of a sensational butterfly in full flight.  Like the mighty Monarch flying south for the winter!

To make the decision, I made the pattern pieces first out of translucent tissue and invited my client to come around to help with the placement.  I know that she was fascinated to be a part of the process of designing her own bespoke garment.  And she was thrilled to spot the opportunity to reserve a strip of cloth to make an optional neck scarf to add to the look. The result is bold but delicate, featherweight and free for almost any occasion.

‘Fly away, high away, bye bye….’

The Red Dress

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Red dress 04Last week I put the finishing touches to this glorious red dress and sent it on its way to New York for a client who will attend the Tony Awards on Broadway in a few days’ time. She will not feature on any of the artiste lists at the ceremony as her involvement in theatre is as an investor. An unsung but essential (more…)

That thing called Swing

Monday, May 30th, 2016

From time to time I wonder what happens to the finished garments that leave my studio, often with my exit advice to “wear them in”. It is common to ask this of newly tailored clothes – that they are worn a few times and allowed to settle over one’s figure. The process of tailoring of course, involves layers of cooperating fabrics that mould and shape to the body over time. And I expect that the garments styled and tailored for the purpose of business will serve and cope perfectly in the workplace for decades, or long after.

But at TfW we are sometimes asked to design garments that are far afield from the 9-5 business wardrobe, and I was reminded of this just the other day as I mingled with the Bank Holiday crowd in Spitalfields Market.

I was drawn to the brass tunes of the swing band,  Jive Aces, livening up the forecourt, and as I turned the corner – a riot of colour burst forth and swirled about in pairs of exuberant ‘jivers’. This high-energy dance is extremely impressive to watch, and wonderfully unpredictable as the couples improvise their repertoire of spins and footwork in freestyle.

As I took in this unexpected treat, however, I could not take my eyes off the twirling skirts that leapt about in all shapes and colours. Some were constructed in flared panels, some cut in one full circular piece of fabric, some had additional netting underskirts and there were even a few figure hugging simplicities. No two were alike – but each one had a quality that was so uniquely alluring. It had something to do with the way each garment was allowed to move. In the counterpoint of spins around the dance floor, the anticipation of waiting for the next garment to ‘take flight’ made for the most wonderful theatre.

And it made me think what an amazing thing it is to watch a piece of clothing contribute so completely to this kind of spectacle, and somehow, to be just as much the physical performer as the wearer is.

And then I couldn’t help but hope – how many of us have a version of a dancing dress at the ready – with a plan to wear it, somewhere out there, away from the office….?

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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