London as a fashion centre- 1949

I am now totally and utterly convinced that I do my best research by accident. Pretty much every useful or “new” bit of information i have found relating to my PhD research has come to me when I was looking for something unrelated, as was the case yesterday.

Picture Post in the late 1940s and 1950s often featured engaging fashion features and I was hunting out a feature from March 1949 about London couture, however, this led me to what I think is perhaps a more interesting and enlightening letter in the comments section of the magazine.

Picture Post March 19th 1949 p.39

London as a fashion centre

I was surprised to learn from you article ‘Who buys our best clothes?’ (March 5), that the aim and purpose of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers is, to make London ‘a world-acknowledged centre of creative fashion.’ When do they intend to start this revolution? As a young designer, I certainly cannot see the faintest hint of creative fashion in the latest, or for that matter, in any of the past collections of the Society’s members. They have always been at least a season behind Paris. There is never one feature or detail that actively sets a new fashion in any of their collections, whereas, for instance, the uneven hemline- which was featured in Paris this season and which will no doubt have a marked effect of the silhouette of 1949 and 1950- has not been in fashion since 1928, and of course it has taken Paris designers to bring it back again. It needed Paris to jolt them, as they did when they reintroduced the Victorian and Edwardian trends and features which have become famous as the ‘new look’. And on these ‘left-overs’ of Paris, our creative designers are still working, instead of trying out a new line or trying to set a new fashion. A fashion which Paris has not already dictated to them.

I’ve intentionally left off the author of this letter as it adds another interesting facet to the tale and the perception and development of London fashion. The letter was infact sent in by Bernard Nevill. When I read the name I knew he had something to do with Liberty, but what I couldn’t quite remember. A little googling led me to realise that Nevill is Liberty’s former design director (producing some truly iconic prints for the brand) and is also a former professor of St Martin’s. Furthermore, I was shocked to realise how young Nevill was at the time of writing this letter- he would have been just FOURTEEN years old. There’s something rather wonderful about reading this letter in retrospect, and realising that Nevill became a successful designer.



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