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From fashionable to frumpy and back: the Jaeger years knit large

A CLASSIC British brand synonymous with elegance and quality, it is still a surprise to discover that Sir Ernest Shackleton packed Jaeger for his Antarctica expeditions and George Bernard Shaw extolled the virtues of the company's wool-jersey long johns.

STYLE SEEKER: Professor Amy de la Haye has unearthed the rich history and the ups and downs of the Jaeger fashion brand. Picture: Kirsty Anderson
STYLE SEEKER: Professor Amy de la Haye has unearthed the rich history and the ups and downs of the Jaeger fashion brand. Picture: Kirsty Anderson

These are just some of the fascinating nuggets Professor Amy de la Haye has found in her work on the brand's archive, which is now in the public domain.

A curator, historian and writer, Ms de la Haye is a professor at London College of Fashion and joint director of the Centre for Fashion Curation there. She will give a talk at Glasgow's Jaeger store in Ingram Street on August 1 in the Fashion Cultures strand of the Merchant City Festival.

"I will be talking about the history of the company through the lens of the archive; the evolution from quite eccentric clothing to almost a classic fashion brand, which is quite a leap," she said.

The Jaeger archive is possibly unique, housing documents from the start of the firm to the present day. Ms de la Haye added: "Over the years members of staff have always valued the history of the company and preserved paper documents, not clothes.

"They have survived two world wars, and being moved from building to building. In so many companies someone would have made the rash decision to chuck the lot."

The menswear brand had one heyday in the 1930s, when it nailed the quintessential stylish look, then became a rather dowdy old ladies' range in the late 20th century.

It became terribly chic again in recent years thanks to new designers, led by Bella Freud who created a collection in 2001, and it has offered top-quality fabric and style that is never overtly fashionable but is always on trend.

"So many fashion companies come and go and the documents aren't preserved, the emphasis is always on the next collections and there is no time to stop and pause," said Ms de la Haye.

"Over a century, consistently, there hasn't been a gap.

"Over the years they commissioned wonderful artists to illustrate the clothes. Jean Muir started to design there, which a lot of people don't know. It did menswear early on and started off being designed by a man as wool clothes to be worn next to the skin. It was a health movement based on breathability."

The Fashion Cultures strand, from July 24 to August 3, is a celebration of dressing up and going out. The influence of David Bowie's style on football casuals and a rare viewing of 1970s cult fan film Roxette are among events planned.

For curator Mairi MacKenzie, a research fellow in fashion and textiles at Glasgow School of Art, it is the perfect chance to explore why we love to dress up.

"Glasgow has more boutiques than any city outside London," she said. "This is a celebration of fashion; it's a culture, an economy and a way of life."

Other events include an exhibition and pop-up shop by Scottish designer Pam Hogg, an exhibition of Pharrell Williams's brand Billionaire Boys Club and work by former i-D magazine art director Scott King.

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