Saturday, March 17, 2012

British spy protects St.Michael

If you are not British it'll be hard to fully understand the impact a single company has had on the psyche and fabric of the United Kingdom.  It is no exaggeration - its like red double decker buses, friendly bobbies, zebra crossings, driving on the left, and all the rest of those quirky things that identify our nation. So it is with Marks & Spencer.  Like the ravens in the Tower, if Marks & Spencer ever disappeared from British life then, well, that's it - we're really finished - 'will the last person to leave Britain please turn the lights out'.

Marks and Spencer fashions, once under the famous 'St.Michael' brand, ruled supreme for shoppers looking for well made, solid, reliable clothes.  Their lingerie, especially in the 1950's and 60's, was exquisite.  As a vintage lingerie seller who has sold literally scores of St.Michael slips over the years, I have noticed something - the almost complete absence of information available on the internet relating to their styles, labels, fabrics etc.  Look as hard as you like - you won't find much at all.

So - here is some really good news!  The one-time head of the UK's internal security service MI5 (a bit like 'M' in the Bond movies) has just opened the brand new Marks & Spencer Company Archive building in Leeds.  Better than that, its open to the public!  All the St.Michael resources you can shake a stick at and great for someone like me who likes to have and offer some background to the items I sell.  Its only an hour's drive from here, so I feel a trip to the fair city of Leeds coming on......I can't wait!

Says M&S (as they now call themselves):


Former Head of MI5, Dame Stella Rimington, opened the doors of the new M&S Company Archive at the University of Leeds today (Friday 16th March).
Dame Stella was joined by M&S Chairman, Robert Swannell and University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Arthur, to reveal the three-story Michael Marks Building to the public for the first time.
Made possible through a unique partnership between M&S and the University of Leeds, the building houses M&S' full Company Archive of more than 70,000 items and includes expansion space for collections from the University library.
Dame Stella has an active interest in the launch of the Michael Marks Building due to her current role as a member of the governing body for the M&S Archive Community Interest Company (CIC) *, background as an archivist and previous work with M&S.
The opening day celebrations mark the exciting next phase of the project, which began three years ago in M&S' 125th anniversary year, with the announcement of the permanent relocation of the archive from London to Leeds.
With the bespoke new building now complete and located on the University's Western Campus, this unique collection is now accessible to the public for the very first time, and has also opened up the collection to academics and students for research, teaching and learning.
Highlights from the collection are now on display in a dedicated area in the new building and will be regularly updated. The exhibition is designed to walk visitors through M&S' 128 year history, charting the company's progress from the first buttons sold on Michael Marks' Penny Bazaar stall in Leeds' Kirkgate Market and highlighting the product innovation and business growth that have established M&S as the iconic British retailer we know today.
The building's bespoke design also comprises conference facilities, a dedicated reading room facilitating direct access to the items, temperature and humidity controlled units to house M&S' vast collections and additional space for archived items from the University's extensive library collections and staff areas.
Robert Swannell, M&S Chairman said: “We're proud to have opened the doors of this impressive new building which is the result of a successful and prosperous partnership between M&S and the University of Leeds.
“The hard work and commitment that has gone into making this possible means that the history of M&S as an iconic British retailer is accessible for all to enjoy and will continue to evolve back in the city where it all began on Michael Marks' Penny Bazaar stall for many more years to come.”
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, Professor Michael Arthur, said: “Our partnership with Marks & Spencer represents a new model for how a world-leading university and an iconic FTSE 100 company can work together.
“The partnership provides a solid platform for the future, and has already delivered successes for both organisations. The new Michael Marks Building is a fantastic resource for staff and students, the company and the community.”
The rich archive collection includes business papers, advertising materials and merchandise such as clothing, toys and household items. It is expected to be of particular interest to staff and students working in subjects including business, economics, textiles, arts, history, communications, marketing, colour chemistry, food sciences and the social sciences.
Admission to the exhibition is free. A regular programme of events** will also run throughout the year. For further information

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