• Wetsuit kimono, anyone?

    November 2, 2012

    It's car crash telly at its very best (or worst) and not normally our cup of tea. However, since we had failed to avoid the new series hype, which promised retro rag trade rummagery in the first episode, we tuned in last night to watch the Young Apprentice in which 12 over-confident youngsters were tasked with making money from selling second hand clothing.

    Unlike most entrepreneurs, young or otherwise, they had the twin benefits of a ready supply of raw materials from local recycling companies and (presumably paid-for) well-positioned pitches for selling their wares at a heaving London shopping 'mall' and the busy Battersea Park car boot sale.

    We're not knocking the young people for having ambition and drive to succeed in the world of business, but it was excruciatingly painful to watch some of them in action (or inaction in Max's case, whose trouser folding skills made no appreciable impact on profit and led to him being first to be fired). The boys' 16 year old team leader and alleged fashion designer Patrick, had meanwhile committed a crime of gross indecency against an innocent wetsuit and brightly coloured kimono by melding them, at great expense, into a hybrid horror which, inevitably, no one wanted to buy. As Lord Sugar quipped, it might have gone down well at a cocktail party on the Titanic, but what was the boy thinking?  In true disaster movie style, they inexplicably abandoned the busy shopping centre early for Brick Lane, where they eventually found a real life rag trader willing to take their remaining stock for £40.

    The girls were rather more sensible in having appointed an accountancy student / bridal shop assistant as their team leader as she kept tight rein on the budget, especially the 'customising' creative (?) activity with which Patrick lost the entire plot. Apart from not recognising the difference between a tumble dryer and washing machine in the laundrette, which had to be pointed out by the local Dot Cotton, they swept to victory, although it was somewhat Pyrrhic in nature given the little money either team actually turned over.

    You certainly don't need Max's 11 A* GCSEs to calculate that 12 people spending two days on  hand picking, laundering, customising and selling second hand clothes at two premier London pitches, each with massive footfall, should have made a lot more money than they did - a profit, even?  Between them they made less than £1000 and we don't know how much, if anything, they paid for their stock or for their premier pitches.

    So it's goodbye to Max, while the frankly irritating Patrick survives to commit more crimes of fashion (and probably business) in the coming weeks. Sadly, he isn't alone in his quest to destroy the integrity of original garments in the name of creativity. Upcycling and customising seem to have become the trendy new replacements for recycling and repair, the carving up and total destruction of original pieces being the preferred option even when they are entirely fit for purpose and re-lovable in their presenting state, albeit with a bit of TLC.

    While we are not averse to a bit of hem shortening and tailoring ourselves in order to make a garment rather more courant, we are always saddened to see beautiful vintage pieces lose their soul (and often their value) as the result of the scissor-happy activities of self-proclaimed style gurus. Too often we have come across 50s dresses which have been shortened to destructive lengths and we have even seen original sought-after vintage labels (Horrockses, anyone?) cut out of garments to be replaced with local shop branding, which may be nouveau but is most definitely not art! We would call it a veritable scandal.

    Vintage and antique textiles may naturally have deteriorated due to age, damage, storage and/or general 'wearage', in which case they may need to be modified or even de-constructed if they are to be reworn or reused, and we don't have a problem with that. However, the wanton destruction of original pieces is, in our opinion, every bit as eco-criminal as the fast fashion industry which churns out a never ending supply of cheap and cheerless textiles which will go straight to landfill after one wear (or sometimes none at all).

    When it comes to quality second hand or vintage clothing, remember that buttons and zips can easily be replaced, belts and accessories can customise a garment without doing irreversible damage, and hemlines and sleeves can be lengthened or shortened (but please try to maintain the integrity of the original piece if it is of a particular era/style). We confess to having quite a few frocks in our possession which are waiting for small repairs and adjustments so that they can enjoy a new lease of life. Others have small flaws which don't affect wearability and simply add to their character, while a few need some professional help from specialist seamstresses and cleaning professionals - but they're worth it!

    Although the Young Apprentice wannabes didn't manage to make a silk purse out of the proverbial sow's ear (unless the wetsuit kimono becomes the Next Big Thing through prime time media exposure alone), the rag trade can be a rewarding business for those of us who are in it for the love as well as the livelihood. A little common sense goes a long way, but then you're only young once!

  • Ascot addresses falling standards and rising hemlines

    June 20, 2012

    Despite the new, strictly imposed dress code at Royal Ascot, some serious fashion faux pas were still being committed by racegoers, judging by some of the frocky horror images accompanying news reports on the subject.

    Although free pashminas and hats were being proffered by the purple linen clad fashion police on a stop and search mission designed to deny entry to the less than thoroughbred elements, the going was obviously tough as a few of the more racy types were still managing to display sufficient bare (and tattooed) flesh to frighten the horses.

    One can always rely on the Daily Mail to focus on the twin perils of falling standards and rising hemlines, and sure enough, they dutifully showcased a selection of the most unbecoming sartorial choices and wackiest headgear .

    Take a look at the images in the linked article and we're sure you'll agree some of these folk would be much more at home in the Big Top.

  • Red carpet frockery at the Scottish Fashion Awards

    June 15, 2012

    Some of our frockery made it along to this year's Scottish Fashion Awards courtesy of the lovely Sandra Cormack from SC MakeUp Artistry, who rocked one of our vintage cocktail frocks, some D&G heels and a vintage clutch bag on the red carpet.

    sandra on the red carpet

    Here she is with talented musician Nina Nesbitt and a(nother) glass of wine.


    Then there was cake with Heather, wife of SFA nominee Philip Stanley Dickson.  


    Much hilarity ensued with the Dundonian contingent, who had good reason to celebrate as Dundee's Duncan of Jordanstone graduate  Hayley Scanlan was named Scottish Young Designer of the Year.


    And finally, Sandra hangs out at the after party with newly crowned Scottish Fashion Icon Karen Gillan - star of Dr Who and We'll Take Manhattan -  in her baffies!

    karen gillan

    Images courtesy of Keri Fullwood

  • Faux is the way to go

    October 22, 2011

    It's time...

    As temperatures plummet outside, our cold weather wardrobe has officially been recalled for active duty.

    Faux fur is everywhere again this season and makes a no-brainer addition to any winter wardrobe, including Rosie Webster's on Coronation Street. Being especially fond of it ourselves, we have been adding a variety of faux fur coats and jackets to the catalogue, including the following lovelies.

    This vintage Roman Originals sumptuous cream faux fur coat is one of our current favourites.

    cream faux fur coat

    This classic dark brown vintage faux fur jacket will go with anything, from jeans to ball gown.

    vintage brown faux fur jacket

    This cream faux fur gilet with leatherette belt will add a stylish layer of luxury and warmth to the winter wardrobe.

    cream faux fur gilet

    This dark brown faux fur jacket with cute rounded Peter Pan style collar is due to be listed soon.

    This fabulous vintage silver grey faux fur coat is reminiscent of 80s Abba style.

    And last but not least, a cute cream faux fur hood with pompoms!

    cream faux fur hood with pom poms

    Why not treat yourself? You're so worth it!

  • Fish finger fashion

    October 12, 2011

    Gok's Clothes Roadshow is currently showing on Channel 4 with a variation called Get the Look for Less and we must say we are disappointed. With his unashamed promotion of mass produced cheap tat, he has gone right off the boil, as far as we are concerned, having headed down the frozen fish finger aisle for an instantly gratifying, but ultimately unsatisfying, fast fashion fix.  Yes, there may be a recession on, but dressing for less doesn't have to involve scraping the bottom end of the fashion barrel. We should know! As frugal frockers, we have been banging on about it for years and started our Fifty Quid Fashion Challenge back in 2007.

    Not so long ago, Gok's affordable high street looks regularly used to trounce the overpriced designer outfits salivated over by his blonde sidekick (you know, the one with the dogs) in his famous fashion 'face-offs'. Yet fast forward to the current series and the high street is being dissed in favour of what we can only describe as fish finger fashion. So it's Brix no more, high end no more, independent designers no more; mid-price high street is no longer hip, and cheap supermarket 'chic' is where it's at. That's really going to help the retail sector, struggling as it is to pay the bills, with many more well known high street names looking vulnerable as quarterly rents fall due.

    Regardless of Gok's seeming enthusiasm for low budget clone wear, we doubt he'd be seen dead in a pair of George jeans or a Primark T-shirt himself. What's more, buying cheap means that producers and suppliers down the fast fashion food chain are being shafted. Ethical policies developed in corporate board rooms and PR'd ad nauseam by faux-caring, designer-wearing, profit-loving professionals don't mean much to exploited child labourers on the other side of the world who are hand sewing sequins on to your landfill leggings.

    There are perfectly acceptable alternatives to fast fashion, which are every bit as affordable to those on tight budgets, such as charity shops, second hand stores, affordable vintage outlets, even the back of your own wardrobe (we found a Marcel Fenez 60s dress in ours last week that we hadn't seen for years!) While you're at it, why not dust off that old sewing machine, look out some knitting needles or crochet hooks and create something original as well as ethical? Students are past masters at dressing for less and can probably teach the rest of us a thing or two about saving money and slowing down to achieve style without sacrificing sustainability.

    Please remember you don't have to abandon principle and become a fish finger fashionista or Tesco trolley dolly just because some stylist said it was cool on the telly. Despite being big fans in the past, we reckon Gok's latest menu is lacking in greens and more cheek than chic. The acronym BOGOF springs to mind.

  • 100 years of Kays catalogue

    August 1, 2011

    We were delighted to see this article in the Daily Mail the other day: Changing faces and fashions from 100 years of Kays catalogue.

    Emily Allen reports:

    "The extracts from the catalogue over the past 100 years have been released as part of a 'Cataloging Kays' project by the University of Worcester which will turn the photos and sketches dating back almost to the Victorian era into 1,500 digital images. 

    Their aim is to show how fashion and lifestyle taste have changed over the decades - and give shoppers a glimpse into the changing face of Britain's wardrobe. 

    Project manager Jenni Waugh said the Kay's story is important because the catalogues were aimed at 'working people, not glamour goddesses'."

    How some of the fashion photographs took us back!

    Anita Harris looked especially fab modelling a belted dress for Kays in 1972.

    anita harris models for kays

    There was some hideous 80s gear, of course, which included the ubiquitous velour tracksuit (worn with heels!)

    80s velour tracksuit

    But how cute is this 1950s mother daughter look?

    1950s mother daughter fashion

    The Kays collection includes an almost a full set of mail order catalogues, along with photographs, company accounts, reports and minutes of board meetings.

    Excitingly, it is soon to become much more widely accessible thanks to a £55,000 grant to facilitate the creation of an interactive digital web archive. This will not only allow viewing of the archived material but will also allow members of the public to add content by sharing their own memories of Kays catalogue in photographic or anecdotal form.

    The BBC also covered the story here: Memories of Kays catalogue shopping. The video is well worth a watch.

    What an excellent project!