Talk and Exhibition by Susan Bishop – Kensington Library 17th January 2019
In the 1920s Barkers department store Kensington, London, was a monument to Art Deco design and radical new thinking about retail as entertainment for the leisure classes.
Between the Wars, when the economic depression had put pressure on falling profits, Barkers’ pioneering chairman Sir Sydney Skinner placed fashion at the centre of the business to entice the new female shoppers through their doors.
Regular fashion shows were held there in their specially constructed Fashion Display Hall, featuring exclusive Paris fashions, modelled by society mannequins.
The exhibition and talk will tell the story about Barkers use of the 1920s super models who seduced customers, wearing Paris haute couture featuring brands such as:
- Martial Armand
- Louise Boulangère
- Phillipe et Gaston
Barkers publicised their images through the use of new style fashion photography in the press, to set the store apart from its competitors. In the late 1920s archival research, reveals that Barker’s were by far the largest fashion advertiser in the London newspaper press, outstripping its closest rivals Selfridges and Harrods. This was likely due to the downturn in retail trading during this period.
The main source of primary information comes from a Press Book salvaged from a charity shop in Lewes, East Sussex, which will be on show at the library.
Although there is no way of researching the provenance of the Press Book it is thought to belong to Sir Sydney Skinner because he lived not far from Lewes in East Chailey, East Sussex.
The Press Book contains photographs, advertising, press cuttings, programmes and invitations relating to the opening of Barker’s new Fashion Display Hall and the fashion shows held there between 1928 and 1930.
The photographs, taken for publicity purposes, tell the story of a major investment in new fashion marketing.