I have always been passionate about fashion, not necessarily the physical consumption of it but more with understanding how it visually represents our eras and societies, and the ways that it resembles a perfect vehicle that tell a city’s personal story.
I conduct the fashion walks for Fox & Squirrel and, on these walks I have had the privilege to delve into some of the most fascinating archives available to us here in London. These include the archives of naval and military tailors Gieves & Hawkes to the Long Room at Purdey’s where D Day landings were in fact planned, and many more.
It is during these walks that I became increasingly aware of the historical meaning of the term bespoke and then subsequently sensitive to what appears to be its omnipresence. As a historian, of the slightly more conservationist school of thought, I can only blame this on overzealous and skewed marketing.
You may ask why should one appear so sensitive over the usage of a word?
And my answer very simply is that in my opinion the term bespoke is a process that above all expresses a network of human interaction, be that movement, creation or consumption. The end product of these interactions, that I have the opportunity to witness, have the ability to visually narrate the ways the city and we connect, providing us therefore with a visually rich story of London, its people and its crafts.
I fear when used loosely to denote things such as overpriced haircuts or glitzy interiors such as this case we risk watering down the images and the stories that are so vital to the life of a city.
And we end up with stories such as the one below.
I am in no way suggesting that it is the usage of the term bespoke that is responsible for the fact that only 9 out of the 69 or so apartments in One Hyde Park are primary homes.
That would be incredibly naïve.
‘Bespoke’s’ omnipresence, an oxymoron in itself, I fear will come to represent and be associated with the vacant, characterless, uniform and empty.
So I am protesting against the hijacking of a word that has historically come to tell one of many London’s story, alas a unique one, one that places the individual at its core, both with regards to the creator and the consumer, one that expresses and respects heritage, skills, talent and above all diversity.
At the V & A I invited 3 craftsmen and woman to demonstrate their definition of bespoke. Sylvia Fletcher of Lock & Co., Ed Bodenham 9th generation Floris perfumer, George Juerg of Purdey and Davide Taub of Gieve & Hawkes. Through their work and anecdotes I wanted to narrate a story of London, a bespoke one, one that differs from any other city story.