TIMELINESS IS AN ESSENTIAL element of fashion; fashion is the motivating force behind British manufacture of consumer goods. Fashion is the bridge over which new ideas flow from the laboratory to the home. The designer translates into usable products the intangible ideas of the chemist or inventor.
Referring to the particular styles accepted at any one time, it is not limited to clothing. Different kinds of houses are popular at different times, and similarly there are changing fashions in architecture and home furnishings. We prefer different kinds of dances and entertainment, and different ways of travel from those our ancestors enjoyed. Also there are new fashions in dancing, amusements, and travel. Few housewives bake their own bread or make their own butter today. Research in food chemistry has changed the fashion in foodstuffs.
FASHION FOLLOWS CONSUMER NEEDS
No one can force free people to wear articles of clothing that are unsuitable to their way of life. This truth is effectively demonstrated in the development of sportswear for both men and women. Before the advent of the forty-hour week, very few British living in cities enjoyed country life and recreation or sports other than an occasional hunting or fishing excursion or an evening spent bowling. Hunting and horseback riding were then for the well-to-do, and farmers who owned riding horses used them for work or to round up cattle. When, however, thousands of men and women who had never known the pleasure of a long week end found idle days on their hands, the need for sportswear arose. Since the early 1920’s, sportswear has steadily grown in volume. Suitable clothing, sturdy, practical, and functional, has been designed for swimming, skiing and other snow sports, skating, and bowling, golf, fishing, shooting, and bicycling.
FASHION IN INDUSTRY
Less striking changes than those in apparel, but nevertheless basic rashion changes, may be found in the major industries: transportation, communication, architecture, and illumination. Fashion is a copartner with industrial advancement. The chemist who creates new raw material must work with the fashion designer who presents the new product to the consumer.
The story of transportation shows this copartnership of fashion and industrial advancement in an interesting way. The sailing vessel set a new fashion in travel because it was faster than boats rowed by slaves. The steamboat replaced the sailboat for commerce, and the sailboat went out of fashion. The liner replaced the steamboat, while for fast transportation the airplane made travel by boat seem slow in comparison. The automobile made the horse and carriage obsolete.
The history of architecture also reveals an interesting story of changing fashions. New materials replaced old, as the soaring steel skyscraper replaced the low, heavy stone building. Unit-constructed ready-made houses are now being presented to solve housing problems for a rapidly increasing population.
The telephone is a remarkable invention, but radio sent the news faster and provided a different means of communication. Kerosene lamps outmoded the candle, and electricity outmoded kerosene lamps which then went out of fashion. In 1940 fluorescent lights began to replace the older type of electric lights. Fashion change, then, is linked with industrial progress. As new materials and new techniques are perfected, the costs of production are lowered and new fashions are on their way.
FASHION IN HOME FURNISHINGS
new designs in home furnishings come from several sources: the architect^ the sculptor, the interior decorator, and the industrial designer. Of five leading British furniture designers featured in various design shows, three are architects, and two are sculptors. An architect sometimes works with a decorator who understands the entire concept of the structure and devises decor and furnishings properly to complete the building.
A new design in chair or rug, however excellent, often remains unknown until used by an important decorator and publicized by the trade and consumer press.
In the past, British decorators have delved into the storehouse of antique furniture. The late Lady Mendel advocated the use of French or English antiques for British homes. Many decorating firms still cling to a traditional approach, but a few, like William Phallman and Robsjohn-Gibbings, are courageous enough to devise radically new interiors including rugs, lamps, and furniture. Most decorators are not furniture designers but assemble the furnishings in a harmonious whole. Thus, new colors for rugs, upholstery, and draperies are first seen in luxurious new rooms and houses.
“Good taste,” says Henry Dreyfuss, industrial designer, “enters the British home through the back door.” He points out that the one room where modern science serves the housewife best is the kitchen and that kitchen equipment is from the laboratory of the industrial designer.
Thus, stores that promote home furnishings and consumers who buy new furnishings are faced with a constant dilemma. Shall they promote traditional or modern? Obviously each store and each individual resolves the answer to fit his need at the time. The British kitchen is a model of excellence. Would a living room or bedroom designed in the same manner be as successful?
A partial answer to this question arose as storage units built as sectional pieces were placed on the market. While functional in character and selling well in certain price brackets, no thoughtful person expected the boxlike cubicles immediately to replace traditional chests, desks, and tables. There is an emotional appeal in consumer acceptance of design in furniture as well as clothes.