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This week in history...

Dickins & Jones set a new standard in luxury retail, Belfast retailers were hit by a wave of bombings, and Ted Baker founder Ray Kelvin launched retail concept called News…

1914…

The Drapers of April 25 1914 reported from The Drapery Exhibition at The Agricultural Hall in London, where there were “more stands than on any previous occasion”.

Rather than focus on the clothing on offer, the report instead applauded the exhibitors’ stands. One, by Charles Wilson of Great Titchfield Street in London, was said to have attracted plenty of attention, and was described as “taking the form of the exterior of a prettily designed cottage with ladies in the garden”, who were dressed in some “particularly smart and exclusive costumes”.

The use of life-sized models was also commented on, “The visitor will not fail to be impressed by the improvement that has taken place in the construction of wax figures,” wrote Drapers. However, the reporter added: “Some are capable of improvement.”

See the image gallery for a picture of Viyella’s stand at the show.

1949…

Department store Dickins & Jones “set a new standard in luxury store trading” at its London Regent Street store, wrote Drapers on April 23 1949.

The government had requisitioned the building’s second floor during the Second World War, and when the space was handed back, the retailer kicked off an extensive revamp of the whole store.

The floors, which were previously open plan had been, “divided up with artificial barriers to form a series of selling rooms”, reported Drapers.

Within these rooms, speciality shops were opened to serve different age and size groups, rather than segmenting by price, as had been the case before. Drapers said this allowed “the small woman or fuller figure to find all their fashion requirements in one section”. A ‘Young Londoners’ shop targeted 17 to 25-year-olds.  

The use of price tickets in windows and showrooms was abandoned, in keeping with other “good-quality” fashion stores in the area. However, Drapers pointed out that customer reaction to this move had “not yet been tabulated”.

As a finishing touch, elegant double doors (pictured) were installed to transform the store front and provide draught-proof entrances on all sides of the building.

The latest furs, which were “high-fashion news” at the time, were also discussed in this issue.

Cape jackets, boleros waistcoats and hip-length jackets were among the styles, with key looks including decorative buttons (see image gallery for pictures) and one-sleeve stoles.

Manufacturers were switching to mass-production techniques as cheaper furs became more popular.

1974…

Belfast retailers were suffering beneath a “massive wave” of bombings, according to the April 27 1974 edition of Drapers.

Before lunch on one day, and within the space of just one hour and eight minutes, the following emergencies were dealt with by retailers: “Incendiaries were found in C&A in Donegall Place; a fire bomb exploded in Etam on the other side of the road; a raging fire was caused by incendiaries at Eve’s boutique in North Street; there was a small explosion at the rear of Anderson & McAuley; a fire bomb exploded at the Bank Buildings; a fire bomb was carried out of Anderson & McAuley by a member of staff and exploded in the street, with shoppers treated for shock.” 

Devices also exploded in other areas of the city, while 10 shops in Armagh were also damaged by bombs.

On a lighter note, a feature titled ‘The London Look’ examined the work of several young designers beginning to make a name for themselves, all of whom had shown their collections in London the previous week.

Among the designers was Katharine Hamnett, working on the Tuttabanken label. However, Drapers’ reaction to the collection (pictured) was mixed. “Too much nostalgia,” it wrote. “A mish-mash of Dior’s New Look and traces of Balenciaga, too, in a late 1940s/early 1950s collection.” However, full kimono-sleeved coats, beautiful silk blouses and wrap jacket wool crepe suits were among the pieces that did impress Drapers.

1990…

Ted Baker founder Ray Kelvin unveiled a new menswear concept, called News, in Drapers’ April 21 1990 issue.

News, part of the Goldberg group, targeted men aged between 24 and 35. The offer focused on quality product with a strong casualwear element, and was masterminded by designer Jeff Banks.

Sixteen Wrygges stores were to be converted into the News fascia, while News shop-in-shops would go into Goldberg stores. Kelvin said the storefits would be on a “low cost budget”, and would have a simple, uncluttered look. Wall panels would feature rolls of newspaper print.  

Kelvin said: “In the current climate we did not want to spend a lot of money on the new design, but with this image and the input of Jeff Banks the stores will gain instant credibility.”

The venture went ahead under a licensing agreement between Goldberg and Banks, with Banks getting a royalty from sales. News saw its competitors as being retailers such as River Island.

A fashion spread later in the magazine reported on a raunchy mix of 1960s and 1970s styles for women, including hot pants, psychedelic prints, hipsters and flares. “A style verging on the tasteless,” wrote Drapers.

The image gallery features an example of the trend, with a waistcoat by Jean Hare, a Lycra body and stretch velour pants by Wet. 

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