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Monday 23 April 2012
Words Spindle

London College of Fashion MA Fashion Curation students appropriates the historical fashion pedigree of sixties style haven, the Carnaby Street district to showcase a reflective exhibition on British Vintage. Featuring leading designers of the era Mary Quant and youth culture defining designer of the 70’s Vivienne Westwood, as well as antiquated dressing tables, attire and photographs of the original wearers fashioning them as part of the charming exploration of ideas of nostalgia preserved from personal memories, relics acquired for inspiration and collective memory and the romance of lost and found objects.

Curated by 15 students and including pieces from The London College of Fashion and Central St Martins Archives, London Vintage shops and their own wardrobes, it delved into the contemporary perception of historical garments as precious objects, either as a trace of a worthy of remembering past preserved by museums or its renaissance into a new incarnation as desirable vintage clothing. Focusing on British heritage and design it ponders the motives behind awakenings of the objects from the past and portray the varied and bountiful landscape of vintage in London today. There is always a tendency to want to preserve the past but it is what we choose to preserve that reveals a lot about us as a sartorial society.

Held in boutique mall Kingly Court home to many purveyors of pretty and novelty fashion and interiors items, Re:address occupied three rooms, one for the display of the products themselves, one for wine, crisps and fashion chat and one room for the projection of images and interviews of the reigning darlings of London vintage fashion (who were also in attendance for the opening looking very dapper) on their philosophical views on and passion for the trend as part the intellectual exploration of the new style identities created by these contemporary wearers who re-enact and interpret, and essentially re:address.

There was also a panel discussion of diverse industry experts who talked about their relationship with British vintage and its influence on the fashion of today. First up on divulging their views was Roger K. Burton, founder of The Contemporary Wardrobe Collection (Europe’s largest collection of Street Fashion), designer and stylist for promotional videos for some of the most eminent musicians during the height of rock n roll; from Bowie to Jagger and so on and who himself exuded a wisdom of cool. He shared some interesting stories of running into Malcolm McLaren at a Portsmouth shirt factory and the chaos of a collectors obsession.

Then we were regaled by Kerry Taylor, founder of the specialist costume and textiles auction house ‘Kerry Taylor Auctions’ who has been responsible for managing historic, landmark auctions such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s wardrobe and King James I I ‘s wedding suit of 1673 ( which is now safe and sound at the V & A) and Audrey Hepburn’s gowns, of her very interesting experiences of the industry. She was able to note the growing value of vintage as a market per se over the past two decades by showing us her final auction prices from year to year, unsurprisingly during the 80’s when people were tackily enamoured with the new, didn’t understand vintage and how the sublime dresses she sold then made less than 10 per cent of what they would make today.

We had Stefanie Braun, photography curator, vintage collector and founder of fraubraun.com, who recently organised the event ‘A way of Dressing’ at The Underground Gallery in London celebrating fashion and photography, share her views and her experiences from offering to dress up and photograph people in vintage fashion to open up the minds of the uninitiated. Lastly there was Amber Jane Burchart, LCF alumnus specialising in the MA History and Culture of Fashion, freelance writer, broadcaster, trend forecaster and one half of the creative DJ and designer collaboration, the Broken Hearts, as well as having spent many years as an employee of Rokit, one of London’s most comprehensive and popular vintage vendors, on all that she has learnt. It was an exciting and insightful conversation into the particularly British inclination in the vintage phenomenon and meaningfully reasons as to why.

Words by Carly Florentine

Photography by Amina Nolan