May 21, 2015 

“Fashion is part of communication. It’s the beginning. We describe part of ourselves by how we look, but you can’t tell a book by its cover. There’s an appropriateness. I think it’s funny when decades and things are just the current thing… Everybody wants to be somebody else, rather than using those images as a stimulation to look at themselves and redefine and redesign themselves and see who they are.”

Carmen Dell’Orefice

May 20, 2015 

Fashion Inspiration and the Eighteenth Century by Dr Christoph Vogtherr

Looking for inspiration? Today’s concept of fashion is deeply rooted in the Eighteenth-century.

Many Londoners are convinced that something truly exciting and creative cannot be older than a decade. I don’t know why. Ever since I came to the Wallace Collection as a curator in 2007, then as its Director in 2011, I have felt lucky to work in an environment full of inspiration and creativity. Here, a life is not enough to exhaust the ideas of Rembrandt, Velázquez, Watteau and the like. Nowhere is this truer than in our eighteenth-century galleries.

Working at the Wallace Collection, I have been puzzled that the eighteenth-century is seen as particularly stuffy. It has often been seen as a backdrop to an old-fashioned, upper-class lifestyle, as a projection canvas for Marie Antoinette nostalgia. But step back and look – or come very close and zoom in. Its paintings, furniture or porcelain are full of a startling, inspiring strangeness. Forget for a moment that you are looking at a Rococo chest-of-drawers, and your mind will find it hard to keep up with your eyes when following the bronzes from reed to sunflower to dragon to shell – a permanent metamorphosis.

Nicolas Lancret, Fête in a Wood c.1722, © The Wallace Collection.

The eighteenth century loved good conversation: the entertaining, equal exchange between people, and the sexes, between ideas and fields of enquiry. The way to knowledge was meant to be entertaining. The worst thing would have been to be boring or preachy. The greatest objects from the period have the same open-minded, entertaining quality.

Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus, chest of drawers 1735-1740, © The Wallace Collection.

The best eighteenth-century works – the Wallace Collection is full of them – are a mine of surprising, creative ideas, but they can also provide inspiration to look at an object with a clear sense of its purpose and to re-consider the relationships between its parts. The legs of Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus’ commode bend with elasticity under the weight of the body, that is pushing them apart until the perfect balance is reached – between load and support, energy and weight, the expressive and the playful.

This year, a ground-breaking exhibition in Versailles has focused its attention on the careful and inspired design of these works. It has presented the eighteenth century – correctly! – as the beginning of a modern idea of design (18e, aux sources du design – The eighteenth century. The Birth of Design). The eighteenth century reassessed even the most commonplace objects in a new light to explore their function.

The eighteenth century had no respect for art works, objects or ideas that were dull, uninspired or predictable. This is why novelty played such a crucial role. 1720 was not meant to look like 1716; traditions could be continued, but only if they were developed or subverted, if a new and surprising angle could be taken. Today’s concept of fashion is deeply rooted in that period. Eighteenth-century art is ephemeral – but its spirit is a lasting inspiration.

The Wallace Collection has always been a mine of inspiration for designers and artists – and for society at large. We are proud that we can offer unexpected experiences and inspiration in central London – free to the public.

Dr Christoph Vogtherr is a specialist scholar/curator in eighteenth-century French painting and Director of The Wallace Collection.

May 19, 2015 

Working in London’s East End: Fashion Innovation Agency

The Fashion Innovation Agency, forms part of LCF’s Business and Innovation offering and is based in Hackney on Mare Street.


The Fashion Innovation Agency (FIA) works with global luxury, contemporary high end brands, Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands, Multi-channel (OMNI Channel) retailers and designers across fashion and product design.

The FIA links brands with unique talent in fashion, the arts and popular culture, allowing both brand and designers to meet their objectives and engage consumers in a unique and exciting way.

May 18, 2015 

IFFTI: Momenting The Memento

Every year IFFTI‘s (International Foundation of Fashion and Technology Institutes) conference is hosted by one of its member institutions. With over 50 members representing 37 different nations, the conference is renowned for the way it reflects current thinking about fashion education, its relationship to industry and new directions in fashion research. Each conference is defined by the host institution’s selected theme, its relationship to local industry, the histories of that industry, the context of the fashion culture in that part of the world, plus the nature of that institution’s fashion education. All these factors infuse the event with a very particular set of experiences and therefore the conference is never the same twice.


As delegates from all over the world come to debate, discuss, explore and learn from each other so the invited speakers, presentations and papers all provide a new set of very real learning experiences for these fashion educators. This year was no exception. Hosted by Polimoda fashion institution in the City of Florence, the conference themes selected by its Director – the renowned Linda Loppa – were explored by its participants through installations, performances, papers and presentations that took place in 6 venues across the city. Themes of the body, space, calligraphy, craft and imagery were brought together under the umbrella title “Momenting the Memento”.


Florence provided the perfect backdrop. Its Renaissance history has influenced the growth and development of fashion over the centuries, while its architecture, culture, histories and traditions gave IFFTI delegates the perfect space to reflect on where fashion education might go over the coming years. Key points of departure were: technology; fashion’s relationship to cognate disciplines; how to place humanity back into the fashion system; the role of creativity and intention; the methods and methodologies of fashion research; and whether courses need to be broader and interconnected, or more specialised and collaborative.


But, for me, it was fashion’s integration into the fabric of the city that I found so inspiring. From Ou Ning’s installation in the National Library and the performances which took place in all six venues, to LCF’s Art of Dress installation at Santa Croce (see image above), all gave new perspectives on the relationship of fashion and its various meanings and interpretations to a fashion city. This is something I intend to explore further on my return to London.

May 14, 2015 

“In spite of rumours of the demise of couture, the snide comments from people who say it is PR only to sell fragrance and those who see no modern validity in it, it survives. It is where art and fashion meet if only briefly… It is still a laboratory for design and things are possible in couture which are impossible anywhere else.”

Tony Glenville, London College of Fashion

May 13, 2015 

Working in London’s East End: Designer-Manufacturer Innovation Support Centre

Based in Hackney on Mare Street, Designer–Manufacturer Innovation Support Centre (DISC) supports fashion designers and manufacturers to innovate their business, products and services.


The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) provide funding for 50% of this £2million project. Working with 150+ businesses in London, DISC gives businesses access to a team of highly skilled industry experts. Specialist experience covers all aspects of fashion manufacturing, factory production, global sourcing, and sustainable manufacturing.

DISC offers free support, including:

  • Bespoke 1:1 consultation
  • Market intelligence reports
  • Workshops, seminars and demonstrations
  • Online toolkits
  • Working with 150+ businesses in London
  • Promotes innovative ideas, solutions and techniques to both designers and manufacturers.
May 12, 2015 

The Art of Dress in Florence

London College of Fashion is currently celebrating the Art of Dress in a project that reflects centuries of ‘dress’ evolution in all its various guises. The project has been shown in New York, Dubai and Shanghai. This week it opens in Florence as part of the IFFTI Annual Conference.

For centuries dresses have been crafted in many styles and silhouettes. Constructed, deconstructed, decorated, exaggerated, celebrated, desired, berated and adored. A dress or dresses hang in almost every woman’s wardrobe. The most identifiable and memorable dresses are that of occasion wear – cocktail dresses, ball gowns, red carpet wear and those that have foundations in ceremonies, religious, royal, political and national. Each nation has its variants, each designer a different mode, each maker a different technique. Everyone crafts dresses uniquely, as unique as the wearer they are intended for.

Ruby Vestry, BA (Hons) Costume for Performance. (Image: Orsolya Luca)

Throughout history it is the dress that has always taken the limelight. The dress is a designer’s delight as the body becomes a blank canvas, a playground to create a head-to-toe total look that in couture goes beyond anything we see in the day-to-day. Couture dresses are that of pure indulgence, fantasy, often exaggerated, excessive beauty with a price that reflects the magic of the design and the craft undertaken to execute it.

Art of Dress showcases work by undergraduate students from the School of Design and Technology and the School of Media and Communication.

May 8, 2015 

London: Thea Porter

“Whatever else clothes may be about, I believe they must add to the enjoyment of life. A dress is a failure unless it gives a woman added confidence. She must put it on, feel great, and then forget that she is wearing it and get on with her life.”

This quote from the designer Thea Porter opened the recent exhibition of her work at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum. Selling from a boutique on Greek Street in Soho that she had decorated to resemble Aladdin’s cave, Porter drew her inspiration from an exotic view of the Middle East and dressed many well-known musicians and film stars from the late 1960s to the 1980s. Despite her far-flung design influences, London was the heart of Porter’s life and career and it was here that she became a part of a renaissance in British fashion design.


The LCF Archives hold a full-length black velvet Thea Porter Couture evening dress, donated by the family of Ann Barr who was Features Editor of Harpers & Queen in the 1970s and 80s. The beautiful velvet fabric has a watered-silk effect and the dress features gold brocade trim round the bodice and neckline. This dress currently hangs in my office at London College of Fashion, only a few streets away from where Porter’s shop once welcomed the bohemian women of London.


Find out more about the LCF Archives here.

May 7, 2015 

“Choice has a clear and powerful instrumental value; it enables people to get what they need and want in life… Choice is what enables each person to pursue precisely those objects that best satisfy his or her own preference within the limits of his or her financial resources.”

American psychologist Barry Schwartz

May 6, 2015 

Working in London’s East End: Widening Participation

Widening Participation (WP) at LCF encourages and supports students from a working class background, who have no family history of higher education, to apply and successfully progress to the college courses or other courses within the University of the Arts London.

Widening Participation

This work involves partnerships with schools, colleges and community groups to develop a deeper understanding around careers in fashion and the variety of progression routes that exist.

Compact Agreement for Progression Scheme (CAPS).The aim of CAPS is to support students from our partner colleges to make a successful application to London College of Fashion. Widening Participation have strong and successful CAPS agreements with Further Education colleges within East London, including; Hackney Community College, Leyton Sixth Form College, Newham College, NewVic Sixth Form College, St Angela’s Ursuline School, St Bonaventure’s Sixth Form College.

We are starting to build a relationship with Waltham Forest College

© 2015 Frances Corner