Frederick Starke and British Ready-to-Wear 1934-1968
In an article written in 1960 British fashion journalist Anne Scott-James stated that Frederick Starke was the ‘outstanding leader of the British fashion trade’. Despite Scott-James affirmation Starke has been almost forgotten from the trajectory of British fashion history.
Frederick Starke established his firm, Frederick Starke Ltd., in c.1934. The firm produced wholesale couture garments and as such occupied the pinnacle of the British ready-to-wear industry. The 1930s were a turning point for this sector, with ready-to-wear clothing becoming acceptable attire for the majority of consumers. Seeing as Starke established his company at this turning point his company offers a fascinating case study of the developing British wholesale couture industry from its infancy.
This study is multi-faceted. It considers not only the man Frederick Starke, but the brand Frederick Starke Ltd. (and its subsidiaries) and also the ready-to-wear groups that Starke helped to found (the Model House Group and Fashion House Group).
What role did Frederick Starke play in the development of a successful British ready-to-wear fashion industry?
How did the “model” or “wholesale couture” section of the British fashion industry operate? How were products designed, manufactured and promoted by wholesale couturiers and how did this compare to other sectors of the fashion industry (i.e. the mass production and haute couture sectors)?
Why was export of paramount importance to ready-to-wear firms? What export markets did Frederick Starke desire in particular and how successful was he in capturing overseas trade?
To investigate why Frederick Starke (both the man and the brand) was held in high esteem by his contemporaries, yet has been almost completely forgotten from British fashion history
To give a broader understanding of the operations of ready-to-wear fashion firms in Britain between the 1930s and 1960s and to revise present notions that wholesale couture existed solely to copy Parisian couture.
To examine Starke’s business in light of changing patterns of production, wholesale, retail and markets, with a particular consideration of the global nature of the fashion trade after 1945
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