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Fortnum & Mason

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
This afternoon while out walking with my nine-year old I (quite undeservedly) happened upon a marvelous old smoking jacket in what appears to be burgundy silk velvet. The lapels and cuffs are trimmed in an intricate and very fine black braid and the cut of the jacket is almost equestrian in nature--long and full skirted with a deep single vent. The construction is very nice with a fair deal of handwork at the usual places. No size or manufacturer's tags. The only identification on the jacket is a black label with Fortnum & Mason London showing in sky blue letters. I've looked at a lot of old clothing in my life, but I can't recall ever seeing a piece of mens clothing with a F&M tag. Perhaps I just live on stereotypes, but I've always thought of F&M as a place to have tea or buy small specialty food or luxury items. Has my education let me down? Can anyone enlighten me about Fortnum & Mason the clothier? The jacket bears all the hallmarks of a bespoke piece. Is it possible that F&M at one time ran a bespoke or mtm operation? I'm quite curious.
post #2 of 16
Thread Starter 
I'll take one more shot with the monday morning crew. Surely someone among us has gone to Fortnum & Mason for the tea and stayed for the clothes. Anyone?
post #3 of 16
my bet is that it's an old work uniform. Someone serving tea and crumpets and little cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off was given a nice velvet jacket to wear as part of his uniform, made for F&M by a tailor somewhere who put the F&M logo in it per his brief. Hence "Fortnum & Mason -- The Clothier" (sounds like a Michael Bey sequel, doesn't it?)
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Well, maybe....It's as good a scenario as I've heard! It doesn't really look like a uniform, though. And if it's silk velvet, as I think, wouldn't that be a little extravagant? But you've given me a great idea, rabbimark. If I can score an old silver-plate tray, then perhaps I have a costume to wear out with my kids on Halloween!
post #5 of 16
I haven't been to F&M that often (the last visit was just before Christmas) but I don't recall seeing any clothing there. The guess regarding uniforms could be correct.
post #6 of 16
Few years since I was in London,

I could be wrong, but I do remember seeing shoes (Church's, or CJ) on an floor. Thought they may have had a smattering of clothes.

BTW, if you go out through the Jermyn street doors, turn left and walk around 30 ft, you get to Paxtons. A most excellent cheese shop.

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post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by oscarthewild
Few years since I was in London,

I could be wrong, but I do remember seeing shoes (Church's, or CJ) on an floor. Thought they may have had a smattering of clothes.

BTW, if you go out through the Jermyn street doors, turn left and walk around 30 ft, you get to Paxtons. A most excellent cheese shop.

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Hmm, I'm fairly sure you don't get shoes in Fortnum's but I could be wrong -and I wouldn't be surprised
post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by chobochobo
Hmm, I'm fairly sure you don't get shoes in Fortnum's but I could be wrong -and I wouldn't be surprised


I think one has to take the elevator to an upper (or lower floor). Think they had some horsey/Brit country type clothing too. Blankets for picnics and all.

But my memory could be off. However, I had the MOST amazing cheese ever at Paxtons that day.

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post #9 of 16
They used to do men's clothing (including shoes) but the department was closed, maybe two or three years ago. In the last years it was mainly Italian stuff, some brands like Zegna, but mostly Fortnum & Mason private label.

I have no idea what sort of merchandise they stocked many years ago. Your jacket sounds like coming from the early 60s (if not earlier) and it's quite possible they offered a bespoke service back then. Before the war, all the major London department stores would have had bespoke departments , and some lasted even longer, right into the 50s or even 60s.
post #10 of 16
Ah, that would explain the distinct lack of a men's clothing department in the store as I contemplated my tea selection
post #11 of 16
I remember seeing men's clothes there in 2000 or so.
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
oscarthewild, don't leave us hanging! What was the cheese?! Thanks for all the responses. And yes, bengal-stripe, I think you are right about the age of the jacket. I'd like to post a picture, but, sadly, I've given back the borrowed digital camera for a spell.
post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by bengal-stripe
They used to do men's clothing (including shoes) but the department was closed, maybe two or three years ago. In the last years it was mainly Italian stuff, some brands like Zegna, but mostly Fortnum & Mason private label.

I have no idea what sort of merchandise they stocked many years ago. Your jacket sounds like coming from the early 60s (if not earlier) and it's quite possible they offered a bespoke service back then. Before the war, all the major London department stores would have had bespoke departments , and some lasted even longer, right into the 50s or even 60s.
Can you imagine those dusty obscure offices now? It must be abolsutely a treat to see all those old typewriters, etc. in some small office tucked away in a far corner. Positively cozy.
post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by pejsek
oscarthewild, don't leave us hanging! What was the cheese?! Thanks for all the responses. And yes, bengal-stripe, I think you are right about the age of the jacket. I'd like to post a picture, but, sadly, I've given back the borrowed digital camera for a spell.

I used to live in London in the late 70s (secks pistols era!). Fortnum had by far the best chocolate truffles! If anyone is visiting, these are the ones on the main floor. They have the cocoa dusted one, grand marnier ... Unfortunately, these are not the best travellers, rapidly losing some flavour in as little as a few days. But they hardly ever lasted that long . After getting the truffles and sometimes some bread/rolls and seltzer water, we would often venture over to Paxtons to get some cheese. Over time tried some very interesting cheeses.

Last time, I was visiting London (2002 or so) , I retraced the earlier jaunts. Got a selection of cheeses from Paxtons (100 gm each) for lunch. They were all superb but one still shone out like a diamond. I had eaten these on the steps of the church nearby and went back to get another pound of this one. I pointed and got it. I only wish now, that I had paid better attention to its name. It was whitish, and just layers of flavour. My intentions of getting some home collided with the culinary offerings of the trans-Atlantic airtravel. Yup, I wolfed the rest on the flight home.

Yum!!

So I do not remember the name, but do please try the truffles at F&M. With the added restrictions on food being brought into the cabin, I think my chances of requesting the kind souls that do the London - NY thing to pick some up for me are slim Both the cheese and the truffles.

Woe be life!
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post #15 of 16
oscarthewilde, your anecdote brings back a great memory for me when I was first in London, in 1998. I stopped at a great cheese shop in Covent Garden (pretty sure it was Neal's Yard, but not positive) and had a white cheddar from Wales and another crumbly type from Ireland that escapes me. I, too, took it outside for an al fresco picnic and remember it as a lovely day with great cheese. It was late May, if I recall correctly, and all of London's office workers were stumbling out into the sunshine and rolling up trousers and skirts and sleeves to get a bit of sun. Of course, after twenty minutes or so, most of London's office workers were bright red, too. so it has nothing to do with clothes or Fortnum's, but thanks for the memory jog!
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