Sophia Kokosalaki 1972 – 2019

Greek born designer Sophia Kokosalaki trained at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London before launching her label at London fashion week in 1999. Known for her draping, Kokosalaki came to fame designing costumes and uniforms for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. She collaborated with Top Shop in 2001, Diesel from 2009 to 2012, and served as creative director for the relaunch of Vionnet in 2006/2007. Between 2012 and 2017 she designed a line of wedding dresses for the modern bride, and in 2015 she updated the uniforms for Aegean Airlines. She died this week at the age of 47.

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Canadian Fashion Connection: D. McCall & Co.

The wholesale millinery business of D. McCall & Co., was established in 1879 by Dougald McCall and William Blackley (Blackley had immigrated to Montreal from Scotland in 1860 and moved to Toronto in 1866.) The business was originally located at 51 Yonge Street, but soon outgrew the premises and moved to 12 and 14 Wellington street, a stone building consisting of 36,000 square feet over five floors. An advertisement from 1886 boasts that they employed 17 clerks and salesmen in the showroom, 125 women in the factory, and 9 commercial travellers who sold McCall millinery throughout Canada.

The business imported undecorated hat forms and finished hats from France, Germany, England, and the United States, as well as all the trimmings associated with millinery including feathers imported from around the world. By 1892 they had opened a branch in Montreal. That same year, the Canadian Dry Goods Review promoted their business in February as having a huge variety of “Hats and bonnets, flowers, ribbons, laces, silks, jet goods, veilings, trimmings of all kinds… We almost forgot to mention the magnificent range of mantles which this firm carry”.

The business expanded to Winnipeg in 1900, with the Toronto location moving to new premises some time thereafter. Web search results for the company dating after 1900 drop off suggesting that the company closed sometime during the 1900s or early 1910s. It could be that the company closed with the death of McCall and/or Blackley.

The last Toronto location of D. McCall Co., c. 1910, address unknown
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Jesus sneakers

In a few minutes this past Tuesday, Brooklyn sneaker company MSCHF (pronounced Mischief) sold two dozen shoes for U.S. $1,425 each. The customized Nike Air Max 97 sneakers called ‘Jesus Shoes’ were blessed with religious symbols: Holy water from the River Jordan were injected in the sneaker bubbles, the Vatican-red insoles were scented with frankincense, and a steel crucifix dangled from the shoelaces. 

The shoes were made as a parody of the absurdity of collaborative products, although the irony may have been lost on its buyers as many of the shoes have already been resold for more than double their original cost.

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Fashion in Song – My Adidas (1986)

In honour of Sneaker Day (first observed in U.S. in 2016), I am posting My Adidas by Run-D.M.C. from their 1986 album Raising Hell. The song, unsurprisingly, led to an endorsement deal between Adidas and Run-D.M.C., which began a long association between sneaker brands and Hip Hop artists.

My Adidas
Walk through concert doors
And roam all over coliseum floors
I stepped on stage, at Live Aid
All the people gave an applause that paid
And out of speakers I did speak
I wore my sneakers but I’m not a sneak
My Adidas cuts the sand of a foreign land
With mic in hand I cold took command
My Adidas and me both askin P
We make a good team my Adidas and me
We get around together, rhyme forever
And we won’t be mad when worn in bad weather
My Adidas… My Adidas

Standin on two fifth St.
Funky fresh and yes cold on my feet
With no shoe string in em, I did not win em
I bought em off the Ave with the tags still in em
I like to sport em that’s why I bought em
A sucker tried to steal em so I caught em and I thwart em
And I walk down the street and I bop to the beat 
With Lee on my legs and Adidas on my feet
And now I just standin’ here shooting the gif
Me and D and my Adidas standing on two fifth
My Adidas… My Adidas

Me and my Adidas do the illest things
We like to stomp out pimps with diamond rings
We slay all suckers who perpetrate
And law down law from state to state
We tracel on gravel, dirt road or street
I wear my Adidas when I rock the beat
On stage front page every show I go
It’s Adidas on my feet high top or low
My Adidas… My Adidas

Now the Adidas I possess for one man is rare
Myself homeboy got fifty pair
Got blue and black cause I like to chill
And yellow and green when it’s time to get ill
Got a pair that I wear when I’m playin’ ball
With the heal inside make me ten feet tall
My Adidas only bring good news
And they are not used as selling shoes
They’re black and white, white with black stripe
The ones I like to wear when I rock the mike
On the strength of our famous university
We took the beat from the street and put it on TV
My Adidas are seen on the movie screen
Hollywood know we’re good if you know what I mean
We started in the alley, now we chillin Cali
And I won’t trade my Adidas for no beat up Bally’s
My Adidas

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Canadian Fashion Connection – Kates Boutique

The Montreal millinery company Kates Boutique was founded in December 1969. Kates was a supplier of basic fashion headwear to bridal shops, department stores and hat salons across the country. The company was incorporated in March 1993, at which point its official name was changed to Kates Millinery (1993) Inc. The company ceased production in January 2002 and was legally dissolved in December 2003.

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A Century of Hard Hats

An interesting article appeared in the New York Times today about the history of hard hats. Here is a synopsis:

When Edward W. Bullard returned home to the U.S. after serving in France during World War 1, he suggested that his father’s business, which made carbide lamps and other supplies for miners, make hard hats modelled after the metal helmets worn by soldiers. The first models were made of steamed canvas and leather and painted black. They featured an interior fitting that created a suspension system for the outer shell which took the bulk of any impact. The first lot was put into production in 1919. 

Over the years the hats were made of different materials: aluminum, fibreglass, and eventually plastic. As the industry grew, so did competition from other companies: Honeywell, Kask, 3M… but the Bullard company, headquartered in Cynthiana, Kentucky is still in business and still family owned.

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1893 Watch Camera

This ‘spy camera’ is likely similar or even the same model used by 19 year old Carl Stormer when he took these round shaped photos in the 1890s in Oslo, Norway.

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Forever 21 1984 – 2019?

Forever 21 just filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and will close almost 1/4 of its stores and withdraw from some overseas markets.

Originally called ‘Fashion 21’, the company was founded in April 1984 by Korean born Do Won Chang as a young woman’s boutique in Los Angeles. The shop has focussed on trendy fast fashions although it now also includes some girl’s and menswear. Over the past 35 years, the company grew into an international brand and retailer culminating in 800 stores around the world – its largest growth period (doubling in size) occurred in the last decade.

The company has come under criticism over the years. There were some employee relations issues but also accusations of sexism and of pushing a Christian agenda via sayings written on shirts. There were also issues of shortchanging customers on refunds, using toxic materials in its jewellery production, and copyright infringement lawsuits by a number of companies, including Diane von Furstenberg and Gwen Stefani. Most lawsuits were settled out of court. It’s almost impossible for such a large company to avoid lawsuits, however, the company is equally litigious towards others.

The original L.A. location, c. 1984
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Scarf designer Vera Neumann

Vera Neumann (nee Salaff) was born June 24, 1907 and attended art school and the Traphagen School of Design. She began working as a fashion illustrator before going into textile design. After marrying George Neumann, the two founded a silk screen textile printing company called Printex in 1942. Her first signature printed scarves appeared shortly afterwards and quickly became popular sellers. 

In about 1959 she adopted a ladybug motif which appeared alongside her signature scarf, linens, and yardage prints throughout the 1960s. The motif gradually fell from use, disappearing by 1976. Five years after the death of her husband in 1962, Vera sold the business to Manhattan Industries but remained their creative director. The company expanded into sportswear, eventually hiring Perry Ellis to oversee the sportswear and luggage divisions. 

Vera’s artwork was critically praised and shown in galleries during the 1970s, especially her Japanese sumi-e (ink painting) designs that she preferred to use for most of her work. In 1988, Neumann began licensing her name to Salant Corporation, closing her Printex business later that same year. She remained head designer until her death on June 15, 1993. Vera Licensing was sold on to The Tog Shop in 1999; resold to Susan Seid in 2005; and sold again in 2013.

Vera Neumann, 1970s
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History Bounding

‘History Bounding’ is a recent trend for enthusiasts who dress in contemporary clothes styled after an historical period or person. It began six years ago when Canadian blogger Leslie Kay, who was headed for Disney World, began a blog called DisneyBound where she styled modern outfits for Disney characters. The trend grew from there.

The results run from costumey looking cosplay outfits to contemporary fashions that don’t readily appear to have an historical reference. The most successful looks fall between these extremes. I suppose you could call it historical appropriation!

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