Sheffield

Fashion & Freedom

Fashion & Freedom, an exhibition displayed at Manchester Art Gallery, explores the profound effect that the First World War had on women. The onset of war in 1914 brought many significant cultural and social changes across British society. As men left home to fight on the frontline, the women of Britain joined the industrial workforce, taking on jobs as bus conductors, ambulance drivers and window cleaners, as well as in offices and factories. New responsibility gave women new freedom and led to new ways of dressing, as silhouettes and social codes changed. Spanish director Rei Nadal unites with designer Phoebe English, to explore ‘The Fall of the Corset.’

As the film begins, we are greeted with a slow and harmonious orchestral melody – the music instantly struck me with sad undertones that made my soul sting. As the motion picture progresses and the music continues, we are introduced to a young girl who is wearing little else but a corset, being tugged and pulled into it by several men. A lot of the threads are bright red in colour and very frayed, instantly conjuring the subconscious image of lacerations. The makeup choice is also very poignant, the pale complexion and red-rimmed eyes tell the tale of a woman who is tired and in pain.

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The girl’s expression is world-weary throughout the film, portraying a character who has been in pain for a long time and is too tired to fight what she is being subjected to. Once the corset has been tied, the men tie strings to the girl’s limbs. They begin to pull and manipulate her, as if they are puppeteers and she is a puppet, further conveying the girl’s lack of power over herself. Scenes of the girl sat on a child’s rocking horse and a swing are pictured, all the while the men are still acting as puppeteers and the girl is still looking weary. By this point, the robbery of the character’s innocence and lack of her control is so hard hitting that I have to wipe tears away.

Despite the character’s obvious fatigue, she eventually pulls the threads from the puppeteers’ grasp and begins the arduous process of removing the corset, concluding with her exhausted naked body sprawled across the floor. I love how this part of the video is choreographed. To me, it reads as a metaphor for the women of the war who began their journey to freedom and independence. Although the act of removing a corset may seem like a simple task on paper, it is portrayed as a long and soul wrenching process that is a great struggle for the already drained young woman. For me, this is an accurate and respectful demonstration of what the women’s suffrage had to endure – a lonely, gruelling battle that wasn’t always appreciated for the heroic act that it was, to get to the point at which we are at today.

 

The Revival of the Piguet Perfumery

Perfume can do a lot for a brand – the identity can be strengthened with a signature scent and it allows the consumer to get involved with a brand at a fraction of the usual cost.

In the 1940s Robert Piguet met perfumer Germaine Cellier, who created fragrances that coordinated with the brand’s signature elegance and glamour. The first scent to be released was Bandit in 1944. The fragrance had a heavy, dark scent and a name that conjures images of pirates and sea voyages, made for the daring women of the decade. It was released along with Piguet’s runway collection that featured women in masks, with toy guns and knives, conveying the image of the “femme fetale.” In 1948, Fracas was launched, referred to as ‘The Noir Perfume’ by Lizzie Ostrom, author of Perfume: A Century of Scents. This name pays homage to the 1940s noir temptress, portrayed best by Rita Hayworth as the terrifying seductive Gilda.

Piguet worked until his retirement in 1951. Although this signified the end of Piguet’s fashion house, his brand continued to launch fragrances right up until the 1960s. The brand is now owned by Fashion Fragrances & Cosmetics, who have made Piguet’s original scents available for purchase once again, updating them slightly with modern formulas.

All of Piguet’s scents come in the same classic bottle design, all of them black, elegant and timeless. The price also catapults Piguet’s perfumes into the higher end of the market, ranging from £135-£160 for 100ml. The combination of design and price helps to develop Piguet’s luxurious and sophisticated profile, finding itself on the same shelves as Miss Dior and Chanel N◦5.

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The brand image of both Dior and Chanel has been shaped by their fragrances – Chanel N◦5 has developed into an indisputable icon over the decades, using its versatility to move on from its beginning in 1921 and adapt to the current cultural climate. Dior has released various fragrances, but Miss Dior is particularly poignant. It was launched in 1947, to symbolise hope and regeneration after the war. This was launched alongside Christian Dior’s iconic ‘New Look,’ so the Miss Dior fragrance is a very powerful symbol. It represents where Dior came from and all that it stands for, the perfect way of paying tribute to the brand’s origins in 2016.

Some other brands that have released iconic fragrances are Moschino and Viktor & Rolf. Bon Bon is a caramel scent, which comes in a bottle resembling a pink candy wrapper. This is in line with Viktor & Rolf’s abstract and artistic brand image, playing with the ideas of fantasy and femininity. Moschino’s surreal and witty character is renewed with the ironic Fresh fragrance, sold in a bottle resembling a household cleaning product.

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I Refuse to be a Part of Barbaric Journalism

​It is often said that to be a successful journalist, you have to be hard nosed – in short, be as sneaky, rude or manipulative as you need to be to get to the juicy bits. Instead of wrapping up this topic in a nice hearty fuck you, I aim to start as I mean to go on and explain why respect is the most important thing in any job, especially journalism. 

Now, I understand that in areas of journalism, the whole point is to get to the truth. I wholeheartedly think that this is a good thing. It is an important role that provides a voice for topics that wouldn’t have otherwise been brought into the public eye. What I have an issue with is the industry’s attitude towards going about this business. I would love to be a journalist and I am working extremely hard to get there, but one thing I don’t agree with is the compromising of integrity and asking inappropriate questions just for the sake of media attention.

“Take a nap and get a red bull” – are you kidding me??

Last year’s Good Morning Sacramento interview with Cara Delevingne is a perfect example of the point I am trying to make. The anchors questioned how hard she had worked for the Paper Towns movie, and even went as far as to ask if she had even had time to read the book. Rude. 

In the wise words of Rik Mayall: “We are all equal so nobody can ever be your genuine superior.” If you feel that somebody is being disrespectful, you have every single goddamn right to stand up and walk out. You don’t owe anything to anybody, least of all your time. It’s a precious thing and you don’t have to waste it trying to please people who don’t appreciate it.

Summary – it all boils down to respect. It is so easily forgotten when the going gets tough. But I strongly believe that if you treat people in the way you would like to be treated, you can’t go far wrong. 

What About Piguet?

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Robert Piguet is the designer I have chosen for a well overdue brand revival, set to launch in the coming years. So in a bid to pinpoint the essence of his character and understand the mind behind the masterpieces, I’m going to make sense of all of my research by telling my own version of Piguet’s life story …

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Once upon a time in a faraway land (also known as 1898 Switzerland…) Robert Piguet was born. 17 years later, intent on becoming a dress designer, Piguet made the journey to Paris to work under John Redfern and Paul Poiret. Both designers were very important in the early 20th century – Poiret was famous for his artistic inspiration and dressing of theatrical pieces, whilst Redfern was one of the first designers to produce sturdier textiles for the increasingly active woman.

Piguet remained with these influential and innovative couture houses for many years, before founding his own house in 1933. Whilst there, despite his training with Redfern and Poiret, he became involved as a businessman rather than a designer. Piguet employed talents such as Dior, Balmain and Givenchy to produce designs for his collections, before they rose to fame. Although the pieces came from multiple designers, Piguet embraced theatrical 1930s romanticism. Talkies were revolutionary during the 30s and they played a big part in the glamour and escapism surrounding the decade. A lot of Piguet’s work incorporated staples of this glamorous culture, such as high collars, high capped sleeves and large yokes. This theme was a constant, portrayed throughout all of his collections and he became known for dramatic, refined womenswear with exemplary attention to detail and fit.

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In the 1940s Piguet met perfumer Germaine Cellier. They worked together to create fragrances that mirrored his elegant, post-war fashions. The first scent was named Bandit, a heavy brutal scent launched in 1944. It was released along with Piguet’s runway collection that featured women in masks, with toy guns and knives, conveying the image of the “femme fetale.” In short, this was a fragrance for the Cruella De Vils, rather than the timid innocent Cinderellas of the decade. This was followed by Visa (an autumnal fruity fragrance), which was redeveloped in 2007 by Aurelien Guichard. In 1948, Fracas was launched, referred to as ‘The Noir Perfume’ by Lizzie Ostrom, author of Perfume: A Century of Scents. This name pays homage to the 1940s noir temptress, best portrayed by Rita Hayworth as the terrifying seductive Gilda.

Piguet found producing collections very strenuous and felt it necessary to take a break after each one was completed. He worked until his retirement in 1951. A less than fairy-tale ending for Piguet’s fashion house, but his brand continued to launch fragrances right up until the 1960s. The brand is now owned by Fashion Fragrances & Cosmetics, who have made Piguet’s original scents available for purchase once again, updating them slightly with modern formulas.

This would normally be where they all lived happily ever after and ‘The End’ would be printed in whimsical swirly font. But in the wise words of Yves Saint Laurent: “Fashion fades, style is eternal.” So I aim to keep writing Piguet’s story by mixing modern topics and culture with the traditional qualities of his brand, to bring his extraordinary ideas and clothing style back to the forefront.

 

The Fact is: Fashion is Going Stale

I said it. Coming from a Fashion student, I suppose I should explain myself.

Making clothes and the idea of fashion are totally different ball games. Clothes made for the sole purpose of making profit shouldn’t be called fashion at all. If you ask me, that’s an insult to the designs that can express parts of the human experience that are sometimes hard to put into words. Fashion that can enlighten, evolve and devastate and have a story told with each stitch.

Some examples of fast fashion. It’s lifeless. You can smell the dispassion in the rushed craftsmanship, churned out with no real love or thought put into it. Fashion can be beautiful and expressive and a useful tool within society to say who we are without words – what are these clothes saying about us? It’s cheap and accessible,  but at what real price? Underpaid and exploited workers, tonnes of textile landfill and an ‘I want it now’ culture that acts before it thinks.

I decided to follow a career in fashion to make a difference. But it can be a lonely world sometimes. A world that is shallow and out for itself – occasionally it carries me back to my school days, where being at the top of the social food chain is all that mattered. What’s the point of wearing something if you don’t know where it came from, who made it and what it represents? If you don’t know any of these things, how could it possibly be self expression at all?

We can’t all afford the better quality clothes. But there are much better alternatives than fast fashion. Making your own, buying second hand, buying with the intention of making it last. I would love to see clothes treated as investments, not quick fixes.

Trend-following is not fashion. If you do that, where are you? Who are you? It can be hard to tune out the background noise and listen to what you want to be. Saturated advertising can numb our reactions to fashion, so it can be difficult to keep a clear head. 

But what is clear is that we need to bring the passion back into clothes – ask the questions. Because they do matter in the real world, they matter a whole lot.

A Year of Fashion Design

LineupI began university last year to complete a degree in Fashion Design. I had very little knowledge of anything I should have known, but I figured what the hell, if I was wanting to learn I was in the best place for it. I have recently decided to start a different fashion course – nevertheless, learn is certainly what I did throughout this year! The aim of today’s blog is to outline the life lessons I have taken from my year of Fashion Design – and I hope it might reassure some readers out there that are worrying about their futures.

I only had very basic sewing skills when the year began. During my first semester, I felt like a goldfish that had strayed from its safe and familiar fish bowl, into a huge savage ocean – I felt like I had no chance of making it in the industry and I was wasting time and money. Leaving any comfort zone in search of greater plains can be a gut wrenching thought, it’s a perfect example of a leap of faith. But trying to better yourself is never a bad thing and fear stops us from doing it all too often. By the end of the course I had made a waistcoat with silk lining and a customised shirt, something I could never have done when I began. Trusting yourself enough to take the leap can lead you down lots of new and interesting paths!

A lesson I feel I really need to express is it never hurts to be prepared. CAD software was a big part of the year and I’m a bit of a technophobe so I literally knew zilch about it when I began. Grabbing the problem by the horns was my most successful strategy – don’t be afraid, have fun with it and remember that everything you learn can be used again, so its infinitely rewarding!

I think the most important lesson I have taken away from this year is to take things as they come. I know a lot more about myself than when I started and although my career plan has changed, I feel I had to take the Fashion Design route to reach where I am now. I have learnt lots of important emotional and practical skills and I feel that completing this year has better equipped me for the future. My final tip for anyone in a similar position is not to worry! Life may not go according to the way you first planned, but there are no instructions and finding your own way through it all is a crucial and fulfilling part of the journey.