René Lalique

Founded in 1888 by René-Jules Lalique, the French jeweler and glassmaker had by 1890 opened his first workshop in Paris’ Opera District at 20, Rue Thérèse.  From this new location he experimented with glass and enamel fused with diamonds and gold to create some astonishingly beautiful statement jewelry. 

He usually stamped his Art Nouveau creations with the distinctive sword and “RL” motif.

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During his years of study at Paris’ “Ecole des Arts Decoratifs” and continued studies in Sydenham, SE London, Lalique’s apprenticeship included providing design services to companies such as Cartier. 

By 1905 he had become very well known for his jewelry and opened a retail shop at 24, Place Vendôme. The new store was adjacent to that of Francoise Coty, the noted Corsican parfumier. Lalique started making perfume bottles, in the Art Deco style, for Coty’s broad range of products including “Ambre Antique” “Heliotrope” and “Styx”. 

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In 1921 Lalique, opened his glassworks in Wingen-sur-Moder in the Eastern French Province of Alsace. From here he further developed his signature style through the contrast of combining clear and frosted glass manufactured using the “cire perdu” or “lost waxtechnique.

Between 1925 and 1931 Lalique’s new factory focused on glass car bonnet ornaments. These wonderful frosted glass mascots, which could be illuminated for maximum effect, graced the bonnets and radiator covers of cars designed by Hispano Suiza, Bugatti and Bentley.

The Breves Gallery in London’s Knightsbridge was retained by Lalique to sell to British customers and they subsequently acquired commercial rights to Lalique mascots for the world. The name “Breves Gallery London” was stamped on each mascot’s mount. 

The mounting rings offered by the Breves Gallery meant that the car’s owner could add to the aesthetics of their already beautifully styled cars by the addition of these trophy mascots.

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During this era, a range of twenty-nine designs were made available including the famous “Sirene” (“Mermaid”) statuette, which was available in two sizes.

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Lalique also sold the same products mounted on a metal or glass base as paperweights. 

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“La Grande Libellule” (the Large Dragonfly), “Five Horses” – the first mascot to be commissioned in 1925 for use on the Citroen’s 5CV – “Victoire” (“Spirit of the Wind”) – which originally sold for £2-12/6 – “Vitesse” and “Chrysis” are personal favourites. 

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The base of each genuine Lalique glass mascot is signed with a stamped, molded or etched signature that usually simply reads “R. Lalique”.

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Seven of the original designs continue to appear in the current Lalique catalogue. These include “Chrysis”, “Eagle’s Head” and “Cock’s Head”. Lalique & Co, which ceased to be in family ownership in 2008, still sells these designs as paperweights.

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Inevitable Heath and Safety concerns have weighted heavily on the car mascot market. Since 1968 in the USA and 1974 in Europe, cars have had to conform to rigorous rules governing exterior projections that are fixed to their bonnets. 

Rolls Royce invested heavily and devised a retractable solution – see our earlier piece on the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy here – The Spirit of Ecstasy – Mercedes-Benz also developed a spring-loaded flexible mount that folds on impact.

Image Credits – R Lalique et Cie, Maison Coty and Wartski.

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Triumph Stag

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My wife loves horse power, yet she is not much of a Petrol Head. However, she does drive a cute Mini Cooper but her absolutely favourite car is a burgundy coloured Triumph Stag.

As a kid my pal’s Dad had a Triumph 2.5 PI, with which he used, sorry other road users, to tow a caravan. Temperamental would probably be the best description of this car’s mechanics. Along with the guy ropes and tent pegs he’d carry a heavy rubber hammer. The normal assumption would be that this hammer would be used to see home the awning pegs – oh no…In an act of naked frustration this charming architect would administer the Petrol Injection system of his 2.5 a sound thwack – with the rubber hammer – in order to re-engage it to its primary purpose – to pump petrol!

The Triumph Stag – a 2+2 Convertible – launched in 1970, was spared the engine and fuel injection system of the PI and it was clad in well designed Italian loveliness. For me there were relatively few style icons of the 1970’s, certainly compared to the previous decade, but I am delighted to celebrate the Triumph Stag.

The Stag was blessed with a Triumph 3.0 litre V8 – increased to accommodate the then new and stringent US emission regulations – and in a production run lasting until 1978 nearly 26,000 were made and many were exported. It is believed that as many as 9000 survive today.

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The Stag was designed by Italian, Giovanni Michelotti, who’s reputation had already been cemented in the UK with the Triumph Herald, the GT6 and the Spitfire. His target was to compete with the sports models of Mercedes Benz. Harry Webster, Triumph’s then Director of Engineering, had given Michelotti a Triumph 2000 – the antecedent of the 2.5 PI – in the mid-1960’s an the Stag was conceived as a styling experiment with this car – common ancestry was noticeable and much of the Stag lines were incorporated into later Triumph 2000 models.

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In 1978 the Stag was “replaced ” by the unattractive Triumph TR7. The Triumph trademark is currently owned by BMW which was acquired in 1994 when BMW bought The Rover Group. BMW have retained the Triumph brand along with Mini and Riley. The Triumph brand last saw the light of day in 1984 isn’t it time for another successful revival?

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In an era of close links between TV/Film business and the car industry it comes as no surprise that James Bond in “Diamonds Are Forever” relieves a diamond smuggler of his 1970 Triumph Stag. See here the car with its clear nod in the direction of the Ford Mustang with its “Stag” grill logo. See here our earlier piece on the iconic Ford Mustang Ford Mustang

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If you’d like to add a version of this splendid Bond car to your collection please link on the following AMAZON link –james bond 007 diamonds are forever triumph stag yellow film scene car 1.43 scale diecast model

The iconic Haynes Manual will get its own standalone Aestheticons’ post – but for now you may like to buy a copy of this classic publication that dissects the Triumph Stag.

Please click here for the AMAZON link Triumph Stag (70 – 78) Haynes Repair Manual

How about the accompanying T Shirt? Haynes Workshop Manual 0441 Triumph Stag Black Men’s T-Shirt

Adding a Triumph Stag mug to your collection is a winner – click here Triumph Stag Mug with Caption: “Life isn’t complete without a Triumph Stag” Mug ideal gift

Or how about the simple line drawn Triumph Stag T shirt, a great present for female fans:

Triumph Stag Black Women’s T-Shirt Size 10 (M) (White Print)

and for blokes

T34 Triumph Stag Brown/Hazelnut Men’s T-Shirt XXL (Black Print)

And don’t forget the kids!

T34 Triumph Stag Red Kids’ T-Shirt 11-12 Years (Black Print)

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Image credits with grateful thanks to Thoroughbred Cars and Haynes Manual

Polaroid Camera

Designed by Edwin Land 1948

Edwin Land, an American scientist, in 1947 founded Polaroid  and invented instant film. He unveiled the first commercial instant camera, the model 95 Land Camera, in 1948. The camera used a self-developing film that created a chemically developed print which became visible moments after the shot was taken.

Polaroid’s various cameras have used different composition of films and formats. The first examples had positive and negative film rolled onto the cameras spindles. Most recent models used the more convenient integral film which contained all elements for film printing and was offered in the a versatile square format becoming a favourite with creative artists.

The Polaroid model became a firm favourite with traditional photographers for scene setting and ensuring that the composition was correct. The found a natural home in film production with set designers, script and continuity editors to ensure that the set was dressed identically for each shot and that the actors took their correct marks. They were extensively used for ID cards and the instant printing of ultrasound image.

Polaroid was for more than fifty year a company that had advanced a specific technology that was rendered virtually redundant with arrival of digital photography, leaving instant cameras a niche/collector market.

In February 2008, Polaroid was forced to close its manufacturing facility and file for creditor protection under the US Chapter 11 arrangements. In 2009, Polaroid was acquired by PLR IP Holdings, LLC which markets various products such as the Polaroid branded Fuji Instax instant camera – which has acquired a new market particularly younger consumers who are not used to printed photographs – which become excellent keepsakes from a great night out, for example.

My Polaroid: A friend, Stephen Mahoney, the respected Fashion and Media PR is heavily involved in the London fashion scene and had a weekly column in the Evening Standard. He was regularly out at film premiers and other highly visible social occasions taking his Polaroid camera to each event. He would take a shot of a celebrity and they would sign the resulting photo. The best of these shots  were collated for his weekly column which was always eagerly anticipated.

 

 

 

Rover Chair

Designed by Ron Arad 1981

Industrial designer, Ron Arad for his first piece of furniture design, combined two existing – but separate – pieces of car seating and a tubular frame to become the postmodernist Rover chair. The components were obtained from a scrapyard in North London’s Chalk Farm,

The red leather seat came from a Rover P6 which was produced from 1963 to 1977 and  if a 2000 cc engine was installed it was often known as the “Rover 2000”. The chair is held by a black painted curved steel frame – which history tells us came from a Kee Klamp milking stall built by Gascoignes in Reading since the early 1930’s

In 1981 you could buy an Arad Rover chair for £99.00 with originals now commanding thousands at auction.

Many of our followers will recognise the Rover chair from its prominence on the set of BBC TV’s “Top Gear” where it has appeared since 1988.

PS. I have recently been advised that the Green Chairs as used in “Top Gear” are not in fact Rover or Arad chairs. They are either Wolsey or Austin. Although they are regarded as being “after Arad” they appear not to be originals!

RM Williams’ “Craftsman” Boot

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Reginald Murray (‘RM”) Williams was born into a pioneering settler family in 1908 at Belalie North about 200 miles from Adelaide, a horse trainer and bushman who rose to be a millionaire entrepreneur.  His adventures in the outback created a recognisable and iconic Australian style of bush-wear.

RM was taught leather working by a horseman, Dollar Mick, including making bridles, pack saddles and riding boots. In 1932, to fund the hospital care of his son, RM founded “RM Williams” and he began to sell saddles. In 1934, he established and rapidly expanded a small factory running in his father’s back shed at 5 Percy Street in the Adelaide suburb of Prospect.

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RM’s most iconic designs were his handcrafted riding boots. They are formed of a single piece of leather or suede and stitched at the rear with elasticated sides.  As of 2013, the company’s handcrafted riding boots comprises 70 hand processes and a single piece of leather.

RM sold the business in 1988 but sadly it entered receivership in 1993. The company was then taken under the control of RM’s long-time friend Ken Cowley who, with businessman Kerry Stokes, and Ken’s family ran R.M. Williams Ltd. for over twenty years.

RM died in November 2003. In March 2013, the Cowley family released a statement of an intention to sell the company to a new owner for AUS$100 million sum. In April 2013, R.M. Williams sold a 49.9% stake to L Capital, the private equity affiliate of LVMH.

These guys a wish list item for me. I have known of them for over twenty years as a friend from Sydney had the well known classic Craftsman boot which at that time he had owned for over fifteen years – they were pristine with minor tell-tale wear and a fabulous sheen.

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In July 2016 I was in London and went to the new Westfield Shopping Centre at Shepherd’s Bush. I walked into the newly opened RM Williams store to discover I was in fact the very first customer.

A charming girl who had been seconded from RM William’s office in Adelaide was so well informed and enthusiastic in her desire to impart details about the hand-made boots I felt almost rude leaving after the limited time I had ran out…only to be stung by the excessive parking charges at Westfield!

She explained that they would prefer – if I lived in the UK – that I should opt to have a rubber rather leather sole, as the leather is so thick it took a while to dry out and risked deteriorating if not totally dried before it got wet again. She explained the use of kangaroo hide – which caused my son some disquiet – but it was explained as a by-product of meat production.

I am determined to return to place an order in due course – but suspect I may go for a suede pair.

Stop Press: Since we became an Amazon Affiliate in December 2017 I have now discovered that I can get my favourite RM Williams chocolate brown suede Craftsman via this source – so the order is on its way! If you’d like to join me in this please click on the link below the following image 

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R.M. Williams Craftsman chocolate/suede, Größen:43

Images from RM Williams

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Opinel Knives

Designed in 1890 by Joseph Opinel.

History: Opinel is a family run company that has manufactured wooden-handled knives since 1890 from Savoie, France. They sell around 15 million knives yearly.

Opinel knives are mostly made of finest grade Swedish Sandvik steel with a beechwood handle and famously float in water. In 1955 Marcel Opinel increased the safety of the larger knives in the range by inventing and patenting the Virobloc or twist lock safety collar mechanism that locks and prevent the knife’s blade from opening or closing inadvertently.

The curve of the original Opinel blade is a known as “Yataghan”. This blade is featured on the eleven models of the original product that are currently available.

The traditional Opinel is designed to be opened with two hands and there is a nail nick  on the blade for this purpose. There is a traditional way of opening the knife known as   “the coup du savoyard” which involves tapping the handle hard on a heel or table to release the blade which is then moved into place by the thumb.

My Opinel Knife: I have half a dozen of these knives in various sizes, I have them in the car, in picnic boxes and my tackle bag. They have been used to slice salami and baguette in France, rope in England and tortilla in Spain. They are beautifully made wonderfully versatile and a pleasure to use.

Your Opinel Knife – please share your experiences of using these fantastic little knives we’d love to hear from you. 

Photo of a No 12 Opinel Knife from Opinel

Marmite

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Marmite is made from yeast extract – a by-product of beer brewing. It is savoury spread with a truly distinctive, rather salty, taste and is a British culinary icon.

Best, in my opinion on hot buttered toast, I am led to believe that not everyone loves Marmite.

The forerunner of Marmite as we know it today, a bottled concentrate of brewers yeast, was invented by a German scientist Justus von Liebig in the late 19th century.

In 1902, The Marmite Food Extract Company was formed in in Burton upon Trent (Staffordshire) with the yeast paste being supplied by the local Bass Brewers. By 1907, the success of Marmite prompted the construction of a second factory in South London’s Camberwell Green area.

Its name derives from the French word “Marmite”, meaning a large covered cooking pot, and since the 1920s Marmite has been sold in iconic glass jars – depicted above – that take their shape from the French pots.

So loved on the British breakfast tables, jeweler, Theo Fennell, created a sliver replacement lid for the famous yellow lid of the classic jar.

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Although the precise composition is a closely guarded trade secret, Marmite has long been known for it healthy properties. Rich in Vitamin B and was used by the troops in the First World War as a supplement to combat beri-beri. Its richness Folic Acid has been used since the 1930’s for the treatment of anaemia and to this day Marmite is often taken by expectant mothers for the same reason.

In 2000, after a number of corporate incarnations and mergers, Marmite became a Unilever brand.

Would you like a jar of Marmite? You can buy a huge jar by clicking the following AMAZON link – Marmite Yeast Extract Paste in a Glass Jar , 500g

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Photos from Unilever and Theo Fennell