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This week in history...

A human rights group threatened to picket Bhs, hooded coats were blamed for a rise in road accidents, and traders were warned of a notorious “trickster and swindler”.

13 years ago…

A human rights organisation was threatening to picket Bhs stores in protest at the department store chain’s relationship with a Burmese supplier, wrote Drapers on 27 July 1996.

Bhs chief executive Keith Edelman received a letter from The Burma Action Group, accusing Bhs of indirectly supporting the country’s military regime by using a Burmese supplier.

If the protestors did not receive a satisfactory response from Bhs, it said its members would be urged to picket the retailer. However, a Bhs spokesman said: “We source, like most retailers in this country, from all over the world and we aim to get the best product at the best price.”

He added that Bhs had clear guidelines in terms of fair working conditions and wages, the factory had been inspected by Bhs, and that if the firm stopped sourcing in Burma the workers would find themselves without a job.

Also this week, an analysis questioned whether fashion advertising was too dependent on shock value, after complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) more than doubled, triggered by poster ads from brands including Gossard, Pepe, Levi’s and Benetton. 

Lingerie brand Gossard’s latest ad, with the tag line “Who says a woman can’t get pleasure from something soft” was slammed by both those complaining to the ASA and by rival brands. However, there were signs that some advertisers were realising they could go too far, as Benetton decided to ditch an ad campaign featuring a black and a white horse mating. 

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40 years ago…

Department stores were under fire in the July 26 1969 issue of Drapers, as young store chiefs at the Drapers’ Chamber of Trade Summer School in Oxford complained their sector suffered from poor-quality management, short-sightedness and a failure to look to the long term.

Christopher Bourne, managing director of London department store Bourne & Hollingsworth, said it was sad to see department stores advertising cheap merchandise, and added that trading down was “a terrible mistake” as it opened them up to competition from multiples.

Edward Bates, managing director of Bates of Chatham in Kent, believed only the most efficient department stores would survive.

Elsewhere this week, the success of a unisex “Mick Jagger outfit” at Sheltone’s in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, caused Drapers to speculate whether a day would soon come when there were “no women’s and men’s departments, but merely clothing sections.” 

And in London, fashion retailer Fifth Avenue on Oxford Street came up with a window display that was out of this world by celebrating the moon landings.

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55 years ago…

The July 1954 edition of Cloth and Clothes (later incorporated into Drapers), reviewed the latest British pyjamas and fabrics.

The magazine praised the “nice blend of conservatism and innovation in pyjama patterns and designs.

Meanwhile, in the July 24 issue of Drapers, the news pages carried a warning about the “danger” of hooded coats, after the hoods on women’s raincoats were blamed for a rise in road accidents in Sheffield.

Mr G Escott, chief constable of Sheffield, said: “The hoods often act as blinkers and endanger the wearers, who step off the pavement without making sure whether a vehicle is near.”

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115 years ago…

“We make no apology to Mr Henry Heath Hellier for designating him a trickster and swindler,” said Drapers on July 21 1894, “and we do it with the object of inducing this scoundrel to take some legal steps against us, in order that more publicity may be given to his villainies.”

Hellier, a former draper with a history of bankruptcy, was now in the habit of defrauding fashion suppliers by placing orders and then failing to pay, his tactic being that the orders were too small to make legal action worthwhile for the businesses defrauded.  

However, his many run-ins with Drapers readers had inevitably brought him to the attention of the magazine. The fact he was still at large was made plain by Hellier’s letter asking for samples from the maker of Tomlyn’s Patent Hooks, which advertised for the first time in Drapers a few weeks before.

Drapers shrugged off the libellous nature of its comments about Hellier, saying such men “prefer flight” rather than a legal fight, but hoped that by printing a facsimile of Hellier’s handwriting and note paper its readers could protect themselves against his fraudulent practices.

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