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Jaeger for Christmas

Rene Gruau cover on Jaeger Staff News magazine 1953

What a glowing edition of the Jaeger Staff News magazine from Christmas 1953. The Rene Gruau cover illustration imbues such positivity about consumerism, fashion and post-war life. Her gorgeous red New Look-ish coat and matching hat. All those big wrapped parcels. His generous wool overcoat and grey Homburg the first word in understated, well-dressed man.

This cover illustration was also the years Winter press advertisement for Jaeger. The Gruau adverts for Jaeger were so visually strong. And this from a company with a history of commissioning great fashion illustrations. The marketing people (Colman, Prentis & Varley under the creative direction of Arpad Elfer) usually left out extraneous copy and let their illustrations sing a capella. Often just the word Jaeger, in a distinctive 3 line typeface design (used by Jaeger since the mid 1930s) ran on the adverts.

Inside, this staff magazine is more prosaic and less pretty. The post war recovery is everywhere. Lots of talk of export. Then more pages of company gossip along the lines of ‘who’s who in the men’s merchandise department’. There are plenty of photographs of glamorous women staff from the selling branches, all wearing bright lipstick, rolled back hair and natty little neck scarves. Stories from the factories feature too, with an order from Japan for 7000 dozen pairs of  ‘slack hose’ (that was completed in just a month in their factory at Shepshed, Leicestershire) creating much excitement. And finally a mention for the social committee in Ipswich, ‘which is always thinking up something.’

In seasonal greetings ‘all at headquarters’ wish ‘the Jaeger Family throughout the country and overseas a Merry Christmas and Good Health in the New Year’.

This is a proper staff news magazine. The forerunner of the Intranet homepage. The tone is patriarchal, it’s true. But the reporting about merchandise and marketing successes is credited to the people behind, and far behind, the label.

Makes you smile

Isetan department store

Shop windows aren’t what they used to be. Christmas is the season. But apart from Selfridges and Harvey Nichols (for the traditionalists we might include Harrods but I’m not going to) there isn’t a lot of inspiring window display going on. If you are lucky you get a bit of white stuff to indicate snow, ribbon-tied piles of stacked boxes or perhaps some baubles, usually of varying aesthetic quality.

A friend recently went to Tokyo, Japan and took this picture of the Isetan department store in its Christmas 2015 coat. The whole thing looked great and I wanted to know more.

The theme of the Isetan windows this year is Jenkka – Life is a Gift. Apparently a Jenkka is a Finnish folk dance. The store commissioned 22 illustrators from all over to design their campaign. They covered the store in vinyls. They made a free downloadable song sung by plait-ed, costum-ed Finnish singers. They made a website with an animation of all the characters dancing and a social campaign to upload and decorate a selfie. They made a video of the Isetan Mitsukoshi staff singing along to the song. Finally (just to tease me, I am sure) they made paper carrier bags, each done by a different illustrator.

This is how to do proper Christmas decorations. The illustrations let loose across the building – and the rest of the campaign – make the whole thing joyous. Much more so than the slick John Lewis adverts (with their stage school castings and revoltingly twee songs to buy on iTunes) that are supposed to get us excited about the season.

The sumo character here was drawn by Ana Albero. The pulchritudinous ladies in baby blue jumpers were drawn by the splendidly named Thai illustrator Ittiphat Jittichotphong. That name and the whole campaign make me smile.

Isetan Japan shopping bags

Enveloped

Liberty Tana Lawn envelope

Envelopes are rather satisfying things. In amongst the paper bits and pieces that Shelf Appeal has tucked away is this plain brown envelope, lined with Liberty fabric. It was not really intended for using, for posting. Who could bear to slick a line of Pritt Stick on this? It is more of a paper conceit.

This envelope came from the shop Merci in Paris. A trip to Paris is now never complete without a scuttle around Merci, tripping over all the linen bedding and re-contextualised wooden cutlery and ‘cheap’ plain drinking glasses. Looking for something to buy to get one of their paper carrier bags – surely the crème de la crème of paper bags, Miss Brodie?

Their stationery corner is small but beautifully formed. When I bought this, there was a Liberty v Merci thing going on, where they’d covered all manner of suitcases and notebooks and such with Liberty fabric. As is often the way, my favourite item was probably the cheapest. Because I like thin paper things or the things other things are wrapped in.

Although I have to admit, this wasn’t what most people would call cheap for an envelope I never intend to actually use. And, mad as the world is, it was probably made in China or India so that it could be retailed for a few pounds to design degenerates in Merci. The Liberty fabric is beautifully, smoothly attached to the envelope. And, for the tailors amongst you, the envelope is fully lined. No half-mast solutions here.

Simpson and Jones

Simpson Piccadilly booklet by Barbara Jones 1953

Shelf Appeal is very fond of Barbara Jones’ illustrations. And very fond indeed of the shop that was Simpson Piccadilly and its tasty advertising. What ho, then, when I found the two combined in this delicious booklet. It celebrates Simpson’s services for visitors from overseas coming to London in 1953 to see Queen Elizabeth II being crowned. For them, the booklet tells us, there is ‘a welcome particularly warm.’

Jones’ illustrations are on the cover and just inside. Her trademark scratchy lines show the Eros fountain in Piccadilly overrun with smiling people waving union jack flags and umbrellas, the whole fronted by an improbably sized yowling cat. Jones liked her cats. Inside the front cover her people and pictures form a floor map to the Simpson shop. Nothing could make my illustration antenna happier.

The photographs of the store throughout this small booklet are intriguing, showing it furnished with 1930s luxe in the form of rounded tubular furniture and lovely Ashley Havinden rugs, dating from the opening years around 1936. But also dotted about are Scandinavian influence wooden chairs, armchairs and low splay leg tables, more suitable to 1953. An unexpected post-war jumble in such a fashionable spot.

Barbara Jones had a bumper year in 1953, she designed many Coronation things and was on a Council of Industrial Design committee for helping police Coronation souvenir quality.  All of which made her an obvious choice for this Simpson booklet. I would speculate this was her only commission for Simpson. But as I didn’t know she had done this one, other treasures may yet appear.

Simpson Piccadilly illustration by Barbara Jones 1953

Charles and his ephemera

Shelf Appeal magazine April 1938

Today I get to go to my own book launch. Not something I ever thought I would be doing.

I had a lovely job this year – to look through boxes and boxes of ephemera on shelves at MoDA that was collected by a graphic designer called Charles Hasler. Charles worked in London across the war years and into the Festival of Britain. He knew many of the ‘names’ in design, worked for some and certainly received Christmas cards from most of the others.

His ephemera collection reflects a life lived in design in mid-century Britain. It also reflects his own paper obsessions – among them Notgeld paper money, Victorian lithography, sheet music and wine labels. When he wasn’t designing for clients, Charles wrote articles on his obsessions. And he wrote extensively on typography, presumably something he didn’t manage to get out of his system as chair of the Typographic Panel for the Festival of Britain.

It has been a joy to pull together the seemingly random story of the Hasler collection. Researching rare, ephemeral pieces from many of the tastiest designers of the period was something that was right up my alley and down my street. Not least because Charles collected a tasty run of Shelf Appeal magazines – the namesake of this blog.

I like writing this blog. I like writing for magazines and catalogues. I like the fact I now have hard copy.



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