Monday, 26 September 2011

Dugme = Turkish for Button

I have just come back from Istanbul and while wandering round the streets near the Grand Bazaar I came across clusters of wholesale button shops. I wasn't impressed by the buttons themselves but by the sheer quantity of them.

This one was within the covered Bazaar

Button selling is clearly a serious affair

It needs lots of careful consideration

Bagged up and ready to go

Deal made over the obligatory glass of tea

Button presses waiting on the pavement

Basement button cavern

Shop sign

The shops remind me of the shops of my childhood around St Margaret's Street behind Oxford Circus, London's factory dressmaking district. 

Monday, 12 September 2011

Nichols Buttons and Hardy Amies

Here it is, my father's list of customers and under "H" Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell, the twin kings of London Couture,  sadly he tore out the pages  with the actual order  history.

 Amies worked for Lachasse and Worth setting up his own couture house in 1946 he dressed the Queen from 1948  and was knighted in 1989. He launched his ready to wear in 1950 and was famous for his understated tailoring and regal ballgowns. Hardy Amies

My father and Amies were exact contemporaries born  within a few miles of each other into  Edwardian London. I have no idea if they knew each other, but I do know that he would have dealt with the stock room as far as possible as he always said that was where the power lay. He depended on the lady whose job it was to source the buttons to suggest that he should be asked. He would also go to enormous lengths to supply the buttons in a way that made her job easier. Each set of buttons for each costume would be packed in its own tissue paper so the seamstress had a perfectly matching set.

He would  take the London orders round to the major houses himself so that he would be a familiar face in the stock room. However grand the customer, the stock room was always in the over crowded, rather grim basement, far from the upstairs glamour. I was rather affronted that  was where he took the buttons, I felt he was an upstairs man.
Hardy Amies talking to one of his employees
In the last days of Hardy Amies women's wear I supplied buttons from daddy's stock to them  just for old times sake and I suspect absolutely nothing had changed. I took the buttons to the stockroom buyer and she would see which of my choices the designer wanted, sometimes you saw the designer, other times you didn't, but essentially she was the all important go between. 

Later the Hardy Amies' Design Director Jon Moore who had spent his whole career there left to set up his own couture house Jon Moore Ltd and I still work directly with him so the link continues even though the firm of Hardy Amies now only does menswear.

A beautifully crafted  Scottish tweed day dress by Jon Moore with Nichols buttons

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Experimental glass buttons from the Sixties

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These buttons are  from the Sixties, I have a soft spot for this era as I was a child and interested in my father's work, when the Sixties ended I was sixteen and by that time  more interested in myself.

The buttons are really experiments, he is seeing what he can make. They are probably made in the longueurs of summer when he would put the furnace on to make samples and have a bit of a play. In the summer he worried  whether he would get enough orders to stave off an overdraft the next year. In the summer he created the samples to go with the snippets of material sent to him for the coats and suit designs for the Winter Season.

  • BUTTON ONE He bought his paints from Johnston Matthey by post, if he saw something new  he thought he could use he sent for a sample. He sent for some crackle glaze which you sprinkled on and it looked like glass dust fused to the surface. He's tried this on clear glass with a gold painted vertical slice. Not impressed,  he ground the face of the button so you get fragments of shine from the crackle and the gold on an otherwise mat surface.
  • BUTTON TWO For this he used a piece of rod glass which he was always trying to work out how to use. He watched the glass makers who made glass rod animals and bought some glass to see if he could use it. He never really found the answer but this is him trying to use it.

  • BUTTON THREE  This is clear glass with the colour painted onto the back. I think there must have been problems as there are very few of these but its a really pleasing result like little paper weights.

  • BUTTON FOUR  He's made this by grinding across the face of the button

  • BUTTON FIVE This is lovely, it was probably  made as a pendant piece. Its a clear glass sandwich  with a filling of sprinkled paint pigment. The air bubbles would be accidental but add to its interest.

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