I have to admit that one of the biggest joys of having my own blog is being able to use it to shout about people who I think are doing amazing things. Every year since 2011, I have shared a list of the people who have had positive impact on my life in the previous 12 months and, in my opinion, deserve an award for their greatness. These are some of the fabulous folk who have shaped my year and brought me both joy and inspiration, so I want to thank them for all they have done and also put them on your radar too. Let me introduce you to my Super Humans of 2019!
Every year, I save one spot for a group of people and this year I thought I’d start my list with them – Dr Bethan Bide, Dr Jade Halbert and Dr Liz Tregenza. I’ve known each of these amazing women so long now that I can’t remember how we first met. It would either have been at one of the many dress history conferences that I’ve attended in the last five years, or via social media (the networking potential of academic Twitter still astonishes me). All three now have PhDs in utterly fascinating areas of twentieth century fashion, and this year they organised one of the best conferences I have ever attended: Everyday Fashion. In June, over two days in Yorkshire, we heard about some of fashion history’s forgotten stories and I got to share my research on M&S underwear in the 1950s & 60s with an audience who were interested rather than utterly baffled!
Fenella Hitchcock – Some friends are 100% award-worthy all the bloody time. This year has been a challenging one for me, for all sorts of reasons, and Fenella has been an absolute rock and a much needed voice of reason throughout. We may not get to see each other in person very often (as soon as term starts and she’s teaching/marking, she disappears into an intense sort of academic fog), but thanks to the joys of WhatsApp we have been able to support each other through 2019’s highs and lows. Seriously, this woman is amazing. Don’t know what I’d do without her.
Roxanne Peters – Have you ever had that thing where you get chatting to someone at work just because you like their hair, and then it turns out you have a load of other stuff in common? No? Just me? Well, that’s how Roxanne and I met. After plenty of discussions in the office kitchen, we started heading out for longer lunchtime chats, and then post-work drinks and setting the world to rights. Roxanne is an expert in Intellectual Property in creative education and the cultural heritage sector, so we bonded over a shared interest in digital archives and the challenges they pose. I definitely need to chat to her more about The Underpinnings Museum in 2020!
James Greenwood – Another of my amazing hardworking UAL colleagues, James brings joy wherever he goes. After a few intense years as Chair of the LGBTQ+ Staff Network he took a step back for a much needed rest, but the network is so much better for everything he has done. A more diverse group of dedicated colleagues from across the university are now planning events, effecting change and growing the network thanks to James’ influence. He’ll still be involved in Pride thanks to his day job as Student Experience Manager though, so give him and the gang a wave if you see UAL in the 2020 parade.
Amy Jones – The first time I met the absolutely bloody lovely human that is Amy Jones, I spent over an hour telling her everything I could remember about the history of the bra and then she removed her own bra and flung it across the room at me. There was a perfectly good reason for this, but I much prefer the story out of context! Since then, Amy has made a small human and so the chances of us meeting up in person again (with or without the bra-flinging) are somewhat remote, but following her honest tales of motherhood on Instagram has more than made up for that. Also, her delightful book, The To-Do List and Other Debacles, has been a highlight of my year.
Trixie Kixx – I first became aware of the considerable talents of Trixie Kixx when I attended the House of Burlesque Revue last summer. Not only is she an extremely hard working performer and choreographer, but she also teaches weekly classes at Off The Rails Studio in south London. I was determined to attend until I remembered my years at Irreverent Dance and how I found it much easier to do repetitive barre exercises than learn dance routines, so I have so far chickened out. Perhaps 2020 will be the year I finally go for it? In the meantime, I’m sure we will have plenty more feminist discussions via Instagram DMs!
Dr Lucie Whitmore – Another member of my fabulous fashion history ‘gang’, this year Lucie moved from Edinburgh to London in order to start work as the Fashion Curator at the Museum of London. Not only does this mean that my donation to the museum has now been officially accepted as part of the collection (because Lucie is super-efficient!), but it also means I have a new craft beer buddy in town! We have chatted a lot this year about what we’re both working on, and her first curated display at the museum was of a delightful set of quirky handmade dolls from the 1920s with vegetables for heads. If you have not yet seen The Vegetable Kingdom, get down to the Museum of London before the end of the year.
Kadian Gosler – I met Kadian when we discovered we were both at London College of Fashion and were both doing research that related to the bra. And so began the first of many discussions about our research, the industry, and the way this one small garment intersects with so many aspects of gender, identity, self-esteem, and the fashion industry. This year, as part of a series of events for the UAL Lingerie Society, we co-organised a successful mini symposium that brought together different research perspectives on breasts and bras. I’m already looking forward to making new plans for 2020.
Ricky Williams – Last time I had an appointment with Ricky, he was a resident artist at an established tattoo studio in central London. Since then, he has set up his own extremely successful studio in south east London (which I’ve been following on Instagram since it was first announced) and I had the pleasure of visiting it last month. As Ricky added to the piece that was started back in 2016, he chatted to me about why he wanted to set up South City Market and what it’s been like balancing running a business with the art of tattooing. The vibe in the place is relaxed and friendly, and the artists and clients I saw when I was there were a diverse bunch, due entirely to Ricky’s vision and hard work. I’m already looking forward to going back in February!
Amy Walker – Earlier this year, I made a career choice that I ended up regretting. However, on reflection, I decided that it was worth it after all, because that’s how I got to know Amy. Another colleague who has become a friend, a ray of sunshine in the dark times of 2019, Amy has brought joy to my life over the last five months and not least because she has taken me into The Wing as her guest on several occasions. Meeting several women there who work in publishing has inspired my writing once more, so… let’s see what next year brings.