Geoffrey, the Jaeger MD pointed vaguely at Bob's old office which had been cleared . "Just put yourself there for the moment Lee. Hopefully there will be no opposition. You can't please everyone."
I opened the door to find a hysterical woman sat on the desk screaming down the telephone.
|Garce Coddington and Vidal Sasoon|
|the smiling face of Marit Allen 1941/ 2007|
Grace Coddington ,Marit Allen, Caterine Milenair were a different breed, young, not set in their ways and willing to go to the end of the earth for a story no matter what the back ground. They eventually reached the highest accolades of the fashion business.Grace went on to become the fashion director of American Vogue, Caterine Milenaire became an author, and Marit Allen became a famous costume designer in films like , Eyes Wide Shut , White Mischief , Little Shop Of Horrors to name a few. Marit Allen died of a brain Aneurysm whilst filming in Australia. I will always remember her,forever smiling, her long red hair gliding down her back whilst Keith of Smile ( the cult hairdresser who took on quite a punkish style a contrast to Vidal Sassoon,s geometric perfection )snipped away at his hairdressing studio in Knightsbridge. He was the hairdresser who was the first to popularise crazy colour hair ,cerise , blue emerald green etc .We all went there if we wanted to have an extreme hair colour and go a bit wild . I had a cerise hair in the 8o,s.
Some one was shouting "Lee ! Lee!" I ignored them .
"Oh My God! that's my name I suddenly realised. Mr Geoffrey had renamed me as he hated the name of La Verne . It was Mr. Geoffrey . He beckoned me to come to his office . "Have you settled in Lee. "
"Well not exactly , Clare Rendlesham is on the phone in my office, with that don't disturb look and sorry I haven't got used to the name Lee yet."
He burst out laughing. " You will! Bloody frightening isn't she . Bob had her eating out of his hand mind you. How do queers attract a bevy of women. It always leaves me mystified."
I hated that word even then but that was the terminology of the time . Gay was still a word used for happiness or a female name until it was adopted by the homosexual society . I have to say it was extremely clever of them ,in fact brilliant a clever PR.but a sad loss of an exuberant adjective .
" She's furious Bob's left of course,adored him . David's delighted ! He's the Old Jaeger designer , they hated each other."he said.
I remembered the words of warning from Bob. It all began to make sense.The last thing I wanted was an enemy in the camp . I had to play it cool if I wanted to survive Jaeger , politics had to be avoided at all cost. It was both damaging and dangerous.I had no intention of being part of it.I was determined to remain on neutral territory or so I believed. Easier said than done.
" Now I want you to come to Scotland with me this evening. We have to visit a knitwear factory . Go home pack your bags and come back here this afternoon . We will leave tonight for Glasgow. Susan will book our flight and hotel . "
I managed to hide the fact that I had never flown in in my life .
. I could still hear Clare raging on the telephone as I left Chenies Street for Chelsea. I had walked into a mad house yet again and I knew that I had to tread very carefully if I wanted to survive.
I made a serious mistake on the flight to Glasgow. I can even feel the embarrassment now. It's a wonder he did not sack me on the spot. Out of the blue I heard myself say , "What did you do during the war Geoffrey?" I was probably nervous, not quite knowing what to say and lacking in sophistication.
His body visibly flinched.He turned his head very slowly towards me,his eyes a steely black " I was a child Lee, probably drove my mother mad . I'm only ten years older than you or there abouts . Far too young for the war. "He replied icily.
I could have died on the spot . It wasn't a great beginning !Talk about crushing the poor man's ego .
Arriving at the hotel , just outside Glasgow , I saw a reflection of myself in the foyer mirror, a bedraggled mess , my hair looked as though it had not been washed and was hanging limply around my face. "Fortunately" I found a small tin of talcum powder in the hotel bathroom . I had heard on the grapevine that models often used it for an emergency dry shampoo. The following morning I sprinkled the talcum powder on my hair and brushed it in . It seemed to work.
Horror of horrors it was MR. Geoffrey who mentioned in Soto terms . "Got a problem Lee? On your black sweater....bad attack of dandruff. You'll have to get rid of that ." He tried brushing my shoulders with his hand rather disdainfully . IT did not help that I was wearing a black cashmere sweater.
"OH My God its... its... its talcum powder." I stuttered .
"A novel place to put Talcum powder lee." It was quite obvious that he did not believe me.
"N...n...no I used a dry shampoo this morning."
He raised his eyebrows and swivelled his eyes in disbelief .
I had not got a clue about knitwear and it was the first time that I had been to a knitwear factory . I have a feeling Geoffrey just wanted me out of the way whilst things settled down about Bob's departure from Jaeger. They were probably arguing about "The office " who should have it . Absurd isn't it.
"Right Lee , a knit wear design for Young Jaeger please, just one sweater ." I took a deep breath . I remembered the girls in Paris were wearing skinny , skinny sweaters, rather like tea shirts. The look had not arrived in England . Until that moment Jaeger was designing classic sweaters. I drew the sweater for Geoffrey, a skinny ribbed sweater with skinny long sleeves and one with short sleeves. Leaving the female form nothing to the imagination, it fitted like a corset . I knew that it would look great with my adrogynous look that I had in mind for the trouser suits . It would be a good contrast male /feminine.
" A tit knit! " he exclaimed slightly worried ." Perhaps not ..."
I burst out laughing .
He paced around the floor in circles " I know lets call it an It Knit . That's what they called those amazing stars in the 40's IT GIRLS .We will get Vernon onto it straight away .He's our Advertising man . They will have one made up for us by tonight, it doesn't matter about the colour . But you must authorise the fit .
Arriving back in Chenies Street , there was still the question of my office.
In the two years that I worked for Jaeger, I was never officially given an office. In other words I squatted in Bob Schulz's old office. In time every one took it for granted that it was mine. I stole Amanda Greatorex from dear Mr Southgate the young Jaeger co-ordinater to be my assistant/ model, again she was not officially my assistant, I just manipulated her to work with me. We did have fun regaling our evening activities each morning.. much to the annoyance of fellow workers in the adjoining offices. Many is the time I heard yelled through the walls "Young Jaeger team, enough comedies back to work!" However it was those mad activities that inspired the young Jaeger look.
|wow! as you can see quite a way with the ladies Bob Schulz|
However she went from strength to strength with her own label , first with Jane and Jane and then to Jean Muir. She was respected both in Paris and England. David and Jean were very close , they worked together and were expected to take on the role of Miss Terrill running the design studio . David never forgave Jaeger, particularly Geoffrey Gilbert for being so dismissive by handing over the reigns of Young Jaeger to Bob Schulz. Quite frankly I do not think that Jean Muir was an ideal candidate for Young Jaeger , she was too classic , too influenced in knitwear and jersey designing , that was always her forte , a brilliant classic designer who reached the top of her field. The Jaeger influence was too significant, the collections would have merged too much. Young Jaeger needed to grab a younger trendy audience to keep up with Quant , Foale and Tuffen and the many stores and young designers that were beginning to hog the limelight.
Bob was employed to give a completely different look that stood out away from Jaeger a fresh , younger,individual look. He succeeded but it still had along way to go to encourage a younger audience . It was obvious from the very beginning that Young Jaeger was a thorn in David's side ... it was Jean Muir's baby and no one else was good enough. He made that clear from the moment we met . To a certain extent I admired his loyalty but I also realised that apart from his loyalty there was his desire to be head of the Jaeger design team mirroring Miss A Terrill before she left. Young Jaeger was a separate identity, unless he had control of Young Jaeger this would never happen.Bob had blocked his control and now it was me.
He nearly succeeded in those early days. I was summoned to Geoffrey's office.
"Lee , David suggested that you move to his office.It will be like a design studio .You will be under his wing ."
I obviously did not relish the idea!
However I had no choice , I was the new girl.
It lasted less than a week with David. It was obvious from the start that we would never see eye to eye. I was expected to hover by his side whilst he swanned around like some prima donna.I decided to take the bull by the reigns . I quietly picked up my things and moved back to my small private office. I told Geoffrey that it would be the death of Young Jaeger if I shared the office with Old Jaeger and he actually agreed with me . It was suffocating me creatively.There was only so many two piece suits and camel haired coats that I could get excited about and Young Jaeger needed new fresh designs away from David's Jaeger influence. It was another generation and appeared to be stuck in the fifties and certainly not for my idea of Young Jaeger.
The workrooms were the opposite side of the road in Chenies Street . In many ways it was like the Paris couture work room . There were three tailors. Mr Davies, Mr Bell and Mr Pedder who became my favourite tailor immediately. All three were brilliant and we shall probably never see the likes of them again , now that most manufacturing is done outside England and what I call flat designing from sketches . Strangely I met Mr Davies 40 years later in Hastings where I now live (actually I live in St Leonards once known as the new town )Like me he has retired down here . Gone was the slight cockney brogue, it was replaced by a "genteel boom . He was attired in Country gents elegant clothing. He had grown into a role, always the creator of county elegance. His wife had been Miss Terrill's loyal assistant.They still lived and breathed Jaeger , it was in their blood.
Mr Pedder was my favourite tailor we communicated on the same level . He became the Young Jaeger Tailor . Again no one told me to do this I just manipulated it to suit the collection . He understood my sketches , the importance of the roll of the sleeve head, the line of the jacket flattering a woman's body whilst still allowing an adroginous look . He was an artist in his field in fact to be fair they all were. I will never forget the standard of their work . Sadly Mr Pedder died a few years ago but he will always remain the young , inspiring tailor in my mind.The saddest thing about writing this blog is that so many people have gone , I find this really upsetting and nearly gave up writing this blog as I ended up in tears . On the positive side ,in my mind they will always remain the young vibrant people of the sixties.I had trouble with the dress makers understanding my approach and it soon became obvious that I needed my own dress cutter. I had just the person . She was at art school with me, Hilary Coombes , a talented cutter who had a precise eye for line and a modern approach to cutting. MR Geoffrey agreed to employ her under my supervision.Now I had my own tailor , dress cutter, and model the back bone of the Young Jaeger look .I was ready to start.
The first collection I designed was inspired by the evening I had spent in the Gateways club (re the previous blog Summer of 63 kings road.. designing Kiki Byrne ) and so the trouser suit range was created for the Young Jaeger collection. Leather patches appeared on the elbows of the tweed jackets. Soft feminine blouses, the it knit and geometric dresses..... The coats had a Russian look with frogging and fox fur or Mongolian lamb collars and muffs .I worked with English woollen mills designing the cloths to obtain an individual look, I even chose the yarns in some cases. Ian Mankin who then made high quality leather goods , made the soft suede tea shirts , waistcoats and plus fours. At that time he had a showroom in Soho that looked out at young prostitutes selling their wares, shops displayed exotic naughty underwear. My visits to his showroom was an education . OF course he went on to have a highly successful textile business selling utility fabrics. He has now sold the business and enjoying retirement . I spoke to him the other day and both of us remember those early designs for Young Jaeger . It was 1964 and Young Jaeger was one of the forerunners of the ladies trouser suit which by the mid 60,s became a classic.
Perhaps one of the most amusing anecdotes was when the trouser collection arrived in the Kings Road Shop. Kay and Dounna my loyal landladies, who happened to be lesbians, appeared in the young Jaeger shop in the Kings Road , dressed in all their finery of very masculine suits. It was quite obvious that they had just walked out of the Gateways (the famous lesbian club)Dounna , who had a very grand booming voice , approached one of the sales assistants "You know that your designer lives with us. " she boomed proudly, flicking through the rail of the young Jaeger trouser suits.
Of course it was true , however they omitted to add that I had a bed sitting room in their tenanted house which is not quite the same thing . The young sales assistant could not wait to pass on the piece of information including her own interpretation. The next morning when I arrived at Chenies Street, Amanda was absolutely furious . "Rumour has it that we are having an affair.and that is why you designed those trouser suits because you are a lesbian. " She was almost in tears. I have to say I thought it was hysterical especially the image of Dounna and Kay arriving in the shop in their "finery" Poor Mr Southgate , the jaeger co coordinator was the one who broke the news to us. Apparently it had reached director level. They did see the funny side in the end when I explained about Dounna and Kay.I was just their tenant...not their lover .
French Vogue ran a double page spread of the young Jaeger trouser suit when the Paris Jaeger shop opened and the Young Jaeger collection was well publicised in most magazines . Sadly Barclays bank lost all my press books from 1963 /1985. Of course I was compensated and I will blog on this later as it is a story in itself and a Tough one ....lesson is never give up on banks and don't believe all they say . I have never got round to spending time researching in the V&A. for my missing press cuttings.( I found some cuttings 1967/1985 whilst clearing my parents house. They had kept them in a file marked la Verne ) Jaeger have deposited all their history in the Westminster archives and it is like fort Knox to view. I have made an appointment next week to view so I will put some pictures up later.
In 1964 Paris was way behind in fashion, it had lost its way. It was Clare Rendlesham that reported on a black bordered Page for Queen Magazine that Paris was dead. For me it was just an echo for even when I worked for Serge Matta he had always said that Paris was dying on its feet and London was way ahead.
My visits to the furriers in the East End were perhaps the most interesting . Kiselefsky and Otto Glanz made my fox muffs /hats and fur trimmings for the Russian look. It was a completely different world visiting their factories, indeed an adventure . the noise could be deafening from the nailers as they shaped and stretched the skins to the tables. Some men wore long brown canvas aprons, their pockets rammed full of all sorts of equipment , magnets , scissors, tape measures as they stood over their wooden benches. Scull caps covered their greying hair and rolled up sleeves sometimes displayed a tattooed number of the memories of the Holocaust,strong foreign accents tumbled from their mouths. It was another culture, another land . A musky almost claustrophobic perfume hovered in the air and sprigs of lavender often covered the wooden floorboards to deter the moth.
The stories they told me about the war and their fights against the east end fascists, the black shirts made my hair stand on end, sometimes tears sprang to my eyes as they repeated experiences of the holocaust. Often they took me out to Blooms, the famous Kosher restaurant in White Chapel high Street,where I would eat glaffitta fish or salt beef sarnies. The food was inspected by the local rabbi for authenticity to kosher recipes. .The waiters almost threw the food at you. They had the reputation of being the rudest waiters in London ..possibly the world ..but the food was both delicious and an experience not to be missed . The area around Brick Lane and Spitlefields was mainly a Jewish quarter, a vibrant area for furriers, trimmings, manufacturing and of course in the past famous for silk. It was the time when the Jews held the monopoly on manufacturing before the Greeks and Indians moved in . They took pride in their work and they were the best of the trade. Friday the whole area wound down from 6pm (sunset ) the busy streets were empty , the restaurants closed and families met to celebrate the Sabbath . Now of course Spitlefield has changed completely, the modest terraced houses once inhabited by the working class are grandly renovated and occupied by successful entrepreneurs and bankers.....or have I spelt bankers wrong .... sorry for the pun .
THE HYDE PARK DINNER
|Betty Boyd:Geoffrey Gilbert :Lorna Catelle :"Lee "|
|Andrew Macaul (Davina,s dad )"Lee" : Elizabeth Smart|
Every year Jaeger held a dinner at the Hyde Park Hotel for the management. WE were given the opportunity to meet the people behind the scenes who worked tirelessly for the promotion of Jaeger . Of course the name of Jaeger attracted many important people. Perhaps the most fascinating of the people I met was Elizabeth Smart who wrote As I sat Down At Grand Central Station and Wept . Like the character in the book she was quiet , shy almost introverted who obviously lived by her written word,not unlike the comedian who only laughs on stage . Her day job was a copy writer .
"La Verne , ma chere , you must meet ...he's very important ..." he said marching towards a grey haired gentleman . He had his back to me . He turned around and horror of horror I recognised him straight away it was Bernard Sagardoy . I managed to freeze him out of the picture as he stretched his hand towards me, his face a paler shade of white on seeing me . "One collection I won't be going to see ." I said coldly and watched him flinch at my response as I marched in the opposite direction. Another lesson learnt ...Look after the little people for like doe given the right conditions they can rise . I was the last person he thought would haunt him.
|St Laurents Mondrian dress|
|Courrege space age look|
|Young Jaeger Jean Shrimpton|
|Jan de Souza|
Excitement arrived in the shape of Michael Rainey, a stylish blond Dandy who was at that time dating a debutant called Jane Ormsby- Gore , the daughter of Lord Harleck ,who he later married. His mother was the infamous socialite Marion Wrottesley who hobnobbed with Somerset Maughn to the Kray twins.In the mid-1950s she lived in Spain and London with the writer Alec Waugh, who gave her a Cisitalia sports car, now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and wrote about her in his much re-printed novel Fuel for the Flame (1960). Michael Rainey was employed as a van driver at Jaeger. All the Jaeger girls wanted to be trapped in a lift with him. Occasionally it worked, so I'm told . It was obvious that he had other things in mind as far as career was concerned and a van driver was just filling in time. He was to become an important fixture in the Gale Street and later the Kings Road with his cult shop Hung ON You which he opened in 1965. He had a natural louche Dandy style . His clothes were influenced by psychedelia, and the remaking of vintage clothing. In many ways he was a perfectionist and although he did not have any experience with the clothing business he had style and vision . He was a member of the louche Chelsea set which included Christopher Gibbs , Mark Sykes , David Milinarric, Julian Ormsby Gore , Tara Brown , John Crittle . However his reign did not last long , even though it was frequented by the ever influential pop stars, Rolling Stones, Beatles .The shop closed in 1968 to be taken over by Mr Freedom another iconic man of the sixties Tommy Roberts.
|Michael Rainey /Hung on You|
|The amazing window|
When David Watts introduced me to Brian Walsh , his protegee. I had no idea what he had in mind . It was therefor a surprise when Geoffrey Gilbert told me that Brian and I should work together , He would design the coats , suits under the watchful eye of David Watts etc and I would design the dresses and blouses. Of course history was only repeating itself.re Jean Muir and Bob Shultz . I packed my bags and left. David Watts now had what he had always wanted control of Young Jaeger. I knew that Young Jaeger's days were now numbered. It was not aware of the change in retailing even though it had a shop in the centre of the Kings road activity . That was their biggest mistake , they did not use the opportunity that was on their very own doorstep . Even bringing in Bella Freud at a later date did not attract the younger customer ...they had lost them, they had missed the boat. However it was an exciting time to leave Jaeger , things were happening in fashion and I was about to join the madness by working with the shareholder of Radio Caroline, Ian Ross and starting a fashion label from scratch...and what a journey . I will blog about this later .
|la Verne wearing devoure coat purchased in Chelsea Antique market from Vern Lambert|
|granny takes A Trip|
|the Animals outside Granny Takes A Trip|
|George Harrison wearing Granny takes a Trip jacket and Patti Boyd|