Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Battle of the Bulge and the Victory of the Curve

I started writing this yesterday, rather hoping to post it on Remembrance Sunday / Veterans' Day but ate so much roast chicken that I lost the ability to co-ordinate thought with typing. It was a beautiful day and we took a stroll about the Borough, the historic district around London Bridge Station where Shakespeare rolled out his plays and Dickens drank with his characters. Exactly a year before to the day we were there also, visiting our theatrical friend Tutu in Guys Hospital (where I was born), before eating oysters on the river bank. That would be the last time we saw Tutu so we will always remember her on Remembrance Day. She was famously at ease with her form, posing naked for photographs even as cancer brutally changed her body.

Last Friday we went to see my old RADA class mate Nick Tizzard in "Cabaret", the Kander & Ebb musical which famously (or not so much) launched my own career on the boards. We had the most entertaining company of actor Paul Roseby and his partner, theatrical producer James Tod, who passed Bedlam's old shop window the day before we closed and did an "about turn" to snap up the Thin Red Line jacket. James said he has never had so many enquiries about a piece of clothing, and not casual either, but "aggressively demanding" to know where he got it!

Back stage at the Savoy Theatre with Nick Tizzard ("Ernst") and James Tod, in Bedlam's "Thin Red Line" jacket

The first half of the production saw plenty of body parts flaunted with licentious glee before the mood twisted into a dark depravity ending with the stark final image of men and women, stripped and vulnerable, in the showers at Auschwitz. A few weeks ago we hosted another of my RADA alumni, Helen Patton, and she took her two sons to see it also. Helen is the granddaughter of "Old Blood and Guts" General George S. Patton, commander of the U.S. Third Army during World War II. Amongst many her other initiatives to promote understanding through cultural exchange, Helen has just published a book called "Portraits of Service" to "focus public attention on living veterans of all wars who have made personal sacrifices and, in many cases, undergone the horrors of combat." You can read more about it here, and even order a copy:

Helen with Mr Wesley in our new design studio
Helen has ordered a suit from us for her to wear to an anniversary event for the Battle of the Bulge. It suggested itself therefore that the suit be known as "The Victory of the Curves". Someone misconstrued this to mean that my friend was particularly curvy, which she isn't, but she is a woman, and we go in and out, but more than that I meant it to suggest the femininity she brings to traditionally male, military, arenas. The mistaken response, however, reminded me that you have to be sensitive at all times to people's perceptions of themselves. During her stay, Helen revealed to me that she had arrived at RADA with something dangerously close to an eating disorder, a condition that was only exacerbated by the environment we were in. Then one evening she beheld me sitting on a bar stool tucking into a bacon sandwich, looking utterly content with myself and thought "I'll have what she's having." (or words to that effect). I had never known that until she told us the other day.

Perhaps as a reward for my unwitting therapy all those years previously, Helen took me with her boys, Raggy and Ingmar, to the RADA benefit screening at BAFTA of the new James Bond movie "Skyfall". Mr Wesley is in such a fury that they should allow Bond to be dressed by Tom Ford that he has boycotted the film. We are all in agreement (are we not?) that this is utterly wrong and a major error of judgement but we will make Mr Ford feel better with this complement -  we were doing research recently into websites to use as inspiration for when we come to upgrade our own, currently a basic, but beautiful, page-with-links constructed by our lovely Chrissey Sullivan. To our surprise, all the brands we expected to be e-vocatively stylish presented a mess. They were cheapeningly garish and unpleasantly bossy, forcing you to focus at their pace on things you didn't want to see. Then I clicked on http://www.tomford.com/ and through gritted teeth even Mr Wesley conceded that it was a lesson in clear online cool.

Don't tell Mr Wesley

Lady C with the new Q : Ben Whishaw, another RADA boy
Mr Wesley needn't be jealous, I only have eyes for him. For who could not be devoted to a man who builds this beautiful cutting table in the new studio?

"Wesley, Mark Wesley, licensed to drill"
Helen's suit will be made in a tweed by John G. Hardy, and how we came to offer her their beautiful fabrics is something of a thriller in itself. One of our dear friends, as have many of them, God bless them one and all, put his trust in our abilities and commissioned us to make him a suit. Now, Matias is a monumental character and has a similarly, suitably, imposing build. He was adamant that he did not want a check as that can accentuate scale. After many fabrics were scoured, we presented him with a soft green herringbone woven through with a lively blue thread that ticked all the boxes without becoming one. When we went to do the fitting we realised that the engineering of the jacket was skewed by the horizontal trajectory of the tummy. Back outside, we resolved that the best strategy was simply to get more of the fabric and recut the front of the jacket rather than mess about trying to correct it. And so we returned to the warehouse. At which point in the story I ask you to rewind to an earlier posting regarding the awful fire... at the warehouse. While our first concern was, of course, for the safety and livelihood of our dear friends the second, that followed pretty damn swiftly upon it, was "PLEASE GOD LET THE GREEN HERRINGBONE HAVE BEEN SPARED!!!" But alas, it had perished along with so much in the conflagration.

When I had got back to my feet from pounding the scorched earth with my fists, my first hunch was that it was Harris Tweed. A few calls later and from out of the mists of terror appeared the angel that is Kristina Macleod, of the Harris Tweed Authority. From her office in the Town Hall in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, she calmed my mounting hysteria and provided me with contacts for all possible leads on a match for the weave www.harristweed.org

But that would have been too simple, a twist in the yarn is necessary for a satisfying plot. It was not a Harris Tweed. The subterfuge that I had to undertake to try and discover the provenance of the cloth may never be revealed, certainly it will remain classified for many decades. As Kristina wrote to me, "I know you probably don't feel like laughing, but your poor story was akin to Fawlty Towers meets Saville Row, and it did make me laugh.  Let me know how you get on!"

Finally, I conceded we were never going to find the exact same and would have to bite the bullet (perhaps, literally), tell Matias what had happened and present him with a superior alternative. The bestest of the best would be to show him a selection from the Prince of Wales' preferred clothier, John G. Hardy (http://www.hfwltd.com/). I sat revving the car engine and sent Mr Wesley in to extract a "bunch" from them. It just so happened that he was wearing, that day, his "Errol Flyn" suit made in the beaters' fabric that has been such a hit for us. As he entered their office at the top of several flights of stairs in Soho, they welcomed him like long lost brethren and exclaimed that it was one of theirs, now discontinued (how we came to get it). But its provenance had not be revealed to us before now. And so we find ourselves in the fold of the finest; Matias chose a new fabric from their "bunch", PREFERRED it to the original; and all is hunky dory not to say nudging copacetic.

To finish with a svelte flourish, we treat you to a photograph of our  lovely client, Marina, looking seasonal in her Bedlam shooting ensemble, with matching flat cap by our own milliner Maria PK. We are now making her a cape in another delicious John G. Hardy "Alsport" in all the colours of the hapless pheasant's wing:

The current issue of GQ declares what we already knew, right? - "We're just gonna say it: You absolutely must have tweed in your wardrobe this winter, and you don't need to own a pipe or an Irish castle to make it work."