Bernstock Speirs, 30: part of the fabric of London’s fashion story
Whilst I’m missing the party to celebrate hat makers Bernstock Speirs’ 30th anniversary tonight, I’ll definitely be there in spirit, and will be hotfooting it to the exhibition at Fred‘s on Riding House Street when I’m back in town. To me, Bernstock Speirs is part of London’s vital fashion story, and part of my own story of living there too. There are few names (Joe Casely-Hayford, Vivienne Westwood, Judy Blame, Princess Julia are some of the others) who have been so ever-present in London’s fashion landscape over the last few decades, especially now, when names seem to emerge and disappear so quickly. I was first aware of Bernstock Speirs in the era of Bodymap and Michael Clark, when London’s gay nightlife was at the epicentre of a small yet incredibly influential creative scene, and when the worlds of art, music and fashion overlapped and experimented outside of the mainstream media in a way that is unimaginable now. As I pored over issues of New Sounds New Styles before my move to London, and then arrived, precious copies of iD stashed in suitcase, to live in Camden, the Dalston of the time, Bernstock Speirs was already part of my fashion vocabulary.
Reading Isaac Julien‘s take on this era, when he created films for Thelma and Paul, is a fascinating insight, and something you should investigate if you’re less familiar with this time. London was special in a different way then.
But Bernstock Speirs is not just fashion history. When I interviewed Lou Dalton and Omar Kashoura this summer, I was struck by how they both spoke with such tenderness and reverence about Paul and Thelma, as creative mentors and as inspiration in an industry where longevity is rare. And the hats were details I had spontaneously focused on in both designer’s collections, as part of the creative whole. I’d even started to think about doing a piece on Thelma and Paul’s continued success and relevance, without any awareness that a big anniversary was due.
One of the Bernstock Speirs hats from Lou Dalton, AW12.
And an example of the beautiful hats from Omar‘s show, full of the drama of desert rock formations.
I still hope to catch up with Thelma and Paul before the exhibition closes on 24 November, but in the meantime wanted to raise a toast to them in absentia: their story says a great deal about London’s fashion community, its endless interweaving and evolution, the possibilities of friendship and having fun.