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This week in history...

Scheduling issues and delays marred London Fashion Week, Britain’s top tie wearers were recognised, and a US newspaper’s comments riled Drapers

10 years ago…

The British Fashion Council (BFC) promised to work more closely with designers and rationalise venues after scheduling issues and delays marred London Fashion Week for many buyers and journalists, according to the October 2 1999 issue of Drapers.

A number of shows, including Pam Hogg’s, ran up to two hours late. Journalists with standing tickets found themselves locked out of some events, after having only just arrived on an official coach, while buyers on the second day of LFW faced a 15-hour day.

The feeling among both journalists and buyers was that the schedule was too demanding, mainly because of the travelling between the various catwalk sites.

BFC chief executive John Wilson admitted it had failed to find the right balance between the needs of designers to show in venues with the right ambience, and the needs of buyers to have a logistically straightforward schedule.

As for the spring 2000 collections at LFW, Drapers said they were as mixed as the typically British weather that dogged the event, “from classically commercial to downright adventurous”.

Labels such as Burberry and Liberty sat alongside young designers including Tracey Boyd, Markus Lupfer and Matthew Williamson on the capital’s catwalks.

Susanne Tide-Frater, director of fashion at Selfridges, praised LFW for its creativity and individuality. “We always need new faces as they continue to push the industry along. For me, London will always be the one to offer this,” she said.

Drapers singled out Hussein Chalayan, Markus Lupfer, Boyd, Matthew Williamson, Clements Ribeiro and Anthony Symonds as the top shows, while key pieces included hot pants, brightly coloured leather skirts, the all-in-one suit, the halterneck top, mini skirt, and short, wide trousers with big turn-ups.    

30 years ago…

The October 4 1979 issue of Men’s Wear (later incorporated into Drapers) was a special edition focusing on the latest suit styles.

Gone was the loose, unconstructed look of previous seasons, to be replaced for spring 1980 by “a sharply-defined, top-biased shape” on both single- and double-breasted suits.

The body shape was slimmer, with lighter, smoother fabrics. Patterns tended to be small, with checks and fine stripes particularly popular. Lapels were narrow and long, with the shawl collar introduced by some manufacturers.  

The  key colours were greys, beige and cream, with some also including aquamarine and mulberry.

Ties were also in the news, as the Top Ten Tiemen awards were presented at the Savoy Hotel in London. Organised by the Tie Manufacturers’ Association, the awards recognised the UK’s most impressive tie wearers,  selected from men in the public eye.

Among those picking up an award was former Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan, who admitted that most of his ties were chosen by his wife. Other winners included footballer Trevor Brooking and TV personalities Frank Bough and Terry Wogan. 

54 years ago…

Tunic shapes represented a radical change in women’s dress shapes, according to the October 1 1955 issue of Drapers, and the magazine advised buyers to practice caution, as customers’ reaction to the style was still yet to be gauged.

Although, the move on from the popular A-line shape represented a new opportunity for sales, Drapers felt that the slender shape of the tunics as adapted from Paris originals would only suit those shops “with a clientele of fashion-conscious beanpoles”.

There was hope for those retailers catering for a less trend-driven customer though, as manufacturers were reported to have adapted the look to create a “dress over a dress” style that was expected to have a more general appeal.

The magazine unfortunately ran no pictures of these tunic dress styles. Instead, a fashion spread looked at trends in hand-knitted fashions, all of which were being exhibited at the Handicrafts Exhibition at Earls Court in London this week. 

Among the styles on show were tunic-line sweaters and jackets, two-tone effects and embroidery, with orange a key colour.

100 years ago…

Ill-informed comments by a US newspaper about British shops irritated Drapers on October 2 1909, after the opening of US-owned department store Selfridges on London’s Oxford Street earlier in the year.

The Saturday Evening Post, published in Philadelphia, printed an article headed ‘The Nation of Shopkeepers – what an American merchant is doing for it in London’.

The piece went on to describe the typical London shop girl as “an anaemic young woman in black whose hair looks like a cross between a magpie’s nest and a bunch of seaweed” and that the average shopwalker  had “an instinctive rubbing of the hands natural to those who sell in the British nation of shopkeepers”.

It went on to claim that “cue” was a word used by all shop assistants in every sentence,  to mean “thank you”, and that shopwalkers addressed female customers with the words: “Madam has taken up some of our time already, but we will gladly give her more if we can suit her with something.”

The conclusion, wrote Drapers, was that the American was “heaven-sent” and revolutionised London’s “village methods”.

Drapers felt tempted “to doubt the intelligence of American readers if they can be deceived by this twaddle”.

Also this week, Jaeger unveiled a range of pure wool women’s golf coats for autumn, while another picture story showed the new premises of retailer R Whitehead & Son of Bolton.

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