Behind the scenes with Kerry Taylor Auctions

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On Friday 19th June I was granted a special behind the scenes tour of the upcoming Passion for Fashion auction being held tomorrow (23.6.15) at Kerry Taylor AuctionsThe trip had been arranged by the lovely folk at The Costume Society, a group of fashion history enthusiasts, scholars and students to give us the rare opportunity for a first look at the upcoming sale as well as being talked through the pieces and the inner workings of the fashion auction house by Kerry Taylor herself.

Kerry Taylor talking us through the current pieces
Kerry Taylor talking us through the current pieces

Having spent over 20 years working for the prestigious Sothebys, Taylor in 2003 re-launched her career by flying solo, supported by her loyal client base. She has grown her business to such a level that as it stands hers is the only auction house in the Country dedicated solely to the purpose of fashion. As such, her clients include anyone and everyone, from private collectors or brides-to-be, to major museums and celebrity stylists and designers.

Pieces on display ready for auction
Pieces on display ready for auction

Having walked past twice lost and arriving therefore late, I finally reached the discreet entrance to be greeted with the most stunning display of historical and contemporary dress. Kerry had already started to introduce herself to the group and I was immediately drawn into her fantastic and intriguing world, that although appearing as glamorous and fast paced at first, soon became apparently clear was more akin to that of rolling up her sleeves and digging though moth-ridden clothes in cold, large, old houses in search of a hidden gem. Having worked in vintage fashion myself for many years this was something I could identify with and brought back fond memories of my own similar experiences. 

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I loved her antidotes of when pieces arrived for valuation ‘will it be an ohhhh (yes please) or an urghhh (defiantly not!) or maybe a ahhhh’ (that would have been amazing once but not anymore sadly) and was totally surprised to learn that one of her many job roles includes spotting fake Haute Couture! I mean, handbags, of course, one expects to hear of these trying to slip their way into one of her world famous sales but Fake Couture! However, Taylor’s expansive knowledge of vintage fashion and couture means that these luckily have yet to fool her. In addition her little black book, which one can safely assume reads like a who’s who in the worlds of art and fashion mean there is always someone on hand to consult on such matters.

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This current Passion for Fashion sale has two dedicated collections, both so extreme in their differing tastes it seems almost at odds to imagine them being auctioned side by side, but Taylor’s auctions are nothing if not extra-ordinary and unpredictable.

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Her showroom featured selected pieces displayed on mannequins including the two main collections, one belonging to the designer Celia Birtwell, (Lots 153-211) featuring her personal collection of many one-off’s by her then husband Ossie Clark. This power couple of the 1970’s were a fashion force to be reckoned with, with Birtwell’s signature patterns and Clarks incredible pattern cutting skills, these two mastermind designers shaped what we now term Bohemian Chic. The floppy hats and festival frocks you all love so much was of their doing! Many of the pieces being sold are pieces Celia was painted wearing by David Hockney such was her and their importance.

david hockney

Contrasting this was a collection of original Vivienne Westwood from the wardrobe of Jordan (not that one!) Jordan (Pamela Rooke) was an ‘IT’ girl of the late 70s/80s and a huge part of the punk scene, dubbed ‘the high priestess of Punk’. As provenance is key for identify the fakes, this wardrobe comes with it in spades and the stories surrounding these were hilarious and fascinating (lots 221-237)

In addition to these there were stunning examples dating as far back at the late 19th Century, including a dress worn by a princess and even a few examples of Schiaparelli (salvaged from the moths just!)

Detail Of McQueen Dress
Detail Of McQueen Dress

My eye however was drawn to the collection by the late genius Alexander McQueen. To see his pieces up close was such a poignant reminder of the loss of one of our most talented British designers.

Detail of McQueen Dress
Detail of McQueen Dress

As a parting treat we were gifted with a stunning catalogue from the upcoming sale of which she is co-hosting in Paris Next Month. This beautifully illustrated book contains so many wonderful examples of vintage Couture it deserves a blog post of its own so watch this space…..

Natalie x

McQueen Jacket
McQueen Jacket

For a special interview with Kerry Taylor and for a glimpse inside her auction house watch this

A full look at all the lots being featured at the Passion for Fashion Sale can be found here……..

To purchase Kerry Taylor’s book Click here

kerry taylor

For more information or to join the Costume Society click here

Words: Natalie Courtois. Click to be redirected

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