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The Jacket Doesn’t Fit

It now grinds against me when my clothes don’t speak. And it scratches the back of my head when my buzz cut is complimented. A haircut that would be standard and unremarkable on anyone else is apparently such a brave look on me. They say that I’ve sacrificed such an important part of my femininity. Fuck that! But then I succumb to nausea when a nodding, ‘understanding’ person admires my courage for daring to wear a metallic sports jacket, a leopard print jumpsuit or a pair of thigh high PVC boots in public.

The jacket doesn’t fit.

It grips on my Play-doh shoulders, clenches my squelchy waist, stops short above the hips. HIPS! It clings, accentuating a frame that I previously tried to conceal. I can’t possibly carry the burden of this jacket’s spiky, leather collar. Avant-garde design? Maybe I should give up and go to M&S?

The jacket doesn’t fit because there is a young girl displayed wearing it above my head, the Perspex protective covering glinting over the model’s airbrushed skin. I can feel the condescending stares of the 18-year-old sales associate burning into my back. So I reach for a pair of loose fitting linen pants, having to hike them way up and belt them around my waist, the wide hip requirement causing the legs to scrape on the floor to compensate. The sales assistant is preoccupied with her phone. I wonder if she’s making fun of me?

Nothing seems to fit these days, least of all clothing. “Elderly”, said accidentally in some cases and insistently in others (as if attempting to convince me of its correctness), will usually cause me to turn away; shrug. Getting older is a difficult adjustment for everyone even if it’s written in the stars. YOU’RE ALL GOING TO GET OLD, YOU KNOW!

I can’t expect too much but on some days the worrying about other people’s attitude to aging has the potential to unsettle everything. I close myself away, poring over imagined flaws that betray undeniable ‘elderly-ness’ to the baffled offender. My age allows strangers to automatically make assumptions about my identity, as if I even want to be part of your bitch fest. I’m too busy…

‘Ageless’ is a popular description of the self, a humble brag, the assertion that you “don’t see age, you see people”. But I saw age. I stopped bleeding every month, I had hot flushes. Arthritis began to take hold of my fingers and I had to take anti-inflammatories. Inconveniences.

You folk talk about ‘ageless’ but there’s no such thing: WE ALL HAVE AGE. And they talk about ‘ageless style’ as if nobody ever took into account their age when they went out to buy a new frock. Let me squeeze into one of Kim Kardashian’s skin tight dresses and I will kill off any chatter of ‘ageless’. The truth of the matter is that you see an old lady crossing the road, and you never imagine that’s going to be you. It’s a shock the first time that the phrase: “Eee duck, I don’t have the legs for that skirt anymore!” whispers angrily in your skull, but it’s something that happens to all of us. Even men. There were pictures of men wearing little black dresses on the catwalks of Paris and Milan in The Guardian the other day. I found myself cheering aloud and celebrating with an extra morning cigarette. If lads can be that radical, why can’t I be? Find me the Little Black Dress that a 60-year-old can wear that says Fuck You! I’ll wear it with pride, even to the bingo hall!

It gets me thinking, during the 1960s we took to the streets with a new and delicious sense of freedom, with the longing to become adults and not look like younger versions of our parents. Change was in the air; in our blood. We had different clothes and different scents and colours, a myriad of vermilions, greens and pinks. We had different social mannerisms and musical tastes that drew distinct lines between the various camps. I was a Hendrix girl all the way; I wouldn’t be seen dead with the mods! We had a voice.

But is there a price to be paid? Younger generations became associated with the new, the innovative, the daring. Older generations became linked to obsolescence and irrelevance. And isn’t this my problem? But I’ll be damned if some ignorant, spoilt, tracksuit-wearing little lout is going to write me off. The global population of people aged 80 and older is expected to more than triple between 2015 and 2050, growing from 126.5 million to 446.6 million. We’ve got all the money to spend and they aren’t going to keep us down without a fight.

It’s a common retort that elderly literally means the opposite of youthful in the English language. As if that argument alone proves some inherent ridiculousness of dysphoria that we’re just not seeing. With brutal honesty, I never thought I’d be one of “those people”. But now I am the person to be sweating over a job application, considering taking a few years off my age to be the more capable and reliable employee. But here we are – box left unfilled, the form is incomplete and cannot be submitted. Suzie, the animated manager smiling serenely at me through the PC screen, simply MUST KNOW my date of birth if I am to apply for a job that I have been doing for decades before she was even thought of.

Internalised fear of “being difficult”, or being a radical social justice stereotype, conflicts directly with the unexplained discomfort when zipping up a mini skirt or crop top. It conflicts with the love of the stage of my life that I am at, but the misery of it being associated with ‘OAP’. It’s only being able to slip into the most traditional and conservative styles of the Little Black Dress, in order to feel acceptable. It feels like another one of those things that ‘normal’ people are meant to see and roll their eyes at, chuckling at the absurdity of 2017. Perhaps mutter something about “Whatever happened to accepting reality?” But Chanel herself was radical in her time with a lot of criticism thrown her way – now 90 years later, her designs are a classic that everyone refers and aspires to all over the world.

There will always be negativity. Rejection or deviation from the norm is something that invites outright mockery, stemming from fear and dislike. When new experiences are processed, the mind can skip and corrupt, causing a variety of reactions. Error 404. Page Not Found. Data inconclusive. That is true of red hair, freckles, of braces, a lisp, a lazy eye, gender criticisms – age is no different. An outburst from those whose only satisfaction comes from the diminishing of others. Actions and comments that come from a place of instinctive recoiling from things that aren’t understood. In the play park that is the world, people clamber over the obstacles and fight and scream and laugh and play. The outcasts sit on the bench with a book, only occasionally looking up to show the others that they’re definitely still watching them on the monkey bars, very good, wow, great, that looks fun, no, of course I’m looking whilst you do the no hands thing (that I totally don’t understand or particularly want to try)!

At the risk of invoking cliché, I am simply myself, nothing more complex. And for me, it is something to celebrate rather than be ashamed of. I adjust, I endure, I quizzically raise an eyebrow when people are hesitant to sell me a boob tube because “it’s not for women like me” – and my friends love me as much as they loved the younger me, with the added benefit of seeing me happy. Now it is simply a case of moving out of beta and going live. Maybe I’ll even use the Topshop changing rooms.

Unless they’re as filthy as nightclub toilets nowadays, then I’ll be walking home to try things on. You animals. How do you young ‘uns even manage to get it on the ceiling?

Zofia

Discount Creatures

When the price is a crucial distinguishing factor among products, competition doesn’t necessarily lead to innovation of better products or to a stronger, more highly evolved industry. Price wars too often lead to a decline in the status and power of craftsmen and creativity ends up taking a back seat. Emily Cheetham explores Rita Britton’s stance on discount culture and what Nomad Atelier’s practices are as a result.

Technology-powered globalisation has made bargain hunters of us all. This means cheap labour and cheap materials are repeatedly turned to, so that customers can be offered the lowest prices. Neither of these tactics are innovative or sustainable and they certainly don’t contribute to long term growth. One result is the cheap materials get thrown away. In the UK alone, 1.8 million tonnes of textile waste are produced each year. If companies are looking to produce more clothing for less money, this figure will only increase. Another result is low-wage workers end up with an erosion of income, which leads to debt and decrease in spending – a vicious and ultimately destructive cycle.

It is also not unheard of for companies to factor in discount prices before the garment has even reached the shelves: “I’ve got 50 years of experience in the fashion industry and never have I seen [discount culture] as bad as it is today” says Rita. “Companies will now put prices up. For example, if your coat was meant to be £100, it will be sold for £120 instead, so that it can be discounted at its original price.”

Joshua Ellis & Co Ltd, located in the heart of West Yorkshire, supplies cashmere for Nomad Atelier and the company can trace the origin of their raw materials right back to individual herds. “Some people think about clothes in the way they think about food” says Rita. “They think they can only afford a MacDonald’s for tea. But it is entirely possible to make an affordable meal from fresh, locally sourced food. The same goes for clothes.” Processes centred around heritage and sustainability are fine examples of how to breathe new life into a stretched and creativity-starved market – by producing clothes of premium quality that will remain at the forefront of the wardrobe for decades to come. By extending the life of clothing by just an extra nine months, our carbon, waste and water footprints would be reduced by around 20-30% each.

je

Joshua Ellis – preserving skills and specific craftsmanship is a main priority

 

Also, the shortage of passion and creativity that comes with discount culture can make a store feel lacklustre: “Discount culture has led to the dumbing down of designs” says Rita. “Young people can’t advertise anymore, because only the big boys have enough money to do it.” When put next to a genuine desire to give customers the best possible experience, discount culture really pales into insignificance. A genuine love for what you do can be infinitely rewarding and in-house design teams can often be the answer to adding a sprinkle of passion and personality to each stitch. If customers are worked with closely, designers can produce new and wonderful things that contain a warm authenticity and a sense of pride.

With garments that are made with so much devotion and commitment, it would be a sin to cheapen the craftsmanship. Nomad Atelier has belief in its ethos and its clothing – this, to me, is priceless. Discount culture may make us part with our money, but belief in your product and craft simply can’t be bought.

Celebrity Endorsement: Good or Bad?

It would be a lie to say that I have always understood celebrity endorsement. It can sometimes feel like paying to have people show up to your own party – if it was really that good, then surely people would want to show up anyway, even without being paid? It’s sometimes difficult to get the stench of ingenuity out of your nose whenever you come across a celebrity endorsed product.

Having said this, the university project I’ve recently undertaken required me to research a selection of celebrity endorsements and analyse whether they were successful or not and why. I have to say, I have learnt a lot and I can see that celebrity endorsement can sometimes be a necessary part of an advertising campaign.

A good fit between a brand and a celebrity spokesperson or endorser can add to the persuasiveness of any advertising campaign. Choice of celebrity is important, as their face becomes associated with the brand and any publicity they receive (good or bad) may directly influence the opinion and sales of the product they are endorsing.

An endorser or spokesperson’s characteristics influence how persuasive they will appear to the target audience. Shimp created a model that organises these characteristics into two categories – credibility and attractiveness. These consist of further sub-attributes: trustworthiness and expertise are two dimensions of credibility, whereas physical attractiveness, respect and similarity (to the target audience) are components of attractiveness. All of these categories are brought together to form the acronym TEARS.

T – Trustworthiness is measured by how deserving the spokesperson is of confidence – is what they say likely to be truthful and can they be depended upon?

E – Expertise refers to how much knowledge, experience, and skill the endorser has with regard to the brand in question. For example, athletes are considered to be experts when it comes to endorsing sports-related products and models are perceived as experts on beauty-enhancing products.

A – Attractiveness includes any traits that the target audience may find aspirational or desirable. This could include; intellectual skills, lifestyle characteristics or trendy physical features.

R – Respect refers to whether or not the endorser has managed to build a good reputation and create a strong relationship with the public. Are the target audience and brand in question fond of them?

S – Similarity refers to whether the values and characteristics of the endorser match that of the target audience. Are they both interested in the same things?

In conclusion, celebrities do it for some people and they don’t do it for others – and sometimes people like celebrities that other people don’t. The only right answer is to make sure each individual brand thoroughly understands their target customers. This way, each company will find a spokesperson that fits into the TEARS model and connects with their own individual brand image and target audience.

 

Arena – Screen Goddesses

In order to gain a deeper understanding of the women of the 1930s and 1940s who would be interested in Piguet’s glamorous Hollywood-inspired pieces, I decided to watch Arena – Screen Goddesses. This is a documentary put together by the BBC, all about early Hollywood and its female movie stars. I’ll be creating a list of bullet points, to remind me of all the juicy, concise titbits that I gathered whilst watching the program:

  • Movie stars became an “ideal of beauty” during the 1920s and 1930s.
  • MGM controlled how stars were portrayed by magazines in the 1930s.
  • In cinema, intimacy was often portrayed by the exchange of a cigarette. The striking of a match conveyed overwhelming desire, as seen in Queen Christina (1933) starring Greta Garbo.
  • Clara Bow possessed “a magnetism that attracted both sexes” and her taste for men was voracious both on and off screen.
  • Rita Hayworth was described as: “a figure of sexual supremacy.”
  • Ingrid Bergman felt that: “Her only image was herself and grew tired of the Hollywood dream factory.”
  • Barbara Stanwyck was known for her “glamour and fast wit.”
  • Mae West was known for her “verbal playfulness.” One of her most famous quotes is: “I do most of my writing in bed; everyone knows I do my best work there.”
  • In Shanghai Express (1932), Shanghai Lily played by Marlene Dietrich is described as a “user of men.” Also, in The Blue Angel (1930) her character Lola Lola says: “I live for sex, it’s the way I’m made.”

cinema

After reading through all of the notes I wrote after watching this documentary, I came to the conclusion that women who admired Hollywood stars in these decades would want to appear as sultry, confident powerful goddesses. This is the way that Piguet consumers of the 21st century will want to feel too, albeit with a lot of cultural updates. It is the brand’s responsibility to make sure its new products and identity makes its customers feel this way.

OLED: The Future of Cinema

It’s time to decide what kind of product the Piguet fashion house is going to create – something that will firmly establish a place for the new brand in today’s fashion market. This is an opportunity to create something revolutionary and innovative, to create something that has never been made that all participants will be remembered for.

To revive Robert Piguet’s fashion house, the traditional qualities of his brand image will have to be updated with modern, relevant topics. In Robert Piguet’s case, talkies were revolutionary during the 30s and they played a big part in the glamour and escapism surrounding the decade. For the Robert Piguet brand to be revived, his traditional influences of film and Hollywood glamour will have to be repurposed to incorporate the modern cinema experience, so that the brand is relevant in today’s market place. A brainstorm of products that may help the brand to do this included:

  • 1930s Hollywood eyewear is a symbol of sophistication and glamour. It may be possible to collaborate with a company that specialises in VR technology, to create a collection of vintage Piguet eyewear that can display films across the lenses. This would celebrate Piguet’s original influences whilst also taking on board the advancements of modern technology.
  • The only part of the Piguet fashion house that has survived to this day is the fragrances. Therefore, it may be beneficial to the brand to collaborate with a perfumer to create a new fragrance that can change the way it smells throughout the day. This would repurpose the idea of cinematic storytelling, by using scent to tell a story as the day goes by.
  • It may be a good idea to collaborate with a revered camera manufacturer to create a camera that is 1930s in style but 2020 in technological advancements. This would make an impression on creative and passionate millennial consumers. However, this would severely limit the size of the target audience.
  • Film has become more and more portable over the decades, with inventions such as the TV, laptops and mobile phones, so there is very little need for a cinema in the 21st This may be an opportunity to collaborate with a cinema company and create cinemas that are modern fun and exciting, to reignite public interest in the cinema experience. However, this may be difficult to maintain because new technology allows consumers to watch films in the comfort of their own homes.

Although all of these ideas are relevant to Piguet’s brand identity, a different concept seemed to be the better option.

At the Keynote of CES 2013 with the theme of ‘Mobilizing Possibilities’, Samsung introduced its innovative prototype of a flexible display screen. This is a creation made possible  by OLED technology and it can be rolled up like a piece of paper. This technology is said to be: “Opening up new lifestyle possibilities” and it certainly takes entertainment and motion picture to a level of versatility that has never been reached before (MyNextGadget, 2013). This presents a huge opportunity for collaboration – if Samsung are capable of creating flexible TV screens, then this technology could be adapted and turned into a fabric. This would celebrate Piguet’s original influences whilst also taking on board the advancements of modern technology in a way that has never been explored before, so overall this was the winning concept.

lineup

What About Piguet?

piguet-portrait

 

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 …

story-time

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.

1930s-scene

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.

 

Millinery in the 21st Century

​The second year of Fashion Management is well and truly in motion! The first part of our project involves researching a brand that needs revitalising, some life breathed back into it – after a lot of thought I have chosen Robert Piguet, who embraced theatrical 30s romanticism. 

Although Piguet wasn’t known for accessories, I got swept up in the 1930s hats – to me, they epitomised the glamour that was in the air during the decade. I decided to interview a local milliner, the wonderful Sophie Cooke of Imogen’s Imagination in Sheffield, to see if and how the trade has changed in the 21st century. 

Hi Sophie! How did you get started in millinery? Did you complete a degree and/or internship or go freelance?
“I started off in 2006-ish using pre-made hat shapes and decorating them for myself and friends to wear to burlesque nights. It was just a hobby to scratch the creative itch. As a result, I was asked to make them for a local shop, the owner of which ran the burlesque night.  I did that for a year or so but then took a break.  In late 2008 I started selling at vintage fairs and developed design more suitable to the market, still using pre-made shapes.  It wasn’t until September 2009 that I started evening classes at Leeds College of Art and Design that I learnt to make hats from scratch.  I attended 5 years of classes, 30 sessions a year, whilst working full-time, for most of it. This is the only formal training I have.  My mum and grandma taught me to sew; machine, hand and embroidery. Everything else has been learnt as I’ve gone alone. The only formal creative qualification I have is a GCSE in Design and Technology, about 2 decades ago (That’s as old as I’ll admit to! lol). I didn’t start the business “full-time” until late October 2013, and even since then, I have always had a part-time job of between 8-18.5 hours to help tide me over financially.”

What types of skills do you think somebody would need to be successful in millinery?
“Strong work ethic.  Desire to experiment and learn new skills. Thick skinned, emotionally, not just physically to avoid workroom stabbing injuries! Creative. Imaginative. Organised- juggling clients, finances, stock can be tricky. Inventive. Brave. I don’t believe I can claim to be successful, I’m not denying that I haven’t had my moments, I guess it depends how on you measure success. I haven’t missed a mortgage payment, I pay my studio rent on time…but if you measure success in nights out, holiday and treats, then the reduced section at the supermarket is my best friend!”

What have you enjoyed the most about your career in millinery?
There is nothing more satisfying than getting paid! Apart from the moment when someone tries on a hat and their posture suddenly gets a little straighter, a smile creeps across their face and then they grin.  That’s when you know the hat is right.  That is hugely satisfying.  Sometimes it’s a bit like being a hairdresser, people tell you all sorts of things! I think because it’s such a personal purchase, and such a new experience to have a hat made for you, as well as the client being heavily involved in the design process, it is part of them. Often because the hat is to be worn for a memorable occasion, the hat and by proxy you, to an extent, become part of that memory. I love getting photos from happy clients at their events…you know they wore it, enjoyed wearing and what to share that joy with you and your Facebook page! ;o)”

What is one of the biggest problems you have faced in your career in millinery? 
“Money and time in equal measures.  I can honestly say that I spend more time at the PC than I do making. It’s hard work selling, whether it’s online, in person at events or with custom order clients. It all takes time.  Research, admin, finances, promotion.  I know that I have stock that I haven’t listed online because I haven’t got good enough photos, or the time to create the listings.  If I had the cash, I would happily pay someone to help me out, but without the balance of time to develop and create income through a variety of sources (sales, networking, workshops, press development etc) my time becomes more full of the mundane jobs.”