Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Allbone & Trimit

Life in the 21st century just keeps getting faster. From internet connections to intercity travel, from fast food to instant fashion on the high street, we are obsessed with speed. And hand in hand with speed, goes novelty. The demand for the new is insatiable. As has been often stated, this is becoming increasingly unsustainable, particularly with the vast increase in wealth and demand in countries from China to Brazil. There are signs however, that people are considering alternatives to the mass consumerism we have all grown so used to. In the food industry for example, organisations such as the Slow Food Movement, are promoting the idea of locally sourced produce, and seasonal eating, ie: not eating strawberries in November, when they will either be far from local, or grown intensively in artificial conditions. Meanwhile in the fashion world, vintage clothing, a very old form of recycling, has become a huge trend, and is the very antithesis of cheap disposable fashion so prevalent on the high street. Made to measure is another area that one might have assumed, with the exception of Savile Row, had died out generations past. Although it may sound like an extravagant option, a garment made this way can last for years, is likely to become a permanent part of a wardrobe, and is probably much better made than off-the-peg equivalents. 

In Cooper's Yard, which we have visited before, Catherine Shaw has been running her bespoke dress making business since 2005. Wittily named Allbone & Trimit, Catherine wanted a name that was memorable, but also with an air of solidity and permanence, perhaps evoking the name of a trusted old firm of solicitors. Catherine arrived in South London from Manchester, when she enrolled on the theatre design course at Croydon College of Art. After graduating, she immediately embarked on a career in costume design, working for various theatre companies including the English National Opera and the Australian Opera. As a sideline, Catherine began making wedding dresses for friends and colleagues, and to this day, wedding dresses have become one of her staples. But don't go to Catherine if your desire is for the conventional and white. Her creations are usually anything but white, and are designed to be adaptable so as to be a permanent part of a woman's wardrobe rather than a one day wonder. Individuality is key to Catherine's business. Rather than slavishly following trends, inspiration for a new garment may come from a found scrap of fabric or researching historical precedent.

Catherine working on an outfit for the grandmother of a bride.

Containers of fabric cuttings. Once they have no further use, scraps are sent to schools, and even to recycling facilities where they are converted into compost.

The inspiration board includes Catherine's parents' and grandparents' wedding photos.
Happily the day of the shoot coincided with a particularly interesting client fitting. The dress in question was a historical recreation, one of a pair Catherine was making for Robyn Bramzell and Kate Foy-Taysum of Bramfoy's - Purveyors of Living History. The girls provide colourful guided tours of London in the guise of 18th century ladies of somewhat ill repute.

Robyn Bramzell being laced into her corset.

As a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and a big supporter of the various local campaigns, Catherine is another Crystal Palace enthusiast, whose life and creativity is woven into the very fabric of the Triangle.

The Overspill
4 Cooper's Yard
07764 196284 

Friday, 8 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee

I've mentioned the thriving independent spirit of the locals before, but do I also detect a streak of republicanism? Wanting to add a topical piece to the blog, I went in search of bunting and other displays of patriotism, but was sorely disappointed. Many shops and businesses have hardly bothered, and as so often, Upper Norwood appears to have slipped into the crevice between 5 boroughs, with no council sponsored decorations. If not republicanism, I guess it's simply a manifestation (or lack of) of the current austerity. My search wasn't completely fruitless however. Facing each other across Church Road, The Alma & Vintagehart had both made an effort. Vintagehart provided a classic punk themed window display. Ironically, punk, and in particular, The Sex Pistols and their version of "God Save The Queen" have over the years acquired national treasure status, making them as important to Britain's cultural identity as the icons they sought to smash. Meanwhile in total contrast, the simple but tasteful bunting in the pub opposite, was crowned by a blooming marvelous Union Jack!

The Alma