Found in a box of ephemera — this press release from the Paris HQ of legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel announcing a forthcoming exhibition on a May 5th (possibly 1933) of over a hundred dresses made entirely from British materials.
The aim of this non-selling exhibition, which was to be held at 39, Grosvenor Square and would last a fortnight, was to promote co-operation between textile manufacturers and exclusive model houses in Britain and designers in Paris. The show was the result of a previous visit to London when Mlle Chanel had met with forty textile manufacturers. From the samples they had brought with them she had produced a collection that aimed to prove that’ it is possible to be appropriately dressed in British materials for a cloudburst at Ascot or a hurricane at Lords, as for a dead calm at Cowes, or a tropical spell on the Scotch moors.’
‘These dresses and their many accessories ’, the press release continues, ‘will be displayed by English girls, (including Mrs Ronald Balfour and Lady Pamela Smith), and as each dress appears, a card will be shown stating the name of the manufacturer of the materials employed. Continue reading
From the wonderful El Mundo archive here is a press photo of the post-war Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, with Lady Reading, chairwoman of the Women’s Voluntary Service, among products featured in the 1947 Home Industries Exhibition sponsored by the WVS, which was held, rather bizarrely, in the entrance hall of Charing Cross Underground Station (now renamed Embankment) in London.
Apparently, far from resembling the rather naff home produced textiles that can still be found in countless craft fairs and garden fetes round the kingdom, these products were rated good enough to be part of a post-war export drive. The exhibits shown in the photo attest to the quality of the textiles.
Indeed, the seat covers on show were probably amongst the six examples which Queen Mary herself created for the exhibition and which were later sold for $10,000 in the United States! The Queen also wove panels which were later sewn together by other craftswomen to form a carpet that was presented to the National Gallery of Canada. Later, the Queen Mother got in on the act by contributing one or more of the seventy-two tapestry kneelers commissioned by the Washington National Cathedral.
The example shown by members of the Royal Family was doubtless a fillip to Women’s Home Industries, as the enterprise became known, with the result that before too long the flood of high quality textiles being supplied by home craftswomen from all over the UK became so enormous that a shop in West Halkin Street, around the corner from Harrods, was opened
By 1964 there were 3,000 home knitters supplying products to the London store and by the end of the decade some of the best known figures in textile design had become associated with the enterprise, which survived into the early seventies. [R.M.Healey]