The Swinging Sixties … for some it was a part of or great influence on their lives; for others, it is historical, something they’ve read about or seen reference to in movies, on TV or elsewhere. For Leigh Rudd of Ridgefield, who was living in the Chelsea, London, epicenter of the creative revolution at the time, it was “fun, thrilling, exciting and full of self-expression.” Always interested in fashion, she found herself working in shops, for a Paris couturier, and sharing information, which resulted in the creation of the first fashion forecasting company, IM International, which she ran from 1968 to 1988.
Seeking a way to share some of the excitement of the time, Rudd has been developing a book and TV script around an alter ego named Jordan Parker for a number of years. With the recent popularity of adult coloring books, Rudd knew she had found a way to introduce Jordan. Fashion Trends: London Look of the 60’s was released on Amazon in May.
More than a coloring book, with Jordan Parks as light-hearted narrator, Fashion Trends is a first-person visit to life in Chelsea in the 60’s, and the world of fashion forecasting, which is predicting the trends to come in design, color, fabric, lifestyle, etc. In addition to archiving the era — many names of people and places will be familiar — another way the coloring book is different is the variety of types and sizes of illustrations offered, created by Brittany Morganti under Rudd’s guidance.
Among the 200-plus illustrations are a Chelsea mews house, Kings Road boutiques, Jordan’s bedroom, vintage and 60’s clothes and jewelry, supermodels of the day (such as Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton), hairstyles, fabric designs and inspiration boards.
“I want to give users the opportunity to color different size items, as well as provide a sense of value and entertainment by including information on doing fashion forecasting as well as some of the history of the time,” said Rudd, who recommends using colored pencils in the book.
Born in London, but living in both England and the United States growing up, Rudd always had a deep interest in fashion. “When I was 10, I threw away all the clothes that came with my paper dolls and began creating my own for them.” As a teen, she was drawn to the excitement of Chelsea, where “there was no consciousness of fame or celebrity at the time; people like Mary Quant and Mick Jagger just lived and worked there.”
Fashion then was “young, fun, fast moving and organic; there an attitude of ‘anything goes’ and no judgment; every day brought new ideas.” she said. “Today, like so many other businesses, it is now primarily run by bean counters and algorithms; spontaneity and creativity have been reduced.”
Her life took a significant turn in 1967, when she got a summer internship with the Paris designer André Courrèges, who became known for extremely simple, geometric, modern designs, including the mini-skirt, short white boots that evolved into go-go boots, and pants for women. One of Rudd’s jobs was to act as translator for the designer, who spoke no English; another was to get his designs into magazines and attend photo shoots.
It was while translating for Courrèges, the questions and answers that went between him and his couture clients, and watching him interact with his staff that Rudd began to understand how a designer thinks through each season, and the importance of collaboration. She also started to realize that European designers were far ahead of American designers, how ideas traveled and where various expertises lay. “Ideas started in London; in Paris they were made exquisite; but America is where they were put into big production,” she said.
She began drawing ideas of her own, making notes on what she calls her sixth sense, a vibe she can pick up about where things were going. “I’d send a scrap or two of paper to people in New York, and they’d ask for more, and the scraps got bigger and bigger. I realized what I was doing was of interest, was saleable , so I set up my company, which eventually had a full-time staff of 25 and a network of freelancers that served hundreds of clients in 41 countries around the world.”
The fashion forecasting system she devised involves studying socio-economic changes, cultural events and analyzing data — and how that would affect fashion two years down the road. It also involves research to study the young consumer — going where the young and trendy gather: clubs and galleries, rock concerts, after-hours parties. The company produced action reports, color forecasts, fashion highlights and audiovisual series, as well as providing consulting services.
Calling herself “independent, a bit of a rebel who was always hatching ideas,” Rudd said fashion forecasting is “like a puzzle, putting pieces together from a variety of sources until an image arises.” And when first building the company, some techniques were a bit unorthodox, including “going undercover to events, and making our own press passes.” She also laughed recalling making initial company calls in New York in in 1968, “the women looking all ‘Chelsea,’ men looking like peacocks… heads would spin! America wasn’t ready for us yet.”
She notes that every cultural change has an impact, which eventually impacts fashion. “Nothing happens in a vacuum.”
Regarding fashion today, Rudd says, “There is no set way of doing things, millennials especially mix things up, combining a big ticket ‘name’ bag for example, with a thrift-shop find. I find them interesting. And social media enables people to share their ideas at low cost, which encourages creativity.”
Rudd hopes that Jordan Parker will be well received and that some readers/colorers will be inspired to get involved in fashion in some way. Meanwhile, she will continue to develop her Jordan Parker projects and two new characters, Rose, a “drop-dead gorgeous fashionable woman whose figure is zaftig,” and Mrs. Stubbs, an active woman of about 70 “who takes chances with fashion.”
Fashion Trends: London Look of the 60’s is available at amazon.com or at Books On The Common on Main Street in Ridgefield. Leigh Rudd can be contacted at [email protected] or through Facebook/Fashion Trends: London Look of the 60’s.