I am not an expert, queen or slave to fashion but like most people, I have a keen interest in fashion throughout the ages. Growing up with lots of women and female cousins around me meant that we would chat, admire and pass on hand-me-downs items of clothing. I think that was such a lovely and memorable part of growing up. Again, I repeat that I come from a little island in the Caribbean but we were still in step with fashion trends. Matriarchs in my family have some fabulous photos of classic late 1950’s and 1960’s fashion, and some of these would look just as on trend today! There are two points that I like about this – the sustainability of sharing unwanted clothes with close ones, and the important creative inspiration that fashion archives are for new creations and innovations.
It is so easy to find historic fashion on the web in various fashion archives. I follow Europeana on Twitter @Eurofashion, and I’m warning you that they frequently share real treasure designs and photos that will give you fashion flashbacks! The special thing about fashion is that it can still seem very fresh in the right context and setting. I am lucky because as I work at the British Library…and we have access to archived fashion books, magazines (Vogue archive) and even dress patterns.
I have also met many start-up businesses that are using the current research resources to plan and grow their businesses from designing and selling fashion from childrenswear, women’s plus sizes, womenswear and menswear, lingerie, shoes, handbags etc. The fashion opportunities are endless. I have also blogged about fashion along these same lines here in this link in ‘Fashion has nowhere to go but in Circles’ on the Business & IP Centre’s blog.
Customised and seamstress dressmaking was a great aspect of growing up in 1970’s and 1980’s Trinidad. We had fashion shops, markets and shopping malls but it was still special when we would go with our specific designs to seamstresses for these designs to be made uniquely in the fabric, colour and made-to-measure for ourselves. Before the internet, we would get fashion and design ideas from television, film, music videos and American shopping catalogues too – such as JC Penny. I remember a few seamstresses that used their dressmaking skills as a livelihood and business to support their families. Presently, some of my friends are keen dressmakers at home for their own consumption, and have been creating fashion pieces in their spare time to their preferred tastes, which I think is amazing!
One of my favourite customised outfits I remember, and have a photo of, was my first jumpsuit! I was about 7 years old and my lovely grown up neighbour, Radica, took me with her to San Fernando (a city in Southern Trinidad) to get it made. I remember the cotton denim look and the little red berries pattern on the fabric. I loved it! Jumpsuits were initially a world fashion trend in the 1970s (possibly older). However even then, I remember that it was awkward to go to the lavatory in a jumpsuit. Fast forward to the present – and the jumpsuit is back as seen in these Pinterest curated photos. And I am still trying to perfect the art of using a jumpsuit at parties and festivals.
The Bardot cut made famous by French actress Brigitte Bardot as shown in photos in the 1950s. My Canadian aunt gave me a favourite purple Bardot top in the early 1990s (shown above here) with me wearing it in Kew Gardens, with a floral silk scarf tied as a choker. And guess what? The choker is also back in fashion this season! My wedding dress in a satin Bardot style was also made by Patsy’s Bridal, a successful seamstress business, in Trinidad in 10 days from start to finish (don’t ask…a long story!). In 2016, I have also recently bought a few items in this style, and it can still be found in the shops this season.
I like looking at haute fashion but realistically I can’t afford it. I sometimes browse fashion magazines and the FT’s magazine ‘How to Spend it’ for fun. One Italian magic trick I have been told is to have two or three statement designer or classic items that can be mixed together with high street affordable fashion. Big fashion houses and retail businesses depend on haute couture for setting some trends a la mode, which in turn is copied in what is termed ‘fast fashion’. Branding and trade marks are very important issues in these circumstances to protect you designs and brand commercially.
However from time beginning in the way of the fashion world – cheaper copies of designs then get copied and made accessible to all. There are some clothing manufacturers who side-track and compromise on best practices, ethics, employment rights, employee welfare, environmental issues, health and safety etc. We should be aware of these issues to prevent disasters (such as the Savar building in 2013), and try to make these businesses more ethical and sustainable. The Ethical Fashion Forum are a valuable resource and advocate on these issues in fashion manufacturing and the industry.
I still love fashion and actively scan the horizon for what is out there on the high street. My main weakness is looking at clothes (including shoes!) online – and then choosing what I would like for a particular occasion, what’s on trend and keeping my eyes out for when that ‘wish list item’ goes on sale. Do you know what I mean?
We are shopping more and more online according to market research such as that found on Global Data Retail as it is very convenient! However, it is still nice to browse and shop on our high streets. If you want to experience a fashion show for some real live fun, you can buy tickets to the London Fashion Week (LFW) or other fashion shows. I have some photos below of a LFW show I went to a few years ago, where the front row hierarchy exists. It is when and where all the fashionistas have prime view of the new fashion pieces, and I presume, to be seen by the fashion crowd themselves too. That is also the way of their world, and it just works in that context.
Fashion is ever changing and so I am sure to revisit this topic here again. For the fashion conscious…we will see trends come and go in time with innovative tweaks. If like me, you hoard your favourite fashion items and like vintage clothing, you may just see some of them come back in fashion again. How cool will that be!