Generation Magazine looks at a hidden side to the City of Birmingham, through glimpsing at the times and phases gone by, collaborating them with new and contemporary urban styles and ideas. Just how has the past influenced the present? How can history still be seen in 21st Century Birmingham through itâ€™s young, creative and artistic g e n e r a t i o n ?
THE LIBRARY OF BIRMINGHAM
SELFRIDGE & CO
THE VINTAGE SALON
ohn Hardcastle Dalton Madin was an English Architect. Designer of Birmingham Central Library, which was built in the early 70‘s. The building is a quintessential example of ‘Brutalist’ architecture; a style that flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s. Critics of the style find it unattractive due to its harsh, dull appearance. The library was part of aambitious development project by Birmingham City Council to create a civic centre around its new Inner Ring Road system; although, due to economic reasons significant parts of John’s original plan for the structure were not completed and quality was reduced on materials as aneconomic measure. The result being, a very functional building with little opulence. For the modern generation, the Central Library is incredibly dated and bleak. The simple fact of the matter is that most people just don’t like bare concrete.
he new Library of Birmingham, which opened in September 2013, completely contrasts against the old one on so many levels. From just a quick glance it captures our attention. The shape, composition, colour and size is instantly compelling and inviting. Francine Houben designed this. With technology rapidly advancing, I believe Francine’s vision throughout her design was to create a place where young people and future generations will enjoy visiting. Her main concept; to make Libraries contemporary again. She once stated; “I’m a very optimistic person so I’d like to imagine a future where all the different nationalities and cultures will mix much more. Hopefully the younger generations will do that and be wise enough to handle it.” I admire believe benefit
Francine’s perspective, and her Library will only future generations. words by Lucy-Anne Leach
“Back in 2003, when Selfridges Birmingham opened, the design of the building was seen as unique and special; it was one of a kind. In years to come however, I think it will grow out of fashion - even now futuristic styled architecture is becoming ever more popular. I fear one day in the future it will fail to stand out...”. This is a quote from Chris who works at Selfridges who thinks that this place is now competing with more up and coming buildings such as the new Library of Birmingham and the Cube and will eventually just be ‘another stylish place’. Could you imagine, however, if the Selfridges building was infact around in the late 1940s and early 50s, when pin up girls ruled the developing world of fashion? A beautiful piece of architecture from a far away future changing what it meant to be a part of the fashion world.
The first Selfridges building opened in London in the early 1900s so the store would have been no new place for the wealthy fashion lovers of the 1950s. The store in London has a typical Edwardian shape and style to it, just as Harrods has and other older stores within the city. We at Generation Magazine, however, believed it would be interesting to see what kind of perception our contemporary store would have had. Look at the building... Can you see the shape of a modelling couch? Our pin up girl sits on the roof , looking ever so comfortable and natural and makes this wonderful piece ofarchitecture display an auror of vintage beauty and class with that modern twist. Who knows, maybe the designers and architects had this coneptual vision in mind...
words by Joe Perrins Think of vintage styled fashion and I bet one of the first materials you think of will be Tweed. Deriving from a Scottish origin on the Isle of Harris, Tweed fabrics were originally handmade from wool on the banks of the River Tweed and were designed to be used in outdoor clothing as it was a rough, heavyweight material. Today’s world has been influenced greatly by the invention of Harris Tweed, encouraging a whole new generation in terms of the public and the retail market. Big chains such as Ted Baker, Burton and even Primark have used the image of Tweed (although not genuine Harris Tweed) in products in their stores all over the world, selling it for a cheaper price by the dozen and creating major sales between them and the public. Real second-hand Tweed is also still available. Jermaine works at COW, a vintage warehouse located in Digbeth. He loves the retro look enough to do business in the various materials that bring the past into today. “Tweed is a controversial material. Everybody can wear it but not everybody can pull it off. It all depends on how you wear it and what you wear it with.” Tweeds’s ‘rugged and distressed’ look may be why Jermaine has these thoughts. “It has to match personality and interest... It’s a timeless material and should be worn to illustrate times gone by.” So certain reason for them stand out.
Tweed may be trendy amongst a group of people but what’s the real wearing it? Maybe they wear it to fit in, or Maybe it’s because they genuinely like fashion of times-gone-by. What’s certain is that Tweed was once a working man’s uniform, designed for it’s practicability and wear. This lovable fabric was once a statement of graft and has now been transformed into a statement of fashion.
PROVIDE is a small shop located at the Custard Factory which prides itself on the selling of unique designs through clothing and other materials. It’s owner, Matt, tells us his story of setting up his own business. How long have you worked here? Since the shop opened a year ago. Are you originally from Birmingham? I’m not, no. I moved up here from London to open the shop. I grew up in Cambridge, moved to London, spent a few years there and moved up here. What was it about Birmingham that attracted you? The fact that there are hardly any independent shops here. Its an incredibly young city. There’s a lot of young, creative people here, a lot of cool people here, a lot of good music and a lot of good clubs. Surprisingly few independent retailers and if you look at anywhere else, they have got more independent shops than Birmingham has. So really I came to where the need was, rather than trying to compete against other people.
And that’s what inspired you to do the work? That’s why I chose Birmingham, yes. This is my shop and I wanted to set it up in a place where I felt it would be appreciated, rather than being lost under the radar. So yeah, I do some of the designs, some of them are commissioned, some of them are like guest artists, some of them are done by my in-house graphic designers. Do you prefer shopping in a small privately owned vintage shop or a commercial retail chain? I’d much rather choose a small vintage shop. I never shop in chains, well, very rarely. Why is that? Because I think it’s a bad way to live, the whole system behind businesses like that is flawed. I think its unsustainable, selfish, and I could go on for days about it. But yeah, I’m a big abdicate of small local businesses.
In terms of vintage fashion, how do you think that has inspired the bigger retail chains of today?
I think they’ve realised that its very trendy to wear things from previous decades, and they’ve actually worked out that they can produce brand new stuff that’s clean, never been worn before and they can sell it cheaper than a lot of vintage shops, which is selling something with somebody else’s sweat in it for twice the price of what you can buy it in Primark. But then just one point that I’m very, very keen to make is the difference there is that with the big chain retailers there is absolutely no authenticity. All you’re buying is an image. It is completely superficial and you’re basically dressing yourself in a fake story, and its, yeah - superficial is the best word for it.
How would you compare your store to others in and around the U.K? I don’t know. I can only talk about my own shop because I’ve never worked in any others. But speaking about my own business, I try and make it much more about the people involved than the act of making money. So care for the customer? Yeah, and its showing a genuine interest in the customer. So I never try and sell anything. The products would sell themselves. If you don’t like them them theres no point bullying you into buying it because you’re not gonna enjoy it. Where as if you find yourself seeing something that you like, you buy it on your own accord. Then you’ll come back because you know there’s good stuff here.
That’s a good way to go I think. Well I mean if you’ve ever worked for a big shop such as Topshop or whatever, there’s an emphasis on selling and you’re set targets and you have to then get them to sign up to a store card and there’s no trust there. I think you are betraying people by doing that, you’re just trying to rinse them. What do you think Birmingham does for the world of vintage fashion? The vintage shops here are very well respected and very well loved. They have a loyal following and they know what their customers like. They also occasionally have vintage markets here which brings a lot of outside people down that wouldn’t normally come to the Custard Factory. Do you think the city could potentially have its own style? Ermm, No. The internet has now created a global environment whereby the smallest localised scene or style can be read about across the world within days of it happening. So, I mean if you look at previously, where punk kinda started in New York and London, it took a few years to kinda bubble up to the main stream. Now, some cool kids can be doing something in a club on a Friday and there’s a street style photographer there whose snapped it and before Monday morning it’s on trend style websites, it’s on blogs, its everywhere. People around the world are reading it. So now I don’t think that the question of a local style is relevant because style is now a global issue. Well obviously you’ll go to different cities and you’ll notice certain things. When I moved up here from London, I brought loads of small stuff cos people down there like clothes quite fitted. When I had been here for a couple of months, I realised I had loads of smalls left over and I was selling out of extra larges, because people up here prefer things
baggier. But as a whole, style is a global thing. If I gave you the word ‘tweed’, what would your opinion be about it? I would think of Harris Tweed, obviously in Scotland. I would think of Nike almost single handedly resurrecting an industry. Where all the tweed mills in Harris were going out of business. Hardly anyone was buying it. Tweed was out of fashion, and then Nike decided to make a special project where they used Harris Tweed on some of their trainers and that one order alone initially saved the entire island and since then, they’ve developed more and more styles and collaborations with them and since then loads of brands have started using it and buying it. So I would think of that first, I would then think of the tweed run which started in London. Yeah, those are the two things I would think of. If Tweed clothing did go out of fashion, why are the big brands like Ted Baker and Burton bringing it in and why are people buying it? If big shops are bringing it in, and people are buying it, then its clearly still in fashion. There’s nothing else to it. You will have two groups of people wearing it. You’ll have people wearing it because its fashionable. They would wear bin bags if they thought it were cool. There’s nothing to it more than that. Then you’ve got people who wear it because they actually like the material, they think it’s worth the money, they think its valuable and timeless. So if you speak to some peoples’ granddads who have been wearing it since they were twenty, and they’re still wearing it now, they wear it because it’s good, its practical and functional. They care about heritage and history and want to show a bit of the early 20th Century in the early 21st Century. Interview by Jake Lockley and Joe Perrins
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THE JAM HOUSE
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THE BRASSHOUSE TH
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TEAM MEMBERS • JAKE LOCKLEY • • JOE PERRINS • • LUCY LEACH • • MIKE CHAN •
WITH THANKS TO JERMAINE (COW, VINTAGE WAREHOUSE, DIGBETH) CHRISTOPHER (TED BAKER, SELFRIDGE & CO) MATT (PROVIDE, CUSTARD FACTORY) VINTAGE SALON (CUSTARD FACTORY) FERN (TOPSHOP, SELFRIDGE & CO)
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