Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Sleeves: Decoding what the designers are saying

'Yes, of course we know that middle aged women want to cover up their arms, but that is not our problem. For the past few years we have been designing sleeveless dresses because that is what is we want to design. The fact that many women can't wear these dresses is of no consequence. We do not wish to sell to these women because we do not want them to wear our clothes. We realise that we are losing a huge revenue from this clientele, but although we are financially on the brink of ruin, we are artists not business people. We prefer not to make a profit and go under rather than compromise our artistic vision and make dresses with sleeves. No sleeves. Sorry. We are not really sorry. We just don't care what you want. We are directional people, you should want what we tell you to want and if you can't wear it, well, you are not our market.

'For Spring/Summer 09 we are introducing jackets without sleeves. Autumn/Winter 09, shoes without soles. '

Harry Remembers Slogans

A couple of weeks ago I had dinner with some new acquaintances. It was a very pleasant evening and in the course of the conversation (which did not include the subject of long sleeved evening dresses) , it transpired that they were old friends of Katherine Hamnett. A name , I suggested , that doesn’t come up that often nowadays.
I was curious to know if she was still in business. Indeed she is. I gather most of her business is web –based ( this is the link)
I recalled her campaigning for organic cotton, and her anti nuclear stance in the eighties. Her web-site shows that her campaigning continues with vigour. Including Concentrated Solar Power, which I confess is news to me.

Of course I remember most vividly her encounter with Margaret Thatcher in the 80’s when she was famously photographed with the T –shirt that boldly proclaimed ‘No to Pershing’. A coup of a very high order. And an understanding of the dynamics of slogan T –shirts that nobody has bettered.

Ms Hamnett is still marketing similar shirts. But it occurred to me that I don’t see any slogans on the streets any more.
Shirts often seem to be ‘decorated ‘ with type, but it’s usually decoration with no content.
I asked my daughter and a friend ( 20) whether I was missing something. Apparently I’m not. The slogans they are aware of came from the likes of Topshop and are merely modish cultural references. Even if they appeared to have some content they were explicitly superficial and, as is often the case nowadays, ironic.

I don’t believe I am lamenting the demise of the slogan so much as I am bothered by the absence of seriousness and originality. Which has been elbowed out of the way by the trivial and a form of consumer idolatry ( half the population are apparently fulfilled by turning themselves into walking billboards for Diesel and Abercrombie and Fitch and their ilk).

But then…. who am I to talk?
Way back , in early teenager-hood , I was a big fan of satire, exemplified by the esteemed magazine Private Eye. They produced their own merchandise and I coveted it. I saved my pennies and bought a t shirt by mail order. They were amongst the first ( as far as I am aware ) to create such cultural artefacts.
When it arrived my joy was unconfined. In big black type it proudly proclaimed: 'Death to Sir Albert Strume'. I thought it was hilarious . (Sir Albert was , of course, entirely fictitious.)

At the earliest opportunity I wore it when I next played tennis.
After half an hour the club secretary ( a diminutive woman with massive thighs and a powerful forehand) appeared on the court in a state of high officiousness and promptly ordered me off. It wasn’t just that I was in contravention of club rules , but she was visibly agitated and outraged.
I had no idea it would be so provocative.
And of course I was delighted that it was.

Upcoming appearances

I'll be doing several events between now and the end of the year, including appearances at the Vancouver and Toronto literary festivals in late October. My main website has all the details.

A resolution and a wrecked back

Thank you for your very many suggestions. I hope anyone in my predicament has been following and taking notes.

Yesterday morning I received a useful email from a fashion editor I'd been talking to at the Anya Hindmarch press day who said that she thought the point was not buying a fabulous new dress for the occasion but putting together an outfit that worked for the occasion, parts of which will be televised. She gave some some tips about black, why not to wear it but how to offset it if you do (with gold). On that basis I went to my final stop, Liberty ,yesterday. There were only a handful of long dresses and while a couple had sleeves they were heavily beaded, cost thousands and not my kind of thing.

What they also had were several of the kinds of jackets I'd been thinking of, so I determined that I will wear my sea green MaxMara dress. There were a couple of lovely Dries van Noten jackets, though very expensive, and I was prepared to consider them. But when I got to the Issey Miyake Pleats Please section, I found a very simple but beautifully cut and structured black jacket at only £200. And which I could wear with anything. I bought that jacket, but decided I would go and take a look at the Issey Miyake Pleats Please shop off Bond Street to see if they have it in any other colours. Found it was closed for renovation until Monday, so I will go back then.

At home, I put together the dress with the jacket and a gold, jade and labradorite statement necklace. It looked sensational. As my friend R. in Istanbul, said, during an hour long phone conversation last night, the jacket would be even better in dark green. Anya Hindmarch is very kindly lending me the sample of next season's gold python clutch for the evening. So at present we have a theme of sea green black and gold which I think is simple but sophisticated (and all good colours for me.)

So I'm done. My back is totally wrecked from walking around for four hours in high-heeled boots on Wednesday, I don't want to see another shop for a long long time - at least, oh, four or five days? And that was starting with a dress I already have. The day of the prize 14 October, I'll post pictures of the whole outfit.

The only two pleasures of the past two days have been Anya's press day which was basically girls in a sweetshop (and I've ordered that python clutch for next summer) and, the sudden upsurge in interest by US publishers in The Clothes On Their Backs. For US readers, I will have more to report next week.