Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Siegal & Stockman Archives found




Receiving an archive is always such an exciting event. Very recently I was sent several photographs and reams of papers detailing one or two small periods of time in the history of Siegal & Stockman. The catalogues and photographs came from a small shop in the middle of France. How the owner came to have these of course remains a mystery, at least to me, but needless to say they probably or at least one hopes that they had some influence over how the product of this retailer was displayed.
The majority of the archive is not conveniently ordered, dated nor indeed numbered. There are page numbers on some of the documents but unfortunately the majority are missing. One key date is stamped on one sheet with 18th June 1952, however there are also some photographs which were included with the archive and look a lot older.
The very nature of their use of these catalogues of course was probably for the stores grand opening and then maybe remained forever forgotten and tucked away in a draw for nearly 60 years. There are a wide variety of different display ‘vehicles’ which makes it quite difficult to precisely decipher what type of small retailer would be attracted to the wide variety of these options available to them, although that was not my main focus, I am interested as this would clarify their direction a little. There is a clear sway towards women’s wear, although the archive also contains images of Vitrines, menswear, tubular steel furniture (Bauhaus influence), lighting and children’s wear which adds to the mystery.
The largest part of the archive contains a series of catalogue pages with individual images of fixtures with descriptions of how to use headlining the pages. Names such as ‘Nouveau Presente Soutien-Gorge’ and ‘Composez vous-memes vos Fonds d’Etalages avec les Grilles Mobiles ….offering 50 different positions. Somehow I could not help feeling that they do resemble so kind of Medieval torture implements.
Of course it is easy to poke fun at our display forefathers and mothers, and I have to remind myself that these were produced during very early post war Europe and were probably extremely innovative and appealing to the masses as perhaps a cheaper option to enable retailers to display merchandise to its maximum effect, particularly independents.
It is difficult to image that these female forms with impossibly thin waists and startled child mannequins were ever appealing in our sanitised, excessive, environmentally aware, Western 21st Century however it would be interesting to see some original photographs of stores using these items should I happened upon them.
The photographs of the children seem somehow much older than the rest of the archive, some are labelled Siegal as in the one below, but not all.


The piece de resistance of the archive is a photograph of Marquisette in Amplepuis in Rhone. I have very little information about this store at this stage in my research however it is clearly a women’s wear store and probably quite notable as photographs of historic European store windows seem very difficult to come by.

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