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Foale and Tuffin: Made in England

Written by Becky Cope

With our current fixation with everything 80s and 90s, ask patient it’s easy to see why the 60s have become a little side-tracked, order a little blasé, drug and so ‘a few’ years ago, when the shift dress silhouette was last in vogue. But what do we know, as a common consciousness, about the 60s anyway? Twiggy was hot, the Beatles were big and sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were prevalent, right? But isn’t that a little bit one-dimensional and something we could have learnt from Austin Powers?

foale-and-tuffin-spotlightImage courtesy of Fashion & Textiles Museum

Fast forward to 2009 and to the Fashion and Textile Museum, who in their continual efforts to thrill and excite (as well as educate), are exhibiting a retrospective: Foale and Tuffin: Made in England. No doubt the aforementioned names mean very little to those unfamiliar with this great exhibition. However, this design duo was heralded as responsible for “Youthquake”, the creation of a youth movement encompassing teenagers who wanted to dress, shop and live differently from their parents.

Upon graduating from the Royal College of Art, the two designers decided, with only £200 to their names, to open a new shop aimed at a younger clientele. Following their own tastes in constructing simple shift dresses, trouser suits and biker jackets, their clothes were soon selling out. After Woollands stores started stocking their brand, Vogue’s new darling photographer David Bailey shot some of their pieces, and stardom was born, with their clothes gracing the editorials of Vogue, Queen, Honey and Nova.


All photographs courtesy of Becky Cope

Despite starting out by utilising their RCA background for constructing high fashion garments in high quality fabrics, they soon began to adopt a simpler, stream-lined approach more suited to their customers. Major trademarks of the pair include their creation of trouser suits for women, their use of light lace, their peter pan collars and graphic, pop prints inspired by the art of the period. Particularly famous is their double D pocket shift dress, a reference to Double Diamond ale advertising of the time.

IMGP1111Pieces that feature all of these signature trademarks are well-represented in the exhibition, with its layout mimicking their store off London’s iconic Carnaby Street. Mannequins showcase their most popular and successful designs, such as the navy lace dress with key hole neckline and peter pan collar, as well as some of their most radical, such as “Geoff’s Jacket” inspired by their boyfriends’ clothing. Sportswear was also an early inspiration, reflected in their range of light weight, coloured jersey dresses with white piping detail. Liberty prints were also important, utilising them in their designs through to the 1970s.

IMGP1122The key to their reign of success, from 1962-1972, seems to lie in the fact that they were catering to a previously ignored market and tapping into the consciousness of the period in doing so. Indeed, Tuffin has commented for the exhibition, “We made our own clothes and we realised there was a gap. So it was very much that people would make their own clothes, people would dress themselves and style themselves with bits and pieces… and we sort of jumped in and made the bits and pieces for them.”

IMGP1110When the design duo finally hung up their measuring tape, it was only to pursue families and other personal dreams. This landmark exhibition is highly significant because it dispels the myth of a singular London youth explosion more commonly associated with Quant and Biba, and instead showcases the diversity and range of changes taking place within the decade that brought us so many freedoms.

Foale and Tuffin: Made in England is showing until 24 February 2010.


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