The Fashion and Textile Museum is currently holding a retrospective exhibition of the works of Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin, two key British fashion designers in the 1960’s.
The pair, who met at Walthamstow Art School in 1955, studied together at the Royal College of Art. When they graduated in 1961, the winds of revolution were starting to blow across the fashion industry. Whereas until then fashion had been aimed at a mature elite, young people tastes become important and London began to set the pace.
Foale and Tuffin were at the forefront of the revolution and determined not to replicate couture from Paris but to create new types of clothing that they themselves wanted to wear: colourful, pop inspired mini dresses that you could run around, dance and live in.
The ‘Double D’ dress perfectly reflects this spirit and the influence of pop culture – the Double D standing for Double Diamond ale, heavily advertised at the time and one of the most famous of Foale and Tuffin’s designs.
The exhibition recreates their shop at Malborough Court, just off Carnaby Street, the heart of the ‘Swinging London’ in the sixties. Opened by 1965, it sold the full range of Foale and Tuffin’s line and established them as the ‘Queens of Carnaby’, as Zandra Rhodes would describe them.
The ballade down memory lane among some of Foale and Tuffin’s original signature pieces is rythmed by an awesome soundtrack from ‘These Boots are Made for Walking’ to ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’, definitely putting the visitor in the right mood, groovy baby, yeahhhh!
Foale and Tuffin were often ahead of the game. The ‘boyfriend’ look with the ‘Geoff’s jacket’, which was inspired by a jacket owned by Marion Foale’s boyfriend at the time, is one of the best examples. The corduroy brown trouser suit also reminds the visitor that they changed the way women dressed before Yves Saint-Laurent, being among the first to try and turn women’s trousers into flattering garments.
Upstairs have been recreated their workroom, with the original cutting tables, sewing machines, paper patterns and sample books, and the showroom, presenting their work in the late 60’s and early 70’s, when fashion evolved from a mini skirted look to a new frame of reference found in ethnic designs, richer and darker colours and longer dresses. Layering became a signature look in their later work but their sense of purity and cut balanced the excesses of the bohemian style. The Japanese collection states the duo’s love for clean shapes and lines.
Foale and Tuffin closed the shop for good in 1972, both of them having new priorities. Nowadays, Sally Tuffin’s designs for the pottery firm she run with her husband, Dennis Chinaworks, are highly sought by collectors of pottery worldwide. As for Marion Foale, she launched a collection of knitwear in 1981, now sold all around the world.
To complement this exhibition, the FTM is putting on a range of events, talks and workshops, such as ‘Foale and Tuffin Unzipped’, a talk with the duo themselves about their work and the creation of the exhibition or ‘Twist Baby Twist’ on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th November – two nights of vibrant and exciting nights of sixties fun: dancing, music, fashion shows, dressing up boxes, bands and DJs!