Archive for the ‘design museum’ Tag

Women Fashion Power – Design Museum, London (part 1)

DSCF0950This is my second visit to the Design Museum this year. And as small museums go, this is one of the best. The exhibitions are exceptional in their content, presentation and accessibility. I have already railed against the British Museum. The contrast could not be greater. Whilst there are no opportunities to touch the artefacts (mainly items of clothing), they are all exhibited in such a way that one can view at close quarters. If you want to look carefully at the stitching, you can.

The exhibition runs until 26 April 2015. It starts, naturally, with corsets (examples above left). These were essentially garments of control with dress makers designing only forDSCF0953 those – largely wealthy – women with hour-glass figures. Change comes with the arrival of the concept of, what seemed to me, commercial fashion. French couture became showcased bi-annually in Paris. And that many shows requires constant change. And for women, this was progressive change.

In parallel, Amelia Jenks had the audacity to offer women ‘bloomers’ (right) and the ‘shirtwaist’ – essentially, women were able to wear 2-pieces made up of a shirt and skirt.

DSCF0955But then women took to sport: sea bathing could not realistically be undertaken with even Jenks’s liberated wear. The bathing costume then appears (example left) along with clothes suitable for cycling (another piece of technology eagerly adopted by women). And tennis. And motoring. The brands then emerged led by Creed, Redfearn and Burberry.

The campaigning Suffragettes in the early 20th Century deliberately dressed modestly so as not to conflate political liberation and DSCF0958 decency. But Suffragettes did adopt uniform colours – purple white and green. They also had accessories such as the medal (right). This is a reproduction, but it is a beautiful piece.

The next driver identified in the exhibition is the rise of the department store and mass production itself driven by the rise of the middle-classes, mass consumption and the growth in women’s disposable income.

And finally, in this section, is the patenting in the brassiere by Mary Phelps Jacob. The concept was liberating, it is argued, because it was designed to flatten breasts rather than accentuate them. It was an important de-sexualisation of women.

Paul Smith exhibition – Design Museum, London

20140122_125739[1]The Paul Smith exhibition is packed full of the man, his ideas, influences and artefacts. It runs only until 9 March 2014.

He is an inveterate collector of prints, a selection of which greet the visitor on arrival (see left). I tried to establish a theme for the prints; it is an eclectic mix. Bicycles are very much part of his life as is Patti Smith (unrelated). Colour (even a photo of post-it notes make it), music (particularly the Beatles and David Bowie), dogs (his wolf hound was a feature of his first shop), travel and romance (his wife, Pauline, is consistently credited).  His camera goes everywhere with him. His favourite places are street markets.

Visitors are invited into a mock up of his office (right). Cluttered it might be, but he keeps a rosewood table free for work.20140122_130509[1]

There is also a studio space filled with materials – fabrics – and patterns for suits and dresses (below left). Much more ordered than the office and with a selection of Mac computers, clearly his favoured brand.


I am not personally convinced by his clothes – one gallery is dedicated to his clothes. He is more than a tailor. The trademark stripes have been applied to a number of familiar objects such as the mini (below right) and a teapot (Thomas Goode fine bone china, below left). He also designed the case beautiful for a limited edition Leica digital camera. Finally, to cement his British credentials, he put the stripes on to the label for HP sauce for Harrods.


Naturally, this exhibition is a huge marketing exercise for Paul Smith. There is a small gallery devoted to his shops. Each one is different. This potentially has the effect of turning them into tourist destinations in their own right. Unfortunately, one could clock up a huge carbon footprint visiting them. Destinations would include Tokyo, New York and Nottingham, to name but three.

20140122_132258[1]Elsewhere, there is a wonderfully produced and presented HD film of one of his Paris menswear catwalk shows. He says that he does not like shows but they are a necessary part of the business. The media and industry buyers use them. Watching the film, one gets the impression that he makes the best out of it.

The artefacts are beautiful and worthy of exhibiting. However, visitors also get insights into creativity and the business of creativity. I will iron my partner’s Paul Smith blouse now with a little more care.

The photographs are all mine. Apologies for the poor quality. I was not able to use my camera because I had not charged it! I had to use my phone. The results are not so good.