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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Soho Archives: 1950s & 1960s

Photographers Gallery, Until 16th November

Written by Hermes Trismegistus

While trawling through the internet yesterday afternoon Dearbhile happened to come across a picture of myself and Tanya on the Elle Magazine website.

Tanya and I faintly remember a lovely lady asking to take our picture at the Swarvoski Rocks Giles party during London Fashion Week, cialis 40mg information pills but what with all the cocktails, store here and bizarre celebrity sightings, price we thought nothing more of it. Turns out our hounds tooth prints caused quite a stir. According to Elle they’re bang on trend this season, which is great news considering both items were fairly cheap vintage discoveries.

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Visit the Elle page here and read the story of our night on the website.

Nestled in one side of London Fashion Week’s cavernous exhibition is the fascinating, more about intriguing and enlightening Estethica mini exhibition. Now in its fifth season, it is a celebration of all things eco, organic, and environmentally friendly.

Truthfully, Monsoon has only ever conjured up thoughts of a high street chain store catering for people on a budget who were clinging to the boho chic look of, oh you know, decades ago. Quel surprise! Monsoon are actually a strong force in ethical fashion markets and I was embarrassed by my naivety towards this fascinating label, which works with communities around the world to meet ethical standards of work and runs trusts to support children, working communities and families. Their clothing and accessories feature the finest examples of craftsmenship from around the world to ensure these glorious techniques stay within the public realm – embrodiery from Afghanistan, printing in India.

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Monsoon here represents a host of fabulous brands who are challenging the constraints and, frankly, sticking the fingers up at fashion power houses. They are proving that there is simply no excuse for not being ethically minded. The handout states ‘only through a combined effort can designers, industry, government and consumers create a more sustainable clothing culture’. Agreed.

The heads of Estethica are having their feathers ruffled, though. In a society where everyone is becoming more aware of their social responsibilities (some, albeit, slower than others) it’s long become fashionable to be ethical. Sadly (but not surprisingly) brands are jumping on the band wagon. Labels are including ‘vintage scraps’ in their collections just to appeal to the conscious fashionista, or using fairtrade cotton in one t-shirt line and shouting it from the rooftops. Oh dear. So how do we know that this isn’t going on here? A green logo or a photograph of child smiling happily as he/she worked in cotton fields wasn’t going to be enough. Well, this season Estethica have appointed the Estethica partners – a team of individuals and organisations who subject anyone claiming to be ethical to rigid analysis and thorough checks. Okay, I’m convinced, now show me some hot looks!

Well, first up – Nitin Bal Chauhan. His vibrant, decadent jump suits and elegant (but still wild) tailored suits would fit perfectly into any fashion confident wardrobe. Launched in 2005, his fashion label promotes the ‘Himachal handloom and handicrafts industry by using exclusive fine woolen fabric,’ which is hand woven by skilled craftmen in Delhi, India. A eco-concious man, Nitin’s fashion label sisters his film and art projects, which promote similar causes to great effect, and to critical acclaim – no less than a nomination at the Asian Film Festival. A talented visionary and you should expect to see a lot more of him in the future.

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If you were looking for a celebrity endorsed ethical label, look no further than the Environmental Justice Foundation. Luella Bartley and Christian Lacroix have already provided (free of charge, I might add) their own designs to apply to their ethically produced t-shirts. This season, step up http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/fashion/article3369780.ece, Allegra Hicks, John Rocha and Zandra Rhodes, who provide their own take on earth matters. Giles’ tee is expectedly minimalist chic – a simple flower design, whilst Zandra’s is vibrant and playful. They’re designed with childhood as a theme – a tribute to the million plus children forced into labour. Suitably, all the profits go straight back into charitable causes, so grab one of these ‘must have ethical items’ before they’re gone.

I had a very interesting chat with a fabulous woman known only to me as Agent Zuzu. She wasn’t as illusive as her name sounds, and she did tell me her real name, mind you, but the second she told me it I knew I’d forget it. I’ll have to refer to her as Zuzu, sadly. Her assistant was a big fan of the magazine (natch), even quoting the countless bands and designers that Amelia’s has been a platform for. Zuzu (I’m sorry) is the promoter behind the eco label Makepiece who produce beautiful clothing, right here in the UK, with a conscious. They too want fabulous outfits – but they also want human rights, environmental sustainability, reduced chemicals and carbon footprints and an end to the landfill. They trust who they work with and all of their pieces are compostable (like you’d be throwing any of these items away). From the tightest knitted dresses with ruffle cap sleeves (produced ethically in North Yorkshire) to casual tops and skirts, fashion and style are no obstacle here with a range of colours and cuts.

Not all brands were about womenswear. Brazilian, youthful footwear brand Veja (Portugese for ‘look’) produces stylish footwear, not dissimilar to Shoreditch plimsolls – but with more of a choice than black or white. Organic cotton and wild rubber from the Amazon are fused together by Brazilian workers who are paid fairly for the craftsmenship, to produce stylish and practical footwear for fashion concious men and women.

Continuing with shoes, Beyond Skin claim to produce ‘beautiful AND ethical footwear’ and they proved this at the exhibition with a mixture of stiletos and flats in a varied colour pallete – neutrals, which seem to be popular this season, and brights.

…and there was so much more. I was exhausted. I was just about to leave this fascinating area of creativity, heading for the nearest, chicest bar where I could get a Chambord cocktail or a mug of tea, and I stumbled across Bllack Noir. This Danish label dispells any fears fashionistas might have about having to wear a shapeless hemp sack to wear ethical. Their lavish frocks and luxurious fabrics hold a secret – they’re ALL dreamed up and manufactured ethically. Luxury silk trousers, sharp, glittered tailored suits and bias cut dresses all feature and sit side by side any fashion powerhouse rival.
To see it for yourself visit their website which features all of their looks and displays an interesting (if not a little lengthy) code of practice to which all of their products are made.

There were over 40 brands on display in this part of the exhibition, too many to go through each in detail. If you’re interested in ethical fashion, do check out Article 23‘s fusion of smart menswear and sportswear, produced in India by a women’s cooperative; Deborah Lindquist‘s brave and edgy knitwear, made from – amongst other materials – recycled cashmere; Junky Styling and Revamp’s fantastic recycled clothing, catering for a the hip end of the market (where no two pieces are the same – everything re-cut and transformed from recycled charity shop goods); and so on.

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Refreshingly though, this segment of the exhibition didn’t throw it in your face, as I had feared. I understand that this emotional technique is often needed, but I don’t think it was that necessary here – and after all, we’re here to interpret fashion. I think too much Save The Planet flapping would have distracted from the clothes themselves, and the resounding point is that with careful consideration, research and a conscience, you can still look fabulous.
1950s & 1960s is showing at the Photographers’ Gallery until the 16th November. The exhibition is a selection from three sources: Jean Straker, about it David Hurn and The Daily Herald newspaper, more about all of which document aspects of Soho during its rather peculiar epoch.
Images, historical images, rarely fail to spark up some sort of intense flash of nostalgia within me. Perhaps because such images show things gone forever: beautiful things, exhilarating and ominous things, which create a sense of loss, of missing out on a bygone era.
At the moment of the 50s, beehives and gin hummed through London, somewhat more voraciously than any previous 50s revival. It’s quite nice then to plunge into the place from which it all derived.
It seems today’s Soho is all but a faint charge of the former sexed up version, being now composed of some rather dreary sex shops and a denizen of bars. Maybe history romanticized Soho in the 50s. However I think Soho was, most certainly awash with something dark and glittering.
Unfortunately this isn’t really shown at The Photographers’ gallery, not really. There’s lots of nudes, and yes, that was a huge part of Soho, a vast part even, but it’s a bit dull after awhile. The photographs by David Hurn are quite funny (I just hope they’re supposed to be). They document Soho’s strippers both at work and resting. The strip clubs themselves are the funny bit. It’s a rather odd set up-the way seats are arranged around a boxing ring. Members of the audience have hilarious expressions, riddled with awkwardness.
There are some edited photos, accompanied by cuttings, all by anonymous photographers of the Daily Herald. These are the most interesting part. They capture the rush of excitement, the buzz that you think about when you think of Soho in the 50s and 60s. A plethora of crime, music, gin and Tommy Steele (whom I’d hadn’t ever heard of, and am not embarrassed to say so; but I am sure he was and is-for he still remains with us-spectacular. He looks like an awful lot of fun regardless.)
Soho Archives is ultimately a historical exhibition: it doesn’t really do anything. It only presents a small fragment of Soho which feels slightly limp.
Along side Dryden Goodwin’s exhibition Cast, this is going to be the last exhibition held at The Photographer’s gallery before it moves. Featuring an exhibition such as this does show the Galleries value of the importance of photographic Archives.

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