The suitcase…

“Dear clumsy bell boys, brutal cab drivers, careless doormen, ruthless porters, savage baggage masters, and all butter-fingered luggage handlers all of over the world. Have we got a suitcase for you…”

If you watch Mad Men, you will know the episode I am talking about from last year when Peggy stays late to work on a Samsonite luggage campaign, and I know you had the same thoughts I did – that she was going to come up with the famous gorilla ad… Well, it turns out that the Gorilla ad wasn’t thought up until 1969, and it was for American Tourister, not Samsonite (shows you how good advertising works on me – I was crediting the competition!)

The advertisement was first aired in early 1970 and ran for 15 years, but here’s something I bet you didn’t know… the gorilla is actually an actor in a suit. The character is Oofi, played by Don McLeod, who got a lot of work playing gorillas in movies, including 1984’s Trading Places.

Isn’t there a recession going on?

The last time I looked there was a serious recession still going on that was on the verge of getting worse because of a European debt load. So it makes it all that much harder to read about excesses like Beth Shak and her million dollar shoe collection of Louboutins apparently acquired through poker winnings. Here’s a sure bet – the shoes won’t keep their value.

Worse is the wanton destruction of an overpriced ($100,000? seriously? I see about $2,000 worth of materials and workmanship – the rest is artificial mark-up) Hermes bag by Francesca Eastwood for a photograph taken by her current boyfriend. I guarantee she would have had that bag a lot longer than she will have the boyfriend…

Canadian Fashion Connection – John Forsyth Co. Ltd.

In Berlin, Ontario in 1903 John Forsyth and son, J.D.C. Forsyth became distributors of hat and sewing pins, thread, buttons, celluloid collars, buckles and combs. They also commissioned a line of men’s shirts to be made with the Forsyth name. By 1908, J.D.C. was operating the company, manufacturing and distributing the Forsyth line of shirts in a recently purchased factory building previously known as the Star Whitewear building. In 1914 Forsyth purchased the William Kress building to keep production up with demand as well as build new lines of underwear and pyjamas. A further expansion was made in 1916 so the company could begin making athletic underwear. 1916 was also the year the city changed its name from Berlin to Kitchener.

In 1931 Forsyth added cravats, scarves and handkerchiefs to its product line and continued to add more floor space for production and staff amenities. In 1937 a new Art Deco styled wing was added to the factory.

In 1948 J.D.C. Forsyth passed away and his eldest son, John Edward Forsyth, became president, with younger son, James R.E. Forsyth becoming vice president in charge of sales. By 1956 Forsyth was the largest privately owned shirt making company in Canada, specializing in men’s white dress shirts. In 1961 a line for women was first produced under the label ‘Lady Forsyth.’ Between 1963 and 1966 Forsyth initiated off shore manufacturing in Trinidad, Hong Kong, Japan, and Panama, for export sales primarily to Great Britain, the West Indies, and Africa.

The family sold the company in 1973 to Dylex Ltd. of Toronto. The Kitchener factory was closed in 1993 with operations moved to a more modern facility in nearby Cambridge. The company was resold in 1997, reverting to private ownership, and continues to make shirts under its own brand as well as military and uniform shirts, and various licensed brands including Van Heusen, Pierre Cardin, Arrow, and Dockers.

For more info check out Shirt Tales.

Canadian Fashion Connection – Brophey Umbrellas

Brophey umbrella, c. 1950

This smart looking pagoda shaped Brophey umbrella caught my eye today — Brophey was located in Montreal and had a fitful start…  After nearly twenty years of service to Tooke Brothers, a men’s haberdashery headquartered in Montreal, William Allard Brophey founded the Brophey Umbrella Company in 1907. Seven years later, in 1914, Brophey was enticed to return to his former employer as the general manager of Tooke Brothers. Ten years later, in 1924, Brophey left Tooke again to return to his own ventures, and reorganized under the new company name of W.A. Brophey Co. Ltd. which made men’s umbrellas and neckties.

William Brophey operated his company until 1936 when his health began to fail. Brophey died in 1938 but the company survived, expanding production into women’s umbrellas. The company was renamed Telesco Brophy Ltd. in the early 1960s, just before taking out numerous patents for telescoping handles and other umbrella innovations. The company eventually merged with the German umbrella manufacturer Knirps in the late 1970s.

Fashion Myths…. Language of the Fan

The Victorian era removal of ribs to achieve an 18-inch waist is probably the most famous and oft-repeated fashion myth. However, there are many myths that are more credible but just as false.

Beyond the practical uses of cooling the face and hiding yawns, fans were used as flirtation devices at Victorian social events. However, other than furtive glances from behind a fluttering arc of silk and ivory, any naval flag-like language code based upon how a fan was opened, closed, held, or pointed was not universally understood.

Fans had been a standard of 18th century court life, but when the French Revolution took out the elite, the trappings of court life also fell from popularity, including the use of fans. Just as fans were making a comeback in 1827, Jean-Pierre Duvelleroy opened a fan-making shop at 15 Rue de la Paix in Paris. By the 1850s Duvelleroy was known as one of the best fan makers in Europe.  Duvelleroy opened a London branch of his business which he left to his  illegitimate son Jules to manage, while the Paris atelier remained under the operation of his legitimate son, Georges.

The language of flowers was well known at the time, and the code for which flower represented what emotion was often printed up in little booklets. Jules Duvelleroy adapted the idea as an advertising gimmick for his London fan shop. He printed up leaflets that identified a number of actions that supposedly had meaning and claimed had been in use by women for centuries, lending credence to the fan language myth. Some of the codes included: ‘Follow Me’ (carrying the fan in front of face), ‘You Have Changed’ (placing the fan on the right ear), ‘We are Watched’ (drawing the fan across the forehead), ‘I am Married’ (fanning slowly), ‘I Love You’ (drawing the fan across the cheek), etc.

The language of the fan became the inspiration for a number of similar clothing related codes, including the language of the handkerchief, parasol, and gloves, none of which were followed by any great number of people for any length of time with any seriousness. The idea of a clothing code resurfaced in the gay community in the 1970s, this time in the form of coloured hankies for different sexual preferences. It also reappeared in the 1980s in the punk culture in the colour and arrangement of shoe laces — but that’s another post for another day.