Thursday, 24 January 2013

The many faces of Bedlam

While snow blankets the land there is that hush that comes from less traffic, more stillness. We are in suspension now, awaiting the delivery of the coat samples from the Manchester factory while the rest is being constructed in the London workshop. Don't imagine we are sitting around thumb twiddling - there are appointments to secure with store buyers and our schedule to make in New York City. We have booked flights, arriving there on Feb 7th, the start of NY Fashion Week. We'll be in town for a week. My hon. l'il sis Francine, beloved roomie from my days in LA, is providing us with accommodation. She will have packed up her TriBeCa apartment the week prior to our arrival, as that East Coast luxury has been sacrificed in an economy drive. She flies back and forth between LA and NY in her role as product developer at MUD cosmetics Her real estate loss is our showroom /crash-pad gain as the rent will be paid up til the end of February. She will leave us a blow up mattress, other than which the place will be denuded, shivering ready for us to dress it with lovely new clothes by Bedlam.

As you will remember from the last nail-biting episode, we got backing for the collection the week before Christmas and promptly tore up to Manchester to secure our slot at the factory. The British Fashion Council has made a dedicated menswear event and that took place between Jan 7-9th, the days many were first stumbling back to work after Christmas. Were we even on their radar, there was no way we could have made that. So we are doing things the Bedlam way and catching up with the buyers on their itinerary around the world.

So much as Autumn is known as the Silly Season, when the media is reduced to padding out editions with insubstantial stories, now, while England is on ice and we are on tenter hooks to see how the sketches and patterns will stand up and take on form in fabric, the news is serving up coverage of referendums on Europe while we offer you a random picture of girls in bikinis. I stumbled across these bold ladies in the grounds of the old Bethlem Hospital on Sunday:

Bedlam Belle

The most beautiful lady of all in the grounds that day was the old hospital herself. Someone had placed a little trio of snow people on top of her wall:

A beauty who schlepped across icy London town to visit the studio is someone we're keen to introduce. May we present... the face of Countess of Bedlam, Rose Keegan. We met her on New Year's Eve at a dinner hosted by one of our clients, James Todd, and his partner Paul Roseby, both pillars of theatrics. Enchanted by Rose's look and manner we asked if she would do us the honour, and to our delight she has consented. With her red hair and pale skin she is now the Rose of Bedlam:

Rose Keegan in a test shot
Rose's daddy was the eminent military historian Sir John Keegan who recently passed away. It seemed fitting that she try on Helen Patton's suit for the Battle of the Bulge anniversary for her test shot.

A tinted photograph of Helen's grandfather General Patton that captures his movie star panache

When we get to New York we have another red headed pale face waiting to be our menswear fit model, Jeffrey Graham aka DJ Red Boy. We will take him along with us to appointments including the one we have been kindly granted at the British Consulate. We will meet the lady who looks after British companies' business strategies as well as Danielle from the UK Trade & Industry department who has an office there.

With the clothes now well underway we must start to build the identity of the label, consider who we would like to represent and epitomise it. Someone else who appeared to have something of the Earl about them was the elegant "Gentleman smoking" that we appropriated for our Christmas card. As it's more Christmassy now with all the snow than it was back in December we shall share him with you here, courtesy of Stephin Ongpin Fine Art at whose gallery in St. James' we discovered him ( :

The artist was one chic boulvardier known as Bernard Boutet de Monvel. This is only a small work, 7" x 4" in ink and gouache. One can imagine him sitting in a restaurant and espying the subject, finding a piece of paper in his bag and quickly executing the portrait. Regarded as one of the finest illustrators of the Art Deco era, he drew for Harper's Bazaar in the '20s and '30s, contributing illustrations to the first French edition of Vogue, going on to sketch fashion for them for years. He himself was a well known dandy. His fellow illustrator Georges Lepape wrote in a letter of November 1926, "... the other night at midnight Bernard and I were in topper and tails on a bus in Fifth Avenue, it was hilarious."
And as demonstration, here is a self portrait of himself in a window of the Ritz Hotel in the Place Vendome, Paris -

So we would like to adopt this dapper gentleman as another Face of Bedlam - Bernard Boutet de Monvel, born in Paris in 1881, died in 1949 somewhere near the Azores when his plane crashed into a mountain. It killed all passengers amongst whom were numbered the champion boxer Marcel Cerdan, lover of Edith Piaf; and the vertuoso violinist Ginette Neveu, whose body, legend has it, was found clutching her Stradivarius.

A little too portly to be a fit model we feel, but a jolly soul non-the-less is William Nicholson's (1872-1949) "E is for Earl" from his alphabet series. The "C is for Countess" in the set we found a bit hatchet faced and the "D is for Dandy" looks rather like the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but the Earl has a nicely seasonal rotundity to him.

The court of Bedlam needs its ambassadors. One of Britain's finest young jazz pianists, Theo Jackson, will kindly sport his Bedlam duds on stage from time to time. He also has one of the smoothest voices this side of Tennessee. Theo's real name is Joe Jackson but his early gigs were selling out for the wrong reason. He redubbed himself in tribute to Thelonius Monk and now his gigs sell out for all the right reasons. Take a swing by this clip and get hep to the beat:

TJ came by last week with his lady Ruby for a dress up and fit. We made him a pair of strides and matching double breasted waist coat with pure silk back and piping in a silk / wool mix Prince of Wales check and look forward to seeing them on stage soon.

Theo in his Bedlam duds, styled with double breasted dinner jacket in finest white wool and New York News Boy cap

Other divisions of Bedlam are sprouting up everywhere you look-  here we present the face of Little Lord Bedlam, Tommy Taborn Letts, and below him, the Hound of Bedlam, in the beautiful brass and leather collars made by Jenifer Corker that look like a champion boxer's belt.

Little Lord Bedlam, Tommy Taborn Letts, clutching a roll of pure silk handcuff lining from the collection

Corduroy jacket with suede elbow patches for children up to 12 years old, £160 (toothpaste down t-shirt is extra)
And to complete the Bedlam gallery for now, here's the Hound of Bedlam:

New knock out collars for your champion by Jenifer Corker. The metal is solid brass, hand pierced & the leather is top-notch Sedwick bridle leather. Prices to follow when we've worked them out.

Woof woof, we will scamper back soon.