Fear not. Hell hasn’t frozen over just yet. I am referring to this one from back in the day. I don’t know how much it went for in the Kerry Taylor sale today, but my goodness!! Isn’t it fab? If they’re going to raid someone’s archives, why not start with their own; at least they own the copyright!
It’s not just Topshop in the Noughties who enjoy ripping things off. Sometimes it seems like every minor boutique in London, New York and Paris was taking more than a healthy dose of inspiration from Ossie Clark back in the Seventies. But it’s not often they went the whole hog when it came to the prints. Celia Birtwell’s handiwork is so distinctive, few decided to gamble with duplicating them wholesale.
I recently acquired two dresses at nearly the exact same time, both of which are direct copies of original Birtwell prints and which have been used in vaguely Ossie-esque designs. I thought it would be interesting to show you both of them, and to remind everyone to be careful of ‘unlabelled’ Ossie pieces which might look Ossie because of the Celia print…but are nothing like an Ossie original. They can be a brilliant alternative, so long as you know they’re just that and not the real deal.
The first is the Botticelli print (renamed Monkey Puzzle for the Topshop Celia range). An original Ossie example (and more gorgeous variations on it) is one of my many holy grails.
This second piece is even more outrageous because it’s actually made in moss crepe, in a rather Ossie-style cut (although far too modestly done for him), by Emma (whoever they were). This is the glorious Floating Daisy print, most regularly seen in the tie-fronted buttoned dress [best demonstrated by the gorgeous WendyB in her red bodied version]..
I’ve been hankering after an Ossie in this print which actually suits me, sadly the tie fronted one does not, and this dress is a little godsend. It’s a lovely soft pink version [which I’m sure Celia never did…far too insipid for her but I rather like it!] and the cut, whilst not up to Ossie standards, is very sweet and flattering. So I’m keeping this one. Sorry ladies! I’ll let you know if I ever change my mind….and I am giving up a spectacular Celia print Ossie dress in lieu (my wardrobe is a bit one in, one out at the moment…and it’s not really my colour…)
I could just about cope with leggings making a comeback. There’s a kind of logic when hems rise, and tights aren’t quite thick enough to cope.
But cycling shorts?
No. Cycling shorts were resigned to the tragically large heap of fashion no-nos a long time ago. I’m a girl who likes a bit of retro, even some things which might be considered naff (hello jumpsuits and batwing jumpers). But only GOOD things. Things which are stylish if worn properly and appropriately for an individual. Cycling shorts suit no one. No ONE. Not even Kate Moss. No. No. No. Can I say it any more vehemently? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Cycling shorts make the skinniest of legs look chunky. They cut off at the wrong point. Knees are not the most attractive part of a woman’s body. In fact, they’re right up there with feet for me in the ‘ewww’ stakes. Why would you want everyone staring at your knees?? Bad, bad, bad.
Making them in gold doesn’t make it any better, Topshop. I don’t know of anyone who would watch an MC Hammer video and think to themselves, ‘hmmm, sod the baggy Hammer-pants, I want some cycling shorts and a crop top’. This isn’t irony, it’s torture. I wore them when I was 10, my age being my only excuse. They were ugly then and they’re ugly now.
And I’m saying this because I like you, and I want you to be happy.
I may have to break my Topshop embargo for this Duran Duran t-shirt, it’s exactly the one I described to a friend the other week when I said I wanted a Duran t-shirt and probably wouldn’t be able to find what was in my head. I’m fairly certain they must have a tap on my flat after the whole Kate Moss thing, and this was their ruse to get me back….
Damn you Topshop!!! Damn you to hell for making me want your stuff again.
Then, sucked into the site, I also found this. How freaking adorable is this cardigan???
I need to have a lie down and try to resist the temptation…..
Well, I have some….but they don’t seem sufficient. The UK fashion industry is giving me anger fatigue. I almost don’t have the strength to express my fury any more.
I fear I may bore my dear readers with my irregular but frequently feisty postings on these things, but if I cannot vent to fellow vintage lovers then….well, who can I vent to?
Yes, in case you haven’t guessed yet….the Ossie Clark relaunch saga.
Imagine my spluttering and gobsmacked face when I heard the news from dear Senti, followed up by reading all the fatuous spoutings of the press about how ‘wonderful’ this was and how so much money was being invested in it.
It continues to baffle me how these people could possibly think these relaunches are a good idea? Please, please do invest money in the British fashion industry. God knows it needs it so badly. But please, please invest your money in new, talented designers with a mind of their own. The true Ossies of this world, if you will.
Ossie himself would have been horrified beyond words to see his legacy thus violated and cheapened by these money-grabbing cretins. I never met the man (certainly my fantasy dinner party guest of honour) but surely the notion of some poor new designer just barely out of their degree show re-issuing his genius creations would have been abhorrent to him.
They speak of the ‘House of Ossie Clark’ as though he were a couture house in the manner of Chanel or Dior. The V&A exhibition may have conferred the title ‘couture’ upon his own label creations, but Ossie was no ‘house’. He was a maverick, a genius with no head for business and a complete lack of consistency in his output. It was only really the guiding hand of Alice Pollock which managed to keep things ticking over, and the creative input of Celia Birtwell which continued to inspire his work.
But this is no re-opening of the ‘House of Ossie Clark’ as they try to persuade us. This new designer, whoever the poor sod may be, will no doubt be simply producing carbon copies of the originals. A puppet designer with someone else pulling the [purse]strings. A la Bella Freud for Biba. And look at how badly that relaunch is doing. This is duplication, as cheap and tacky as the Kate Moss Topshop/Lee Bender debacle. They see the prices vintage sellers get for hard-won and rare originals, and they want a piece of the action. But needless to say, Ossies don’t turn up around every corner…
…so what to do? What to do?? Hmmm……
Yes! Let’s copy them and sell them for the price of an original. Who cares that we’re cheapening the originals and the Ossie legacy?
Well I care. I know it’s crap that vintage Ossies are so pricey, and that not every girl who wants one can afford one. But how is this going to help matters? They’ll still be only for the select few who can afford them, or even get hold of them, and eventually everyone’s bored of Ossie Clark and the magic will be lost. Then it’s a case of why bother taking care of the legacy, the originals, if no one wants them anymore? These ventures are damaging and self-indulgent.
Thanks to the great British weather, I’ve been a little quieter than usual (NOT suitable weather for taking photographs at all, unless I want people squinting at blobs in my listings….) but I’ve just listed some doozies over on ebay….AND I have even more to come both there and on the website. Getting there…..getting there!
Firstly the ebay malarkey. Well, we have a scrumptious Janice Wainwright jacket (left) in black wool crepe and embroidered with all sorts of lovely flowers and insects(!). Eagle-eyed viewers will note that this is the black version of the suit on my website. Although, alas, this has lost its bottom half – it certainly doesn’t stop it from being excessively wearable. Just imagine over a frilly shirt and jeans!
Other notables include a very, VERY rare Sandie Shaw boutique mini (she of Eurovision and Jeff Banks marriage fame), a jawdroppingly beautiful Thirties evening gown (check out the halter neck and the adorable bow on the tushy!) and a slinky, sultry gypsy dress by Vintage-a-Peel favourite (and scourge of Topshop, apparently), Lee Bender for Bus Stop.
Coming up on the website in the next week will be a red cord Youthquake mini dress (laced up the front….sauuuucccccyy!!), a delicious Forties-inspired moss crepe printed dress by British Boutique woman of mystery Florrie Carr (I suspect she may be married to David Silverman and they both live in Atlantis or something….), a Paddington Bear type check mini dress by Clobber (a.k.a Jeff Banks, of Sandie Shaw marriage fame) and one of the most stunning dresses I’ve had the good fortune to come across by Emma Domb (right) under her earliest label. It’s seriously movie-star-tastic!
Vintage clothing is the ultimate expression of individuality. Vintage sellers are those who have fallen in love with vintage and want to work with vintage (as well as eat, drink, sleep it….well, some of us…). Vintage shouldn’t be about big business.
Unfortunately, big business always seems to want a piece of vintage. Displayed clinically, major flaws unmentioned and with designer information taken wholesale from places like the Vintage Fashion Guild label resource with no credit and no genuine research, big business doesn’t see the soul of a dress. It doesn’t feel the bizarre, beautiful touch of moss crepe or the sensuality of draping satin. It doesn’t appreciate the time machine element of an Ossie, instantly transporting you back into the heady days of Marianne, Mick and Anita. It can never understand how a Biba dress will make you skip down the road or how a pair of perfect patent shoes can transfix you for hours.
Perhaps I’m too emotionally involved in vintage for my own good, perhaps I’m an old romantic and a daydreaming thorn in the side of the cynical world of fashion. But that’s why I do what I do, and it’s why all independent vintage sellers do what they do.
Why does a multi-million pound fashion empire like Topshop start selling vintage? Why do they crush the spirit of small business by invading our world? I certainly can’t think of a good reason.
But then why do they also duplicate original vintage clothes and make money out of designers who always put creativity before profit?
(oh the irony that they’re now selling vintage Lee Bender pieces, bearing in mind they shamelessly copied her work for the appalling Kate Moss collection)
I’m resigned to it, I’m far too much a small fish against the mighty shark of big business. But I feel my opinion is valid, and I hope some of you fellow lovers of vintage will agree with me.
I queued patiently to buy some of the Celia magic, I tried to zone out the people standing around muttering “No idea who this woman is, but I know this stuff will sell on ebay”, I narrowly avoided being ripped to shreds as the rails were pushed out and all hell broke loose. I bought the pieces which had some manufacturing integrity (did anyone actually ever wear that botticelli print silk monstrosity?? so badly made I wanted to weep….) and put my years of hardened vintage shopping to good use as I walked around clutching the dress everyone was wetting themselves over and ignoring the black market-level dirty looks and whispers of ‘are you buying that?’
It was fun as a one-off. Something to tell the grandkids about, since I don’t have a Biba experience like that to share.
I didn’t bother second time around, the second collection was a poor relation and I don’t need the hassle. I’d rather spend my time and money getting an original.But at least she designed the prints and had some claim to the copied shapes of Ossie’s. The woman has talent.
Kate Moss at Topshop is a travesty. Normally such a non-event would barely register in the world of Ms. Peelpants. I couldn’t care less about Madonna at H&M, Lily Allen at New Look or even some of the least talented designers in the world getting deals with the same shops (naming no names, but I’ve heard some very interesting first-hand things about one of them lately and am suitably smug that I guessed they had no talent years ago). But Kate Moss at Topshop has affected me on a very personal level, and opened eyes to the true extent of the shallow money-grabbing at the heart of the fashion world these days.
I remember noting with amusement that Kate Moss had a vintage Bus Stop dress I also have. Much like the Ossie jacket she once wore, it’s always a nice little nod to the vintage community that vintage is still cool and it can do wonders for the image of what are, to most people’s minds, just someone’s old cast-offs. We know they’re not, but sometimes the challenge is to change other people’s perceptions. Kate Moss did the vintage community a lot of good in the past, but now she’s cheated on us.
For she has now ‘allowed’ (inverted commas to note that it is not her place to allow such a thing) Topshop to copy the aforementioned dress for her ‘collection’. A travesty so awful, on so many levels it’s taken me about a week to calm down enough to write this. They’ve copied the dress exactly, even down to getting the print copied and the detailing around the neck and on the sleeves. To add insult to injury, the dress in her closet had been hacked with what looks like nail scissors and is now a bum-skimming mini dress. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see how badly out of proportion even the remake is. They’ve remade a ruined dress.
Lee Bender should sue Topshop. Her work has been copied stitch for stitch. It’s one thing to be inspired, Bender herself would have to admit that the dress was heavily inspired by dresses of the Forties, but there’s no room for the word inspiration here. This is duplication and it’s disgusting.
On a more personal level, one of my absolute favourite dresses has been ruined for me. This year everyone will think I’m wearing bleeding Kate Moss at Topshop. Next year, everyone will think I’m wearing two seasons old bleeding Kate Moss at Topshop. Two years time, perhaps the fashion world with its attention span of a gnat might have forgotten all about Kate Moss at Topshop (or perhaps Kate Moss herself, we can but hope).But my dress will still be tainted by the association and I resent the fact that I will always have to think carefully about whether to wear it or not. To sell it now would be to cash in. To sell next year, well no one will want the same problems I would have. But really, I don’t want to sell it. I bought it for me, and it fits me like it was stitched to my body.
…when I walk into Topshop and I start to wonder if they’ve been rooting around in my wardrobe. They’ve crept into my flat, in the dead of night, and swiped patterns from my favourite vintage clothes. At least, that’s how it feels.
Let’s face it, mainstream fashion ate itself a long time ago but are they really trying to tell me that they have NO original ideas to rub together at all?? I might be walking around in fashions of the past, but at least I’m honest about it. High street shops are meant to be peddling modernity; even the Forties revival in the Seventies was done with real glam rock relish and refreshed, somewhat modernised. The Sixties/Seventies/Eighties/Nineties revival we’re currently seeing is a pale imitation of those eras. They can’t even make up their minds, one decade revival at a time is simply not enough anymore. Fashion moves so fast, it must regurgitate its past five times a year.
Where are the fresh ideas? I might not wear them, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to see them. What’s the look of the noughties? Is it a fashion stew? All bitty, overcooked, trying to cater to too many tastes and just winding up bland? I swear I’m even seeing Topshop reproduce pieces I remember seeing in there circa 1993. Stop it, stop it, STOP IT!!!
If you’re going to copy something line for line, at least take it to another level. Try something different with it. There are only so many ways to cut a dress, but don’t just go for the easiest option. It’s dull and usually very poorly made.
Another good reason to keep buying vintage 🙂