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October 09, 2009


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I have a few responses to this!

- Celia Birtwell is probably less 'forgotten' in her native country. In the period preceding her first Topshop collection, there had been numerous references to her and Ossie Clark's work in popular fashion magazines since many fashion designers were taking inspiration from their work at that time, serving to introduce them to a younger audience, and remind older fashion enthusiasts about them. So Topshop were very shrewd to seize their chance and capitalise on that heightened awareness of them/her.

- These capsule designer collections are not evenly distributed across all the chain store branches! I found this out to my cost when queuing up, on behalf of the museum I volunteer at, to get a specific outfit from the Commes des Garcons/H&M collection. Most of the garments that were billed online before the launch as being stocked in the Manchester (UK) branch (i.e. some of the most interesting ones) were not there! Its a deliberate policy to restrict the 'star' items to one or two London stores to retain some sense of exclusivity. The same thing is going on right now with Pierre Hardy's 'must have' shoes this season for Gap. It appears that I can't add a link to a Guardian article that humorously addresses this subject . . .

- Of course there's a trade-off. You might be getting a high-end designer's input, but the actual product is often disappointingly shoddy. I have a blouse from the Celia Birtwell range for Topshop with the same print as your dress, and its really badly made. The collars are uneven and the fabric is cheap looking. I suppose this is to be expected, but it makes you wonder why the designer bestowing their name to the line would approve the samples they must have inspected.

- Related to the last point. Is this really democratisation of high-end fashion? You might be able to buy a cheap approximation of an elite and/or cult designer's style if you're lucky (see my second point!) but it will look and feel like a crappy pirated version from Thailand. Is this really allowing access to elite fashions for the masses, or a marketing exercise bestowing prestige, glamour and extensive media coverage on cheap clothing retailers?

- Lastly, I must add an optimistic note. I invested in a grey suede jacket from the Barbara Hulanicki/Topshop range that came out this summer (2009) - and was possibly the most expensive item in that range - and its currently my favourite jacket!

FIDM Museum

Sarah, thanks so much for your comments!

I especially appreciate your reminder about Celia Birtwell's popularity in her native country. It's a great reminder that even thought stores like H&M and Topshop are worldwide, there are still some localized aspects of fashion and taste.

In response to your comment about quality vs. accessibility, I think that both are true. To get a designer garment at a low price, you're probably going to sacrifice some quality. It's a trade-off to obtain a portion of the status associated with designer names. For the most part, consumers seem okay with this.

It also raises the question of whether or not the consumer can purchase a well-designed, well-made item at a reasonable price. Is this part of the reason that home-sewing has become (re)newly popular?

Wholesale Clothing

Now a days peoples are exporting fashion to other parts of the world.

Tamsin White

I love Celia Birtwell's prints. If you ever have problems finding particular pieces that arent stocked at specific branches, you could always check out ebay. Its surprising how much hight street stuff appears on there very quickly after launches.


I stll have this silk taffeta dress; it's gorgeous and classic. I wear it to cocktail parties and the opera. It's so Grace Kellyesque!


I still love my black silk karl lagerfeld cocktail dress. I wore it for my 40th and 50th birthday in 2013 and recently wore it to a Masquerade ball Nov 2014.
It's a classic dress!!! And has lasted well.

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