Sunday, July 28, 2013

My week in clothes

Apart from the stupendous reunion, this past week I wanted to blog some tidbits that are perhaps not deserving of their own entire blog posts.

On Tuesday night I went out for drinks with my colleagues at Junkee, and the taxi I shared home dropped me outside the Salco Group on Elgin Street. I couldn't get over the British Country-ness of this window display.

I've always thought Salco was some random corporate and uniform manufacturer, but it has a long history in that spot on Elgin Street, Carlton – it's been there since 1922. In 1942 it seems to have landed a wartime military uniform manufacturing contract, because it was advertising for machinists.

It seems to specialise in menswear (especially shirting). It has its own men's shirt brand 'Abelard', and also has the Australian production and distribution rights to American brands including Gant, Geoffrey Beene and Tommy Bahama, and UK brands Thomas Pink and Jeff Banks.

These are all quite preppy, traditional brands, so no wonder the window display looks like this. It's fascinating, though, to be reminded that brands trading on 'heritage' (for instance, citing London shirtmakers' district Jermyn Street, or ties to Ivy Style and WASPy resort wear, or Jeff Banks' Swinging London past and association with the Eurythmics) are not necessarily manufactured in 'authentic' ways.

Yet, ironically, Salco has its own kind of authenticity simply by operating for more than 90 years in the one location, even though it doesn't have any of the 'cultural' authenticity markers of the brands it manufactures.

Here I am on Friday in the Body Shop store in the Bourke Street Mall. I am wearing the other dress I bought from Hunter Gatherer in my 'two for $10' bargain. It's not the greatest; the skirt is a bit frumpily long and the print is a very '80s paint-swish abstract, but I like the colours, plus it has POCKETS, which was really helpful when I was standing around instore and wanted access to my phone. (It was also great wearing a dress with pockets to the MIFF opening night; I didn't have to worry about carrying a bag around all night.)

I was there as part of an event to mark the brand's 30th anniversary in Australia and its store redesign. There was a deal whereby if you bought $40 worth of Body Shop products, you got a free copy of my book, which I could tell you about and sign for you.

I'm coming to realise that I've written the sort of book that's hard to categorise – just look at all the various bookshop sections I saw it shelved during Home City Book Tour. But once I could tell people about it in person, they seemed quite interested and animated about the issues at stake. I gave away about 25 books, which hopefully went to people who mightn't otherwise have discovered my work.

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