I was lucky enough to be able to attend ‘In conversation with Iain R. Webb’ at the Fashion and Textile Museum last week, in my inadvertent and faintly ridiculous new capacity as fashion book groupie. Iain is the kind of person who completely awes me into silence with his knowledge and experience, so it was nice to be able to just take a seat and listen to him for an hour or so – without feeling like a chump for being awed into silence.
If you don’t already have a copy of Foale and Tuffin, then why on earth not? Put it on your Christmas list! Buy yourself one as a treat! Hunt me down and steal my copy! I’ll whack you over the head with my copy of Arthur Marwick’s The Sixties (a nice, hefty tome which would be perfect for book-stealing blog-readers) but I’ll forgive you eventually.
When I first heard they were actually planning to do a book on those fabulous ladies, AND an exhibition, I nearly squealed in delight. I may actually have done so, but I was in a room with John Bates so there’s not a lot I can remember from that night (if you want to put me on mute, lock me in a room with John Bates and Iain R. Webb and you won’t hear a squeak out of me).
My dream Foale and Tuffin outfit. Photographed by the incredible James Wedge.
The book doesn’t disappoint. As I have heard many people saying, not least those behind the project, the most appealing thing about it is that it isn’t a simple biography of two people. It’s like a window into their friendship coupled with a luxury chocolate box selection of Important People who, cumulatively, give a valuable insight into a most intriguing and endlessly inspiring period in history.
You often come away from fashion books with a strong sense of one person’s life. One person’s view of a cultural revolution. Often you can barely find mention of other designers within its pages; throwaway references to models, movers and shakers and maybe the odd two line quote. But here, in Foale and Tuffin, you have small essays created from interviews with the likes of Jean Shrimpton, Jenny Boyd, James Wedge, Marit Allen, Molly Parkin….oh I can’t even prioritize them, they’re all so important. It’s like a proper documentary in book form. In fact, I’d be a very happy bunny if they had been able to produce this as a ‘Beyond Biba’ style film.
In between the photos and essays, there are excerpts from Webb’s interviews with the gals. Much like the Ossie Clark and John Bates books before it, you’ll probably flick through it a few times just to ogle the amazing photos and barely take in any of the detail. But eventually you’ll find a window of time, when you can snuggle down and ‘listen’ to Marion and Sally nattering away. I’ve had the good fortune to have witnessed this a couple of times in person (although only tiny vignettes of F&T-ness, really) and have heard even more by proxy, so I’m delighted that an almighty natter with the girls has been recorded for posterity.
Why can’t more books be like this?
My two favourite candid photos of Sally and Marion from the book. I can definitely relate to Marion’s ‘Sewing Machine face’.