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National Life Stories: An Oral History of British Fashion

An Oral History of British Fashion, a collaborative project between National Life Stories and London College of Fashion (University of the Arts London), is a collection of in-depth life story interviews. 

Percy Savage [30KB]

Percy Savage (photo: Gareth McConnell)


The fascinating reflections of each of the contributors highlight the importance of recording the craft skills and business techniques of the ever-changing British fashion industries.

The collection includes interviews with:

  • Percy Savage, the man who was the first 'fashion PR'
  • Lily Silberberg, a former pupil of Barrett Street Needle Trade School and a teacher at London College of Fashion
  • Leslie Russell the 'Smile' hairdresser who, in the 1960s, cut the hair of Peter Sellers and Cathy McGowan (of 'Ready Steady Go' fame)
  • internationally renowned fashion designer, Betty Jackson
  • Savile Row tailor Angus Cundey of Henry Poole & Co
  • Marit Allen, former Young Idea at Vogue Fashion Editor from 1963 - 1973 and an award winning costume designer for films such as 'Eyes Wide Shut' and 'The Hulk'
  • Tommy Roberts, the owner in the 1970s of the King's Road boutique 'Mr Freedom' and of 'two columbia road' today
  • John Church, of Church's Shoes, Northampton
  • Michael Southgate of Adel Rootstein mannequins in London.

Further information about An Oral History of British Fashion can be found in the National Life Stories Annual Reports. The 2005/2006 report featured 'Focus on Fashion Lives', a report on the Fashion Lives exhibition at the British Library (November 2005 - February 2006) which drew upon the interviews conducted for the project.

Partners and sponsors

  • London College of Fashion
  • Eley Kishimoto

Accessing the collection

To access oral history material:

  • Search for oral history recordings held at the British Library using the online Sound and Moving Image Catalogue (see useful advice on searching the oral history collections).
  • Onsite access to oral history recordings: The Listening and Viewing Service in St Pancras provides free public access to the oral history collections on an appointment basis. Many digital recordings are also available via SoundServer, a computerised listening facility located in the Humanities Reading Rooms.  SoundServer is also available at the British Library’s site in Boston Spa in Yorkshire.
  • Internet access to selected oral history recordings: The British Library Sounds website gives remote access to a selection of interviews from the Library’s oral history collections. Some recordings are currently only licensed to Higher and Further Education users in the UK, others are available for full public access.

Further information

Contact us

Oral History
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

T +44 (0)20 7412 7405 (Rob Perks, Lead Curator, Oral History  / Director of National Life Stories)
T +44 (0)20 7412 7406 (Mary Stewart, Curator, Oral History / Deputy Director of National Life Stories)
T +44 (0)20 7412 7404 (Elspeth Millar, Archivist, Oral History)

PDF files

The links below are to Adobe PDF files. Accessibility solutions and free Reader software are available from Adobe.