Carol Alayne

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Archive for 2017

Warp and weft: the Huguenot’s of Spitalfields

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

I was thrilled to be asked by one of my clients, Dr. Tessa Murdoch, to come along to last month’s launch of an Appeal from the foremost Huguenot charity of the 21st century.  Dr. Murdoch is one of the charity’s directors, and in 2009 she co-published a finely illustrated history of the French Hospital entitled “The  French Hospital:  Its History and Collections” http://www.frenchhospital.org.uk/book.htm

The Directors of the French Hospital have launched their Appeal to raise £5.1m to create a National Huguenot Centre to present its unique collection of important Huguenot artefact and archive materials to the public, documenting the Huguenot’s history and heritage.  The launch event was superb.   As we waited for the line-up of speakers, it was an unexpected surprise to be introduced to a fellow American from Virginia, of Huguenot descent. http://www.huguenotsocietyofamerica.org/ Over the course of the evening I spoke to several people with interesting stories and links to the Appeal, and as they learned of my own work, the event reached a climax when I received an invitation to the Huguenot centre in Kent to give a talk on the art of bespoke tailoring.

But what is my connection with a group of French Protestants who took refuge in London from religious persecution in the 16th and 17th centuries?  Well, many of them settled in the Spitalfields area where I now have my tailor’s studio. Spitalfields remains one of the few areas of London where you can find a creative mixture of deep heritage and buzzing cutting-edge enterprises.  Long before dot.com, though, the surrounding streets here used to be filled with craftspeople:  silk weavers, lace makers, tailors, silver and goldsmiths and leatherworkers to name a few.  Strangely enough, when it comes to working life I can easily relate to the world that would have existed centuries ago.  Indeed, some of the basic tools used in my work once belonged to my teacher’s teacher.  And the Huguenots brought with them their traditional crafts based around weaving, lace-making and tailoring, already well-developed in the Cévennes region of the South of France.  Spitalfields became a hub of high quality garment and fabric manufacture, of which I like to think I’m carrying on the tradition.

Despite their original destitution, the Huguenot refugees who came here were among France’s most enterprising and productive people.  Their professionalism and creative genius enriched British life and human assets enormously.  France’s loss was Britain’s gain, and without the Huguenots this country would have undoubtedly been different.

So I look forward to being more involved in this very important work and perhaps one day enriching my own experience with a visit to the traditional Huguenot lace-makers who still practice in France.

For further information about the French Hospital please see www.frenchhospital.org.uk (Registered Charity No. 219318)

Photo by Brian Jones Images

When less is more

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Utility dressIn 1940, with all-out war looming, the UK government Board of Trade decided to restrict the amount of clothing available in order to preserve resources. They called in the help of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers, comprising the leading English couture houses, and asked them to design robust clothes using a minimum of material. These ‘utility’ clothes were created with simple (more…)

Highland flair

Monday, January 30th, 2017

TfW Highland coat collarI was working on four different Harris tweed garments last December when, by chance, I came across this article in The Guardian newspaper: Harris tweed sales soar. ‘Surely not just thanks to me’, I mused, but I was pleased with the closing remark from Lorna Macaulay, chief executive of the Harris Tweed Authority, who said: (more…)

Telling tales

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Quentin Blake with Carol AlayneQuentin Blake gets me thinking. I’m sure that’s because he’s a great artist, and great artists excite the brain as well as the senses. I was at Sotheby’s (London) for a charity event in support of the House of Illustration last December (more…)

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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