Foale and Tuffin

1960s, barbara hulanicki, british boutique movement, carnaby street, Foale and Tuffin, gerald mccann, john bates, mary quant, personal collection, yves saint laurent

What baffles me is the inverse ratio between the rarity of Foale and Tuffin, and the prices they command. I think Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin were arguably a greater talent than Mary Quant. And they certainly knew when to call it quits and draw back gracefully from the fashion world (they both ‘retired’ in 1973 to spend more time with their families). Licensing? They wouldn’t have dreamed of it. Yes, MQ, I’m looking at you in your waterproof poncho – don’t think I can’t see you! 😉

Their early work was vibrant, youthful, fun and always exquisitely tailored. They originated trouser suits for women (yet another creative theft by Yves Saint Laurent ensured they rarely get credited for this – more rantings on him some other time…), used the ‘op art’ trend in a quirky way (rather like my other passion, John Bates) and helped build the Carnaby Street image – the driving force behind the emergence of Britain as a world leader in fashion.

They moved easily into the softer look of the late 60s and early 70s, continuing to favour Liberty prints and did all sorts of lovely frilled and flared things. In retrospect, their decision to quit in 1973 seems really rather intelligent. The mid-late 70s saw the crash and burn phenomenon of so many designers, Ossie Clark and Barbara Hulanicki at Biba being the most notable casualties. So they got out at the right time.

Their work is fairly rare. Goodness only knows why, you can hardly miss the label! They were a popular fixture in Vogue and a big part of the Youthquake British Invasion of the USA in 1965.

Two Foales from my private collection. 1963 and 1965 respectively.

However, in recent months (after loudly bemoaning the non-existence of ANY F&T pieces in my personal collection) I seem to have accumulated a nice little collection of their work. I still sit here, look at the frocks and think; “How the HECK did I manage that?”. I have my limits as to how much I will pay for pieces for my collection, it’s just that the prices have been shockingly low for what they are. Even the recent Kerry Taylor auctions sale for Sothebys sold two Foale and Tuffin frocks (early 70s) for the opening bid of £100. I recall one of the major US auction houses sold two Foales not that long ago for a similar price.

So, while I can’t complain on a personal level that the prices aren’t really reflecting the rarity and beauty of their work – it does seem utterly wrong. Mary Quant’s work is fairly cheap these days – especially considering her cultural importance. But F&T didn’t license their names to death. So in reality, they should be making a whole lot more.

Just a little rant. I feel much the same way about Gerald McCann. I guess I’ll just have to keep collecting these labels rather than selling them! *sigh*

3 thoughts on “Foale and Tuffin

  1. Hello Emmapeelpants….just read your blog on Foale and Tuffin..surely the reason they aren’t so high profile and desireable/collectable as other labels of the era is that although like you say they produced high quality well cut clothes, they were never “cool” or “rock n roll” in the same way that Biba, Ossie Clark (both lived fast and died young which always has big cool value) Bus Stop, Mr Freedom,Alice Pollock,Miss Mouse and even Jeff Banks to some extent. All these labels seem to me to have more personality than Foale and Tuffin, who although obviousy talented, kept their personalities pretty much in the background.We don’t know much about them, and the pics you do see are sweet and innocent; two nice girls with lots of talent. But for fame and collectability there should be a bit of naughtiness maybe? Some gossip and lots of great pictures to iconise. I’m sure F&T werent into this at all. I think they just wanted to stay happy and make ncie clothes, which they did. But for this reason they will only always be appreciated by a few. And again, I think F&T clothes had a different feel, less sexy, less loud, less quirky. More classic and conventional. People always put Gina Fratini and Janice Wainwright in the same sentence as Ossie Clark and Alice Pollock, but again I think Gina and Janice were more Foale and Tuffin. Their clothes are gently of the time, not outrageous and not hard edged. Thea Porter was a successful blend maybe? I think she became desireable more through the people that wore the gear rather than the clothes themselves. I’m sure the book Groupie went a long way in securing Thea Porter a place in the wealthy underground hippy aristo chicks wardrobes. But some of the stuff is pretty ghastly. And prices for Thea are unpredictable. Whereas we see prices for Ossie Clark steadily rising year after year. This surely has to do with knowing so much about Ossie and his rise and dive? Seeing so many amazing pics of beautiful women wearing his dresses, knowing that the dresses themselves live up to the hype. You can’t beat a bit of debauchery for making sure your work lives on….!

  2. I think, like a lot of designers who emerged in the early 60s like Quant, Bates etc, F&T weren’t really considered cool by the end of the Sixties. There was SUCH a sea change in both society and ultimately fashion in the late Sixties where it WAS all about image and ‘decadence’. The likes of Ossie and Barbara appeared in the mid Sixties and then cultivated their cool, debauched image but I don’t think it makes their clothes any better. It makes them more identifiable to a new generation, but once you get past that image thing I think you’ll find clothes that equal and sometimes surpass them. Not so much Ossie, he was a genius but he also wasn’t really creating clothes any more scandalous than John Bates – he just had the scandalous private life to go with it!I don’t think Ossie or Alice were ever producing hard-edged clothing, quite the opposite! It’s very feminine, very classical and very wearable – just like Janice!I agree that Thea can be really hit and miss! I have a lovely early one, but some of the things that turn up with her name on. Jeeeez!! ;)Foale and Tuffin were VERY cool at one point though, Cathy McGowan was the epitome of mid-60s cool and regularly wore their clothes. The world changed so much in two years though, and judging on talent became less important than headline-grabbing.

  3. My most favourite Tuffin & Foale dress was a little black silk satin number given to me when I was 16 for the Christmas of 1965It had the most beautifully cut sunray seams eminating from neckline to mini-hem!The feeling of opening the box & the rustle of the tissue paper has never been forgottenI went on to design my own clothing lime until 1970Miss Mouse

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