Sale of the Horrockses brand name

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a rather interesting piece of information that it has taken me a few weeks to formulate properly into a post, the sale of the Horrockses brand name. As regular readers of my blog will be aware Horrockses garments are one of my biggest passions, but I mostly focus on collecting those items that were produced before 1964. Understandably though, with the resurgence in popularity of vintage items by the brand I was intrigued by the sale of the brand name, and the bigger consequences there could be for both the collectability of Horrockses dresses, and also how a parent brand may use the name.
Horrockses dress with print by Alastair Morton 1950 © Liz Tregenza 2012
Firstly, a little background on the history of the changing hands of the brand name post the period I collect- I concentrate here on “Horrockses fashions” rather than simply “Horrockses”. The first sale of the Horrockses brand was in 1964 to Steinberg and Sons (Owners of Alexon) who secured the royal warrant for the brand[1]. The label continued until 1983, before it was eventually discontinued. I know towards the end they attempted a revival of the 50s look dresses, but this was unsuccessful. I’ve never seen one of these I have to admit though. This is just something I have heard about, but I would love to see one if anyone has one! The Horrockses label then laid relatively dormant until 2011 (used only for very basic bed linen on the whole). I can’t work out from a quick bit of research who owned it in this period, but I am sure I was told it was Dorma at some point down the line… I know they had the rights for Horrockses cottons for bed linens etc, just not sure on fashion. This seems plausible as Dorma was bought out by Dawson international holdings in 2005, who currently own the brand name. The reason for the sale of the Horrockses brand now is due to Dawson international holdings going into administration last year. From my scant knowledge of IP (digging into the 1 module I sat during my first degree here!) It appears that the tradmemarks that Dawson international hold covers the likes of cosmetics and furniture as well as the areas that Horrockses bed linen/ Ulster Weavers kitchen textiles currently operate the brand under . Dawnson international holdings also hold the trademark for the brand that covers textiles for fashion. [2]
Horrockses dress by Pat Albeck- c. mid 1950s © Liz Tregenza
Original Horrockses prints have since 2011 been used for a limited collection of bed linen based on a number of original prints used for dresses, two of which I own (and love!). Personally I think this is a great way of re-using the original prints, without stepping on dangerous territory, but I am wary about the latest sale of the brand. My fear stems from how a brand may use the Horrockses name. Creating a new range of dresses based on Horrockses originals, in my opinion, would devalue vintage dresses and also cannot live up to the originals. This is partially due to manufacturing standards today and the fact that a key part of what made Horrockses such a distinctive brand was their use of fabric, and superior quality and advanced finishing techniques used on the fabric. Subject to modern manufacturing new Horrockses would loose their meaning. This is not simply personal elitism about the re-creation of the items, and not wanting others to have the same, I just feel that the “carbon-copies” which are likely to be produced will de-value the reputation of the brand as a whole.
A selection of Horrockses from my personal collection © Liz Tregenza 2012
Revivng brand names has a chequered history. Chelsea girl for River Island is an example of how this can be done relatively effectively I believe. Whilst the Ossie Clark London brand is an example of a heinous crime. Others, such as the numerous relaunches of Biba have had a mixed reception. Again though I step back to one of my biggest bugbears, why can’t we design anything new? Referencing the past is fair enough, but the way in which it is done is often disrespectful of past designs/ designers, and also what the companies stood for. I think producing homewares based on the original prints and styles is much more acceptable- I really hope that whoever buys the brand goes down this route, and doesn’t try to re-create the dresses.  Information on the internet suggests that House of Fraser are interested in acquiring the brand.[3]I wonder if they are considering attempting a similar revival to that of the Biba brand from a few years ago, or whether they would be considering something totally different for the brand.
Close up detail of a print by Margaret Meades 1953 © Liz Tregenza 2012
I am also intrigued as to how the sale of the brand name relates to the prints themselves. Does this sale equate to a sale of the prints too? Would they have free reign to use any Horrockses prints they want? Or would the new buyer be restricted to copying original vintage items they can source? Horrockses employed numerous freelance print designers, so this in itself could be problemous. This is undeniably an area that I don’t fully understand, but needless to say I am intrigued by.
Metis parters who are dealing with the sale of the IP have called for bids of £50,000 or more (seems cheap to me!). Bidding for the brand closes on 2nd May…so lets see what happens.
And to whoever buys the brand, if you are after an expert on the company with around 75 original dresses you are looking at her ; )

[1] Christine Boydell, Horrockses fashions: Off the peg style in the 40s and 50s p.176

Gertrud Arndt

Last week I was lucky enough to go on a study trip to the amazing city that is Berlin. I could go on and on about how wonderful the city was, and how I finally feel I have a true understanding of West Berlin vs. East Berlin (lets put it this way- GCSE history gave me a completely erroneous view), but I am going to focus on something that I feel is “blog relevant”. Henceforth, I’m looking at an amazing small exhibition at the Bauhaus archive on Gertrud Arndt (nee Hantschk).
Regular readers of my blog will know I have a bit of a thing for the Bauhaus, particularly the amazing women who were part of it and Arndt was just one of these ladies. The exhibition looks into two sides of Arndt’s work, both her textiles and her later photography. Arndt is an interesting figure, as she studied weaving at the Bauhaus despite her primary interest being in architecture. For Arndt there was no choice in what to study, as at the time she entered the Bauhaus there was no architecture department. Her photography work came later, after she had married fellow Bauhaus student Alfred Arndt and this is what really interested me.

Arndt’s photography was focused primarily on self portraiture, with only the occasional portrait taken of others (often fellow Bauhaus members) and was (in her own words) a product of “sheer boredom”. It is fascinating therefore that these pictures have now come to be so highly regarded, elevated to the status of art photography. Often Arndt’s name is placed as a pioneer of such documentary self portraiture, precursors of the work by the likes of Cindy Sherman but I think this neglects the real story of what she was doing. I feel these stand in the position of early “selfies” intended as a highly personal moment, and not meant for the outside world. This suggests why Arndt herself was reluctant for these to be exhibited in her lifetime, it wasn’t a fact that they were poor work, rather they were a part of her.  They show Arndt dressed in costume in a number of different poses, and are refreshing for the fact that they are meaningless, taken without real purpose- other than to quell boredom. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the pictures (I’ll be honest I LOVED them) but it just means that the context of them- when placed in an exhibition such as they were, needs to be thought about carefully.

Today there is an undeniable cult of the selfie, whether it be through blogs, twitter, facebook, instagram or photos taken of the self simply to pass the time (hands up who has done this before). I started to wonder how in the future such images that we take may be used in a similar manner to Arndt’s. Thinking of my own personal feelings towards such selfies made me understand why Arndt was reluctant for an exhibition of such images. For her it was a form of experimentation, and it wasn’t so much to do with experimenting with  photography, moreover about experimenting with herself. The clothes she wears, the poses, the intriguing make up all suggest this. Today we are so used to the endless self portraits on the internet that we might normalize Arndt’s portraiture, I think that context needs to be remembered with respect of this exhibition, and that in the 1930s this was a far more unusual thing to do. It is no doubt intriguing though that as Arndt’s status as a former Bauhaus student increased that meaning was placed onto these photographs. 30 years from now may we be seeing public exhibitions of images that originally were posted on Instagram in a fleeting moment of vanity? I can certainly see this as the next step on.

Gertrud Arndt, Mask Portrait, Dessau 1930, No. 13

(sorry that I couldn’t offer better pictures, the Bauhaus archive is strictly NO PICUTRES ALLOWED…or feel the wrath of a scary German woman ; ) )

If you are interested the Gertrud Arndt exhibition is still on now at the Berlin Bauhaus archive.

The super seventies sale!!!

Firstly I wanted to offer my apologies for my absence here for what feels like forever. I had to write a rather meaty essay on court presentation dress, and sadly this got in my way of having time to blog. BOO. Anyway, I am now back and have lots of exciting posts coming up!
Firstly I just wanted to share the current ebay sale I have going on. This week is a super seventies print week. Over 50 items of gorgeous 70s ness. More novelty prints than you can imagine!!!

There is also an amazing variety of floaty maxi dresses perfect for the festival season.