Magic, Miniskirts and Modish Queens: an exploration of fashion over the royal Jubilee

Image  From a Press Release

“In 1952, when the lovely young Queen Elizabeth came to the throne bringing with her a revival in Tudor-style bodices and modest high collars, Marilyn Monroe was shocking the world by appearing in a calendar in just a bikini top and a pair of Levi’s.

Fashion Media Promotion: the new black magic  looks at how fashion, as an industry, has adapted itself over the last 60 years to always command an important role in the global marketplace. It explores how, through communication methods such as advertising, digital and print media and cinema, fashion has waved its magic wand and entranced the whole world.

Revelling in the nostalgia of some classic fashion firsts since the Queen came on the throne, Fashion Media Promotion explores, with some humour, the impact of quintessentially British designers such as Mary Quant, Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood on both British culture and fashions abroad.

This insightful book will appeal, one trusts, to fashion students and lovers, film buffs and writers as it searches every corner of the fashion world’s monopoly, from the inspiration of Hollywood classics such as Gone with the Wind to a critique of Roland Barthes’ promotional work.

The book, published by Wiley-Blackwell, includes 60 original full colour illustrations. Images of Audrey Hepburn’s glamour, Mary Quant’s Mini-skirts to Kate Moss’s androgynous appeal really bring to life how fashion has evolved over the decades.

 “I have always been fascinated by how fashion links the generations and this has never been more the case than over the last 60 years. To keep us talking about it, fashion always has to find new ways to shock and thrill people, yet it also draws on past trends. Today a granddaughter might envy the clothes her grandmother used to wear in the 1950s.”

Love on the Orient Express

Behind Coco Chanel’s gift for elegant, timeless, design was a personal life of abandonment and insecurity. Her mythology is plundered, for promotional purposes, keeping ‘Chanel’ in the forefront of international Fashion marketing.  Her origins are shrouded in mystery. She hid her history. She was an orphan who decided to live in a castle, becoming an archetype of her own creation.

House of  Chanel is owned by Gerard and Alain Wertheimer, grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer, who founded the company, with Chanel, in 1924, two years after he, and his brother Paul, had helped bring Chanel No.5 to the marketplace.

The English millionaire Edward ‘Boy’ Capel gave Chanel the money to start her own millinery business in Paris in 1910.  He died in a road accident in 1919. Chanel did not marry but founded the world’s most successful Fashion house and the Chanel connection goes beyond No.5. When the fragrance ad aired, Anne Fontaine’s Coco avant Chanel movie, starring Tautou as the young Coco, appeared in French cinemas, in 2010.

Opening with a dark-eyed girl on a cart, covered in a thick, bronze, tweedy blanket with a hand-knitted doll, we see the landscape from her point of view and the fabric textures in close-up. It was going to be about needlework?  Mais, non.  Distinguished, on the DVD cover, as a story of a woman whose love affairs defied convention, it really is rather more about sewing. It has all the hallmarks of French cinema and not just because of the subtitles. Sweeping views of the expansive, so Impressionist, countryside; clever, adventurous camera angles, drawing us in, to feel how the young Chanel is both exploited and exploiting.

Audrey Tatou’s deft involvement with the process of making clothes and observing humanity is at the heart of the film’s alchemy. It mixes class drama with professional aspiration to create a modern day transformation. Cinderella invents her own ballgowns and buys the Fashion house where they are made and shown.

It convinced me that Fashion designers put their souls into their output. It condensed the Fashion system into 106 minutes of doubly moving image text.  In spectacular form it sets the scene for an integrated cross-marketing campaign, where the Ad sells the film and the film sells the product.

When we thrill to the Chanel No 5 current television commercial we relive Coco Chanel’s life as a young adventurer. As Audrey Tatou moves through the corridors of the Orient Express in lithe gold satin, hoping to find her lover’s arms, Coco’s doomed love affair with Boy Capel is re-evoked.  As the actress rushes towards the beach and views passengers on a luxury ocean-going liner, ‘la mer,’ and the French, and Coco’s, infatuation with the sea becomes part of Chanel’s signature themes, associated with the voyage and the clothes worn for the journey.

Of course Coco Avant Chanel is a woman’s film. Directed by Anne Fontaine, and costumed by Catherine Leterrier, it has links with the Feminist tract, ‘The Subversive Stitch.’ Yet it speaks of elegance, observation, fame, the significance of Fashion and the power of dress to alter the way we see ourselves and are seen by others.

‘Dolly Birds’ back in town

MARY Quant’s original ‘dolly birds’ are helping granddaughters  join the fascinating world of Fashion;  setting them up for careers in a business, which brings £22 billion, in direct sales, to the UK economy.

As well as ‘Queen of Frocks,’ Mary Portas,  C4, revitalising Fashion in department stores and on the high street, this inventive industry is seeing Fashion PR agencies growing, by two thirds in six months, and British Fashion Council chairman, Harold Tillman, backing the campaigns.

Grandmothers, who wore Mary Quant and who love Audrey Hepburn, are buying  ‘FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION  the new black magic’  for granddaughters setting off on Fashion courses.  It’s wonderful seeing Film and Fashion linking generations.

Each year, since the economic downturn, Fashion has fought back in high streets, on catwalks, in magazine editorials, on television, on-line, in window displays.  So when the going gets tough, the tough mobilise their forces, to sell more than just a few million, extra, new lipsticks.

With many Fashion students learning about the industry in colleges and universities, in Britain, there is room for optimism.

Above right:  Topshop New York

Waterstone’s, Deansgate, Manchester,  7pm, Thursday 27th October                                                                                                         Waterstone’s, Orchard Square , Sheffield, 5pm to 7pm, Thursday 17th November

Suzy Menkes and zeitgeist at the museum

Vivienne Westwood and Anglomania at the Met!

Secrets, hidden in my story of  Vivienne Westwood and museum culture, have been picked up by the New York Times!  Such fun.  Suzy Menkes, the most important Fashion commentator in the world, who  agreed to answer questions when we once met, at the V&A, writes magnificently on the passionate liaison of Art and Fashion in galleries across the globe.

Saying, ‘The explosion of museum exhibitions is only a mirror image of what has happened to fashion itself this millennium. With the force of technology, instant images and global participation, fashion has developed from being a passion for a few to a fascination — and an entertainment — for everybody, ‘ she  picks  up what ‘FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION the new black magic‘ is about.  It’s wonderful to know that someone, like Suzy Menkes, can feel as I do about Fashion and the people who work in it.

 ‘FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION the new black magic’   is about the promotion of Fashion and the collision of Art and Commerce in the service of Fashion.

It is also about how Vivienne  Westwood’s association with the anarchist McLaren confuses critics, and her training, which was not in a fashionable Art school, gave the Fashion establishment an opportunity to see her as an outsider, until she was discovered by ‘Vogue.’

Of course, the merging of Art and Fashion in galleries, visited by millions, is zeitgeist.  Suzy Menkes may not have seen my book, but I can dream, can’t I? Perhaps I’d know for sure,  if I’d taken up her offer and sent her that email!



Left:  Vivienne Westwood and Anglomania at the Met!


Spirit of the age and how!

Mary Quant suggested I travelled with her and  husband Alexander Plunkett Green, to interview them, on their way to Manchester airport.  It was the first step to finding out about Fashion, itself.  Enormously exciting, as the cab sped away from Chester, and I began scribbbling, frantically.  They  shared  insights into how to run a Fashion business in a downturn.  It was September 1981.  Since then the world has learned masses about Fashion’s importance to the economy, and Mary’s own book, Quant on Quant, was a huge help to me.  Now as I prepare to do signings in  Huddersfield, Manchester, and Sheffield,  I am grateful for their generous, modern, sixties spirits and recall the whole experience with terrific pleasure.  Students, who know of Mary Quant’s life and times, love the idea of my lucky break.

Above right: Mary Quant researches fabrics to make Dolly Birds’ lives more eventful

FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION the new black magic –  Signings and slide show at WATERSTONE’S, New Street, Huddersfield, Saturday October 1st, 11. 30 am till 3pm  and WATERSTONE’S, Deansgate, Manchester, Thursday 27th October at 7pm.  Dress code:  Glam, Goth, Gaga

Value Added Pleasure

Huddersfield University’s Costume and Fashion Summer Shows, at the Lawrence Batley Theatre,  gave me two hours of unadulterated aesthetic pleasure. As being backstage at the NT or  BBC television centre, I could fantasise playwrighting, directing ballet, film, revue, cabaret  as scenes of glamour, romance, and adventure unfolded.

At the Fashion show sitting in the gallery, not at catwalk level, as for other graduate shows, I could marvel at  students’ ingenuity; creating clothes for dreams with tailoring and making-details in sharp relief under the spotlights.

Each brilliantly turned hem, exquisitely rendered ruffle, sensitively stitched pleat, softly draped bodice, tightly corseted waist, delighted me.   I was watching haute couture, from a very special angle;  seeing the creativity  lecturers, technicians  and students are sending into the market place.

This is the unsung value a university  adds to society and we should begin to sing about it before it is unpicked before our eyes.  Courses run at universities like Huddersfield, carrying on the Polytechnic tradition, give today’s, and tomorrow’s, workforce the opportunity to feed new technologies; becoming essential content providers for the future.

We should be alert to the risks of new talent not accessing these courses through not realising the excellent investment value of  cheap student loans.    We must guard against this danger.

Above right: Chanel accused Dior of ‘upholstering’ women:  FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION  the new black magic p46

A talent to amuse?

In  a television show about Fashion,this Spring, what happened to wit, delight, pleasure, joy, excitement, smiling, laughter, fragrance, music, fun?   Simple answer:  the programme  was presented by a man, Alex Riley.  Described as a comedian,  he seemed to have no views on  how Fashion makes men, and women, happy.  Maybe he has never owned an exquisite object, filling him with wonder about its manufacture, its history, its impact.

‘Secrets of the Superbrands’, 9pm BBC3 revealed nothing more than a  First Year Fashion undergraduate would already know.

When we learned that parts of the brain relating to the emotions were stimulated by beauty, if a Gucci, Chanel, or  Prada bag appeared on screen, as opposed to one made for sale in, say, Tesco; why would we be surprised? ‘Duuh!’

The woman, willing victim, lying in the scanner, would know stories of the designers, the sources of the fabrics, the legacy of the labels, when the objects of desire were signed under the images.  Of course, aesthetic senses are alerted!

Riley, whose taste is certainly in his mouth, seemed genuinely unable to believe that the Fashion industry is a 21st century marvel; employing millions of people worldwide, fulfilling our fantasies, while dressing us for life’s  fulfilling roles.

Will it take a rocket scientist to champion the idea that Fashion helps us to stay most human by moving towards pleasure and away from pain? If it does let’s hope she’s a woman and understands the difference between a tester and a test tube.

Above left: from FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION the new black magic  as  M&S persuaded Antonio Banderas to perform the exact moment when Scarlett fell for Rhett.