Coming Home

Michael Duck with family, Sateesh and Mark before the dinner
Michael Duck with family, Sateesh and Mark before the dinner

Spectacular! That is all you can really say about the Leather Centenary weekend Dinner which with a short fashion show and lifetime awards ceremony was a memorable event, even leaving time after for drinks in the bar at the hotel to unearthly leather hours. Dinner was preceded by a cocktail get together where a mysterious (but tasty) blue beverage was served, allowing typical tanners’ jokes about CrVI.

There was pretty much a full house in the big tent that had been used during the week for the University Degree ceremonies. It was good that the dinner was actually on the Campus. Guests came from far and wide and included local characters such as Colin Jones, Robert Sykes and Michael Pearson and those from overseas including Johannes Borge from Norway, Mr May from Switzerland and Michael Duck from Hong Kong

Finding yourself in old magazines
Finding yourself in old magazines

It was a full three day event starting with the Beast to Beauty conference on the Friday and ending on the Sunday with lunch at Leathersellers Hall in London There were many memorable moments that stand out from the networking cocktail party in the Shoe Museum on the Friday to the “anti-networking” socialising that went on in the leather department on Saturday as everyone casually got together and met old friends. There was an organised set of tours on the Saturday which covered the BSLT, the LCC, a museum of leathercraft exhibition on the other campus and the shoe museum in town. But it was the morning in the BSLT which was particularly enjoyable. The staff had opened up the partition {for the last time as it is now being removed in the refurbishment) to combine the reception area with the lecture room and used the space to layout old photos and booklets about the school. Coffee was drunk. The organised and the casual groups intermingled: old friends were discovered, new acquaintances made and many happy searches made for names on boards, in booklets and old photos unearthed. And, of course, despite all the trials and tribulations everyone agreed the leather industry had not been a bad place to have made their careers.

Zandra Rhodes' studio
Zandra Rhodes' studio

Not everyone could attend the very successful Beast to Beauty conference as it clashed with the Degree Ceremony but most got together in the evening. More importantly a high proportion of the attendees stayed over for the whole weekend.

The facade of the original college still remains
The facade of the original college still remains

Sunday was the big surprise with a visit to Zandra Rhodes studio and apartment in Bermondsey. We knew we were off to Bermondsey to see the old leathersellers college in Towers Bridge Road and some of the old haunts nearby but I don’t think many of us had appreciated that the Fashion School had arranged this trip. This was a real highlight as Zandra Rhodes gave us an excellent tour demonstrating how she works with screen printing (increasingly important with leather) and then took us up to her apartment above for tea.

The archivist at Leathersellers Hall gave two excellent tours of the hall and has clearly unearthed some fascinating history. His new booklet on the Leatherettes Company is a very good read.

Michael Redwood

5th August 2009

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