• Match Girl

    Written by Ellen Rogers by Michaela Widergren

    Sepulchral: A Journey in the Necropolis by Ellen Rogers: 1888

    The history of the workers strike most certainly did not start here. In fact the more I look the more it seems apparent that it might even be innate in workers to revolt when exposed to such extreme situations, we are an animal of pack mentality after all. Records of workers striking go back as far as the ancient Egyptians. So this is not anything new. What this story is however, despite its rough start is, well, quite uplifting.

    In June 1888, Annie Besant, a young Fleet Street journalist (and spearhead of the striking movement In the Bryant and May Factory), wrote a pivotal article for the newspaper “The Link” entitled “White Slavery in London.” Both women and children worked in the Bryant and May Factory in Bow, London using “White Phosphorous” to make matches. The work itself was arduous to say the least. According to Besant’s 1888 article, they were required to work from 6:30 AM to 8 PM and stood the whole day. The work each day raised the paltry sum of roughly 50p a day in modern money (that is according to my workings out at National Archives). To add further salt to the wound, there were a series of sadistic fines offered to those who made simple mistakes. At the end of Besant first hard hitting article about these women she wrote:

    Failing a poet to hold up their conduct to the execration of posterity, enshrined in deathless verse, let us strive to touch their consciences, i.e. their pockets, and let us at least avoid being “partakers of their sins”, by abstaining from using their commodities. Her attempt here to persuade the public from busying these matches worked and gained great attention.

    The health of the workers suffered greatly at the hands of these factories. The effects of the “White Phosphorus” itself ranged from “a yellowing of the skin, hair loss, phossy jaw (a form of bone cancer where the whole side of the face turned green and then black, discharging foul-smelling pus and finally death)” to dissentions, growths, tumors and numerous external burns from matches and countless occupational hazards caused by the extreme working conditions.

    After Besant published her article in “The Link”, “Bryant and May”, reacted by attempting to force their workers to sign a statement that they were happy with their working conditions. When a group of women refused to sign, the organizers of the group was sacked. The response was immediate; 1400 of the women at Bryant & May went on strike. William Stead, the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, Henry Hyde Champion of the Labour Elector and Catharine Booth of the Salvation Army joined Besant in her campaign for better working conditions in the factory. So also did Sydney Oliver, Stewart Headlam, Hubert Bland, Graham Wallas and George Bernard Shaw. However, other newspapers such as The Times, blamed Besant and other socialist agitators for the dispute.

    Annie Besant, William Stead and Henry Hyde Champion used their newspapers to call for a boycott of Bryant & May matches. The women at the company also decided to form a Matchgirls’ Union and Besant agreed to become its leader. After three weeks the company announced that it was willing to re-employ the dismissed women and would also bring an end to the fines system. The women accepted the terms and returned in triumph. The Bryant & May dispute was the first strike by unorganized workers to gain national publicity. It was also successful at helped to inspire the formation of unions all over the country.

    My homage here is the women who suffered at the hands of their employers, whilst researching this article I could not find any images of the injured women other than one image of a small group of protestors. My attempt here is reconstruct as accurately as I can what it would have looked like in the hospital ward 1888, I admit it is not without my poetic licence.

    Sources are John Romer, Ancient Lives; the story of the Pharaoh’s Tombmakers. London: Phoenix Press, 1984, pp. 116-123. See also E.F. Wente, “A letter of complaint to the Vizier To”, in Journal of Near Eastern, Mernick, and Spartacus.

  • photography by SANDRA MYHRBERG model MADELEINE L / Mikas

    The Commodification of Christ

    Written by Philip Warkander by Michaela Widergren

    The expressions of contemporary fashion – as a cultural, social and financial phenomenon – are characterized by two great paradoxes. The first concerns the connotations of the actual fashion artefact in the shape of a garment; it is simultaneously a commercial commodity (and as such part of a global market economy) and part of someone’s personal life, integrated in someone’s everyday existence. The garments we wear communicate to others in a multitude of ways, while at the same time being affected by experiences and charged with emotions and memories.
    The other great paradox is connected to the very core of fashion itself, its constant need for reinvention. Fashion is characterized by a strong need to continuously change its appearance; organized through the temporal flow of fashion seasons (though lately this system is spinning so fast the seasons now are almost blurred, new collections appearing online already a year before the actual garments reach the shops).
    The relation between fashion and time creates a need to articulate the contemporary. This is done by questioning the ingrained, breaking social taboos and undermining the normative.
    Think, for example, of Chanel’s reinvention of luxury goods by using jersey and mixing diamonds with glass stones, or Yves Saint Laurent’s female version of le smoking, creating a new silhouette for women.
    However, at the same time, the dominance of fashion in contemporary culture also makes it a strongly conservative force, whose sartorial expressions create distinctions between the same categories it claims to undermine. Fashion determines how femininity should be aestheticized, and through its distinction between high street and high fashion, it enforces the differences between the poor and the affluent. This way, fashion simultaneously questions and reinforces the notion that gender, class and lifestyle are defined through sartorial differences.

    Fashion can thus be said to hold multiple dimensions, existing side by side. Some are aligned with each other while others have a paradoxical relationship, at times even operating as each other’s opposites. Because of this, fashion is the most culturally charged form of expression of the modern era; carrying the possibility to strengthen normative forces while at the same time threatening them, conflating macro economy with artefacts of the personal and private.

    Many designers are aware of fashion’s paradoxical double-nature, deliberately interlacing personal references with commercial expressions. The Italian design-duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have for a long time incorporated – both into their sartorial creations but in particular in their jewelry design – the Catholic aesthetics of their home country. The figure of Christ, gold crucifixes and other religious symbols have been incorporated into embroideries, and turned into overtly sexual necklaces and large, luxurious earrings, combined with the famous Dolce&Gabbana-logotype. The Catholically charged aesthetics are thus distributed internationally as a fashion commodity.

    Another example of this practice is French designer Christian Lacroix, who successfully reworked the Christian cross of his childhood into a symbol of his luxury goods.
    The opulent cross is now intimately connected to his fashion brand. His fellow-countryman Jean-Paul Gaultier seems equally fascinated with the legacy of Catholic imagery and symbolism. Focusing on the female icons of Christianity, he has transformed religious artworks and turned them into corporeal versions of the holy women of the Bible. Designing intricate sets of dresses, jewellery and entire halos around the models’ heads, the young women appeared on his catwalk as if it were a church aisle; Christian archetypes materialized in flesh and blood. The dresses were the colour of church glass windows and in his S/S 2007 collection, the models posed in front of a heavenly staircase, as if directly descended from heaven. The Christian symbolism was transferred from churches and cathedrals to shops and department stores; the style of the holy Madonna now possible to purchase, to wear to dinner parties and nights out on the town.
    Gaultier’s childhood memories from Catholic France became interwoven with his present career, brought to life in a context where they would act as novel commodities instead of eternal symbols of belief.

    Also Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci has sought divine inspiration, creating gold necklaces in the shape of the thorn crown of Jesus. When this ancient symbol of his humiliation and degradation is re contextualized within a contemporary fashion discourse, it is transformed into a costly and conspicuous symbol of consumption.
    The Christian connotations are combined with the logotype of a French couture house, the thorns now made out of precious metals. This way, Catholic imagery in high fashion both questions ingrained notions of what is sacred and holy, while at the same upholding class boundaries through the exclusive prices.
    The transformation of Christ into a commodity has become the ultimate sign that fashion and shopping is the religion of modern life.

  • green print dress ORLA KIELY

    interview with JACLYN BETHANY

    photography & styling by LINDA MARINA PORTMAN

    model JESSIE DUNNE / Select

    Audrey Grace

    Written by Michaela Widergren

    Jaclyn Bethany, age 23, was born in Jackson, Mississippi. She has a BA in acting from Fordham University. While working as a stylist and pursuing her dream as an actress, she founded the online fashion boutique Audrey Grace. Obviously she is a woman with many talents and a busy schedule. This interview is mainly about Audrey Grace but also the woman behind it, her thoughts about her work and the world around it.

    When was the first thought of Audrey Grace born?

    I have always wanted to start a shop of some sort. As a child I always loved dressing up and I was very creative and imaginative. My mother and grandmother are very fashionable. I always looked up to them and admire their wardrobe. I am from the American Deep South, where dressing up can be extremely important. Then I moved to New York which is very chic and slick. I think sometime during the past two years I defined my own personal style and I wanted to share it with others. That’s when I came up with the idea of Audrey Grace. I wanted to name the store after Audrey (Hepburn) and Grace (Kelly) - two elegant, stylish women who I believe are still relevant today. I wanted to bring back the concept of very feminine, girly clothing and elegant (not revealing) silhouette. I also love vintage fashion and Old Hollywood, so I kept that in mind when curating the stock for the store.

    Why did you choose Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly to be a part of the boutiques name? Are they more than just fashion icons?

    They are very inspiring to me and many women across the world. Not only were they actresses, and known as film stars but they were effortlessly stylish and also very involved in philanthropic efforts. Audrey Hepburn’s work for UNICEF inspires me every day.

    Why was it the next natural step in your career? And how long did it take for you to make it real?

    Well, I am not sure it was a career choice- as fashion has always been sort of a side project for me. I have been focusing on acting for about five years, and I think with Audrey Grace the fashion side of my career exploded! But opening Audrey Grace has opened up so many amazing doors for me, and I am so thankful. If I ever want to pursue a serious career in fashion, now, I feel like I could. Whereas, I did not feel that way before. I started buying for Audrey Grace over a year ago, so it took about eight months from the concept to the opening (in December) last year- and then with the New York City pop up in March, and the online store launching in June. It has certainly been a big year for me, and I think each of these steps (pop up stores, online stores, etc) have meant bigger things for me and Audrey Grace than I ever imagined.

    Why did you create Audrey Grace?

    I felt like there was a gap in the market for wearable, feminine clothing. I was really lucky because at about the time I launched Audrey Grace, the big designers had just showed the most playful and pastel spring collections (Louis Vuitton, Meadham Kirchhoff SS12). So, I was really lucky because I felt girls were interested in those looks. That sort of hyper feminine aesthetic is what Audrey Grace is all about. I admire people like Leith Clark of Lula and Tavi Gevinson of Rookie, who are creating a voice for something different within the fashion industry. Their publications are very unique and inspiring. I am not saying I am like them, but I wanted Audrey Grace to be unique and stand out in the fashion world. I wanted the shop to have a voice, instead of just be an average women’s clothing boutique that carries the same lines that all the other shops carry, which I feel like a lot of retail is nowadays. I was also inspired by boutiques I have visited across the world. A few years ago, I visited a magical place called Koh Samui Boutique in London, it is closed now, but I got to work with them on curating vintage pieces for my shop which was amazing.

    What makes your shop different from other online boutiques?

    I think it is unique and special. It is very girly, obviously, and we stock hard to find designers. A good portion of the stock was made especially for the store. It was such a fun process because I got to work with the designers as they brought my ideas to life. I also worked with many talented vintage sellers who sourced pieces for the boutique. I think there is something for every girl. I also wanted to feature girls of all backgrounds, shapes and sizes on the website. The main models were my cousin’s friends, just beautiful, natural high school girls that I felt like women could relate to while looking at the website. The other models are mainly bloggers I have collaborated with, so obviously they have a huge audience. I think in this way, the way the clothes are presented on the website, makes it interesting and not as though you are just looking at an online catalogue.

    Do you sometimes wish to re-create the pop up stores? Maybe, just to meet the clients in real life?

    I don’t know. It was such hard work and I did it while I was in school, so I think if I did a pop up again I would want to make it even more amazing than the two I have hosted. Both were great, but I am a perfectionist. I would absolutely love to do one in London. I think the way people dress over there is incredible and Audrey Grace fits in. I have so many great contacts there too. I think maybe that will be the next step in a year or so. Of course, I am interested in my clients! I love to see where they are ordering from. I have had clients from all over the world- France, Japan, England, Australia, etc!

    Are you particular with the clothes you sell? I mean not fashion style wise but for the environmental issues?

    I don’t really sell clothes that are mass produced. Almost all the designers and brands I stock are independently managed or handmade. So, I guess in that sense, yes, I think it is important that a garment is made safely and with care. Unfortunately, with my aesthetic, there are so few entirely organic labels to choose from, and I feel like that would be a different endeavor.

    What are your main focuses while selecting brands and clothes for you shop?

    I feel like I used to be very open when selecting but now I am very, very specific when selecting designers and vintage for the shop. I have learned a lot. I also know which designers and pieces/cuts sell well now, as I did not when I was starting. Aesthetic wise, I think they have to be special. I just discovered a Thai brand called Wila, and it is very dreamy, I will be stocking a few pieces from their collection. I think two designers that embody the Audrey Grace aesthetic are Erin Fetherston and Alexandra Grecco. Their pieces are beautiful and feminine. These two designers have also sold very well. I also found a vintage dealer the other day who had the most amazing pieces I have ever seen so I was very excited about that. One of my favorite designers, Katie-Louise Ford, who made some custom pieces for the shop that sold out, is designing a Moonrise Kingdom inspired collection to be released in September about which I am so excited. The process is all about research and discovery. I am constantly looking for new pieces that fit Audrey Grace. Although, now, I am more selective.

    Why is fashion so important?

    I think fashion is important because it is a way to express oneself. It is also evolving and always changing. That’s what makes it so exciting.

    Do you believe that what you wear changes more than the visual appearance

    Absolutely! Being an actor, what you wear on stage actually can elevate a performance. Your costume helps you transform into a character. This can be true in everyday life too. You can wear certain things because they make you feel confident or comfortable, or because you want to show off or have fun! I know some people have an accessory or something that they wear every day but I don’t. I used to wear a vintage 1960s leather wristwatch and leather school satchel every day. I think I was going through a Carey Mulligan in “An Education” phase.

    How do you dress yourself? Are you one of the girls in flower patterned dresses in the photos on Audrey Grace?

    No. I rarely feature myself on my blog or my website. As much as Audrey Grace is about me, and is about my own aesthetic and business, it is about other girls; these wonderful bloggers, designers, photographers, models and customers who share my same aesthetic. I like to feature them instead of myself. I do feature my styling a lot, and I think that might reflect how I dress or put an outfit together. But yes, if people know me and when I go out they will ask if my dress is from Audrey Grace. Sometimes it is. I really have my own dream wardrobe through my store. But I also wear casual things a lot of the time. I went through a phase where I only wore clogs. I have so many now- pink, red, blue, silver and gold! I like to dress up. Over the past year I have tried to be more passionate about what I buy, so now I am only buying designer things. I mean just a few things for myself. So I will have them forever and can give these pieces to my daughters. My favorite designers are CHANEL, Miu Miu, Prada, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino and Charlotte Olympia (for shoes.) But I have many more!

    Any heads up about upcoming trends? For how long can we live with the precious collar?

    I do look at runway shows, but I don’t really follow trends. I think a lot of the pieces in Audrey Grace seem relevant because fashion was so girly in general this spring/summer season. I think if you’re talking about the Peter Pan collar, as long as we have girls like Alexa Chung and Kirsten Dunst rocking them, they will be in style!

    pink dress TO BE ADORED

    fogal lace socks & shoes BEYOND RETRO

    green print dress ORLA KIELY


    pink dress with pink velvet bow VIVETTA

    pink dress with pink velvet bow VIVETTA


    fogal lace socks & shoes BEYOND RETRO

    lilac dress ALEXANDRA GRECCO




There’s nothing to see here.