Not just copying
: Frederick Starke and London wholesale couture 1933-1966

  • Elizabeth Tregenza

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis considers the operations of the London wholesale couture industry between 1933 and 1966. Whilst this sector of the market has received little academic discussion, as this thesis demonstrates, it was a vital and thriving part of the mid twentieth century London fashion industry.

    The seven chapters in this thesis question how wholesale couturiers designed, manufactured, promoted, retailed and exported their garments. Whilst wholesale couturiers have typically been recognised as simply copying haute couture garments, this thesis seeks to revise this notion and demonstrate the complexities of wholesale couturiers’ design processes and business strategies. A material culture based approach is followed throughout with original garments used to help unpick the design, manufacture and usage of wholesale couturiers’ products. The effect of World War Two on the fashion industry is discussed throughout. The pioneering activities of wholesale couturiers in 1946, a year typically ignored by fashion history, are vital to this thesis. This study demonstrates that 1946 was in fact a critical year for re-­building and re-­imagining the London fashion industry and that wholesale couturiers were at the centre of this.

    The primary focus of this thesis is on the life and work of Frederick Starke, one of London’s key wholesale couturiers (1904-­‐1988). Starke founded his business in 1933 and therefore offers a fascinating case study of a wholesale couture company from its infancy. It demonstrates how both the man Frederick Starke and the brand Frederick Starke Ltd. were at the centre of an enterprising group of London fashion men, women and firms. This thesis considers the activities of the two groups that Starke helped to found: The Model House Group and Fashion House Group. It investigates the events these groups organised in the period 1946-­‐1966 and how these helped to increase the export of British garments internationally. Overall this thesis demonstrates that wholesale couturiers must be recognised as a key part of London’s status as a fashion city.
    Date of AwardSept 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorCheryl Buckley (Supervisor), Paul Jobling (Supervisor), Jane Hattrick (Supervisor) & Charlotte Nicklas (Supervisor)

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