In 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…)
Archive for the ‘Briefing for Bespoke’ Category
I 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…)
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….’
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….?
In the midst of a hectic time here in the studio; a royal wedding in Monaco, early planning for the shooting season, and gowns for the BBC Promenade concerts, I received a call to participate in the filming of a short documentary for the Japanese national broadcasters NHK. They wanted to know more about the tailoring tradition and Savile Row from a woman’s perspective.
They were very much aware of how the demand for tailored clothing is changing among women as their professional lives become increasingly more public, and wanted to know how this was being met by the trade.
As always with filming, what is intended as a few minutes in front of a camera turns into a full day’s work, but it is always good to explain the process of bespoke to those who are interested.
A huge thanks goes out to all my friends and colleagues on the Row who helped out.
The documentary will go out as part of the El Mundo programme on NHK BS1 on the 16th May at 11 pm JST, and I hope that some of my friends in Japan will still be awake to see it! And when I shortly receive my copy it will be uploaded here on the site, so please watch this space.
P.S. As a footnote, I bumped into another film crew yesterday in my favourite haberdashers, MacCulloch & Wallace. The BBC crew were filming the latest episode of the ‘Apprentice’ and one of the participants had been instructed to source 10 metres of , well you’ll see, while she stumbled through an attempt to negotiate the price. Goodness knows why, but from the look of the cloth I think she may be planning some mid-series nuptials!
With a multitude of executive courses from leadership to presentation skills all designed to give a personal edge in the market place, it seems strange that one of the basic and most immediate elements to create an impression, that of appearance, is often left to chance. Technology puts executives increasingly in the public eye and the immediacy with which they are expected to deliver media sound bites leaves little time for the establishment of credentials.
This is particularly the case for women who struggle to find a comparative to match the visual reinforcement of authority that is the man’s tailored suit. We commented on this in the February edition of the Economist [insert link to previous post].
It is reassuring therefore that the leading networking portal linking both senior executives and potential new employers, Goldjobs, recognises this as an additional way to support their high level clients. The founder, Rosalyn Rahme, has a solid background in headhunting, executive search and senior level recruitment for the banking, finance and other industry sectors. She uses this to great effect for both candidates and clients. Services are provided via a two way gateway through which future affiliations can be fast tracked.
We are thrilled that they have elected to include Tailoring for Women as part of the services they offer to their clients. We consider this an acknowledgement of the importance of reviewing all elements of one’s corporate persona when searching for a new placement.
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.
During the summer my thoughts were solicited by THINK, a style magazine based in Dubai. It was running an article on the latest in bespoke tailoring and how a personal ‘image’ is so important even in the highly regimented worlds of international business and finance. It was especially encouraging for me that the magazine’s correspondent, Ashlee Beard, chose to mention the female angle (more…)
Sunnier days and warmer weather are here in London. We are all looking forward to being able to wear less. For women, trousers will give way to the more comfortable skirt. Perhaps for men also – though at the moment that’s confined to the more adventurous fashion icons such as David Beckham and Axl Rose. In fact, skirts, sarongs, kilts – call them what you will – have an important place in the evolution of male clothing. (more…)
It’s strange how music makes unusual connections in our brain. I was listening by chance to an old Yardbirds hit from 1966 – Over under sideways down… just as I was marking up some new cloth, when I realised that they were singing about exactly what I was doing! Cloth arrives folded with the wrong side facing out and right side protected in. (more…)