Debenhams and Ossie "Clarke" (sic.) Or why my fashion blood is boiling

Today I’m writing a rather angry blog post. On Tuesday morning on twitter I spotted something that immediately sent alarm bells ringing “Debenhams to relaunch Ossie Clark”.
But why did this make me so angry?
Debenhams relaunch of the Ossie Clark “brand” has made irritated me on a number of levels. First, and I think the most heinous of all crimes, THEY COULDN’T EVEN SPELL HIS NAME CORRECTLY. The Debenhams press release  had his name spelt “Ossie Clarke” not just a single misspelling but throughout the press release. Not only this, but others, in writing about the relaunch since have also spelt his name incorrectly. The press release has a picture of the new label on it and STILL they couldn’t spell it correctly. This lazy slapdash nature already fills me with fear….
Secondly the suggestion of Ossie Clark as a “brand”, Ossie Clark was a person, and a designer, and therefore I resent him being reduced to a “brand”. Ossie Clark (in my humble opinion) was one of THE great designers of the late 20th century. A REAL designer, rather than a company. There is a difference here to re-launching labels where the original designer is still alive as permission can be granted, but this is an insult to Ossie, and something I feel sure he would not have accepted.
I decided to do a bit more digging into who this person was that currently owns the “Ossie Clark” name and found out who designer Alison Mansell was. She was in fact the designer of one of M & S’s most popular dresses of recent years (she is seen holding it in this pic). Alison is also the designer of Damsel in a dress (party frocks sold through John Lewis).
On her design aesthetic she stated, “she’s “obsessed” with reviving old prints and the world of detail and fastidiousness they evoke”.
This simple statement already gets me worried about what might be to come…

I just don’t understand how names can be purchased in this manner….maybe I just don’t “get” business, how can you buy a dead mans name??? I’m sorry it seems quite frankly disrespectful. It is not like Ossie Clark ever had a house in the manner of say Dior, where his “name” was kept going after his death. Ossie Clark was a different sort of designer hence why I am so against this…
Ossie Clark it is well known, was a terrible busineseeman, often giving away his clothes for free so using  his name to “cash in” really is so anti- Ossie it is untrue.

So far I have seen only two items from the 95 piece collection. One, A quite frankly hideous dress that appears on the Debenhams press release. The print design is poor to say the least and this is something that the designs are supposedly being sold upon….also this unbelievably poorly researched press release seems to suggest Ossie Clark was the print designer, NO!!! Celia Birtwell designed the prints, and it would be surprising (especially considering the crappy looking dress on the press release) if she had consented to be part of this project. There are more things I could say about this image. I just hate it on so many levels. The dress looks like some dodgy beach cover up in too thin (non Ossie) fabric, it’s worn with awful sandals and really in no way references Ossie in my mind.
The thing is Ossie relaunches have already SO been done. There was the Celia Birtwell for Topshop collection which I did like to a degree (quality was poor…though not horrendous and I do own a few pieces that I love). These used Celia’s prints but many of the shapes were copies of those originally designed by Ossie. In 2008 there was an attempt to relaunch the brand which was done pretty poorly and lasted only a few seasons. Why does Debenhams think their relaunch is going to be any different???
The Biba relaunch for House of Fraser in my opinion devalued the originals rather, I feel almost certain that this reluach will do the same for Ossie Clark and lead to YET MORE confusion between originals and later copies.
But the most important question, I feel, is WHY WHY WHY is this even necessary? Why can’t we have exciting new designs in the shops. Why do we have to re-hash past designs continuously? Where has design talent gone (as someone with a fashion degree this REALLY scares me)?  As consumers is this what we really want? In my opinion it’s like covering someone elses song, it just shows your own un-originality. Boring and dull.
I feel that some people may view this as me being a vintage snob (I know only too well I can be, there is no point in me denying it!), but in this case it is really not about me doing a “darling, if it’s not original don’t bother” it’s a case of  being against ruining the name of the one of the greatest design talents of the 20th century.
If you want to read it from another mind (who I think has put it better than I ever could, and knows her Ossie FAR better than I do), take a look at the always amazing blog by Liz Eggleston

This piece was quoted in this Daily Mail article:–fashion-experts-ardent-fans-agree.html

5 thoughts on “Debenhams and Ossie "Clarke" (sic.) Or why my fashion blood is boiling

  1. You are so right Liz! I couldn't agree more and followed your link to Liz Eggleston where I've left a long (winded) reply. Thanks so much for highlighting this latest aberration from Debenhams. This is just another example of the modern trend of big business who find it more profitable ( and simpler) to lazily buy old brand names whose original creative owners have long departed into obscurity, bankruptcy or worse through lack of investment. Sadly even apparently successful British designers seem to need to get into bed with these big retailers and produce their own horribly debased lines that are often vaunted throughout the fashion media as the latest "must have" garment or accessory. And of course no use waiting for the fashion press to highlight concerns about these trends as they rely so heavily on the income from powerful and affluent advertisers.

  2. I totally agree with you and Liz. It's a totally tasteless to exploit a dead designer's name in this way especially as they don't seem to have the faintest idea of what Ossie was about. I tweeted rather crossly to Debenhams and they tweeted back to say;"The new collection has been inspired by original sketches from the Ossie Clark archives -……we are not endeavouring to copy his original designs but bring the new collection to today's modern shopper…..and back to the High Street at affordable prices. Thanks."(I love the terse 'Thanks' at the end…it just needed to be finished off with a sticky out tongue emoticon like so; :pBack to the High Street? Erm apart from his short time with Radley, Ossie Clark was never on the High Street.Anyway, enough. I'm so pleased to read that other bloggers are hating all this too. x

  3. I must admit, I don't know much about Ossie Clark, but even I can say that this fills me with apprehension about relaunching a respected and valued brand. I am a great fan of the old fashioned department store, and hate the fact that our once loved independents are being jeopardised by the greed of larger companies. I can imagine places like Dickins and Jones stocking this brand, and I too like Celia Birtwell (will do some research on Celia Birtwell for Topshop) the phrase if it's not broken, don't fix it, springs to mind when reading the Debenhams for Ossie Clark press release. I consider Debenhams to be a respectful retailer, but this has cast doubts as to their loyalty to brands.

  4. I'm so glad to see a few people are actually exposing this. I sometimes think the underlying problem may come from the way all this business is organised. Obviously there's the "cashable" aspect of it but it's getting more and more obvious that the fashion business now revolves soleley around people who know people. Son of, daughter of, cousin of, friend of and so on. And sadly, almost always with no talent or pure artistic vision whatsoever.Fashion geniuses of the 20th century mainly came from low backgrounds (see Gabrielle Chanel), their own (often hard) life shaped a world. The rehash of past brands or eras (I heard "grunge" is back!?!) reminds me of when "ready-made vintage" jeans started to be mass-produced. Like people no longer needed to grow in their jeans to make them truly beautiful. All this fake world of fake designers with no imagination is truly hiddeous and despicable.

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