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Title: Less than art - greater than trade : English couture and the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers in the 1930s and 1940s
Author: Jones, Michelle
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 832X
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2015
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This study examines the creation and professionalisation of a recognisable English couture industry in the mid-twentieth century and in particular the role designer collaboration played within this process. The focal point is the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers, a design group established as a wartime measure in order to preserve and protect a number of London’s made-to-measure dress houses and to promote the creative aspirations of the wider British fashion industry. The focus on this specific design group and collaborative practice, rather than the individual couturiers, offers an exceptional case study of designers working in association and the impact this can have on design practice. A number of central themes emerge that focus on the networks and mediated representations that supported this field of design. In dealing with these themes this study recognises that the Incorporated Society’s formation and operation did not occur in a vacuum but within a specific industrial, political, economic and social infrastructure. It therefore explores the networks and narratives that were used to sustain its specific form of luxury fashion production throughout a particularly turbulent period. Today London is acknowledged, alongside Paris, New York and Milan, as one of the world’s major fashion cities and this thesis aims to achieve a better understanding of the role couturier-collaboration played in the early development of this recognition. Through the analysis of an extensive range of previously unconsidered primary material it questions whether and how, through the process of collaboration, the London couturiers established unprecedented and much needed cohesion for British design talent and the exact nature of their role within the construction and understanding of London as an internationally recognised fashion centre. The period under consideration allows not only an exploration of the creation of a London couture industry but also the cultural politics of design practice throughout a difficult period of economic depression, war and post-war reconstruction. In so doing, it explores the wider significance of the Incorporated Society’s elite made-to-measure dressmakers both for and beyond the discipline of Design History.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified