An international fashion research project exploring the 'craft of use'

Perfect Piece

Consumerist fashion is all about what is right on trend, right for uniform mass-manufacture and ultimately right for the figures on a balance sheet. Lost in the mix are a garment’s finesse, fit, appropriateness; and the space to nurture individuality, skills and confidence in a wearer to recognise and revel in the ‘rightness’ of a particular piece.

Finding the right partnership between wearer and garment is the difference between using a piece time and again or throwing it away. Each partnership, like each person, is different. Matching one with the other and being open to the almost limitless variety of possibilities this enables, underscores fashion system diversity.

A cashmere tale

“This coat is the piece-de-resistance in my wardrobe in that it’s probably, you know, the most high quality coat that I have ever put on my back and I’d never be able to afford to buy it. It’s pure cashmere and it comes from Harrods. Not a shop in which I would usually shop. And the history of this coat is that I was in the theatre for a long time and this coat was bought to be worn in a Shakespeare play – the production of ‘The Winter’s Tale’. So I went to see the dress rehearsal of this show... and on [the actor] walked in this coat and I thought; ‘that is just the most beautiful coat in the world. I’ve got to have this coat.’ And the show played for two months I guess, probably about 50 performances so the coat had to do its stuff. It had to get worn and it had to be robust enough and that’s why they bought a £1200 cashmere coat for her to wear.

So when the show was coming to an end, I went to the wardrobes department and I said ‘what are you going to do with that coat?’ and they said, ‘oh, don’t know, it’ll probably go into store’, and I said, ‘well, if you feel like selling it I’ll buy it’ and I bought it and I paid £500 for it – it cost £1200 – this was ten years ago but I felt I’d got a bargain. And about 5 years after I bought it I went to a party and there was the actress who wore it in the show and she said, ‘did you buy that coat that I had in Winter’s Tale?’ and I said, ‘I did actually’ and she said, ‘Have you still got it?’ and I said, ‘yes, it’s upstairs hanging up on the rail’ and she said, ‘oh, can I go up and try it on again?’ So we trouped up the stairs in the middle of this party and stood in front of the mirror in the bedroom where the coats were while she tried it on again.

It had stayed in her mind exactly as it did in mine.”

London - March 2011
Photograph by Kerry Dean