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August 29 2014

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Happy Birthday, Dear Joseph

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Joseph Window

There are only a handful of shops worldwide as iconic as the Joseph on 77 Fulham Road, or known in the fashion world simply as 77. With a prized position in the heart of South Kensington, Joseph is flanked on both sides by some other icons: Daphne’s, Princess Diana’s favorite restaurant; Boujis, her son Harry’s current nightclub of choice; and, of course, Bibendum in the Michelin House, where loyal customers have been enjoying oysters and champagne for generations. That was where yours truly first met the late, great Joseph Ettedgui in 2003, sipping his espresso and puffing a cigar, those eyes squinting behind his trademark round glasses in the glorious October sun, as he put his paper down to fill me in on details of the project at that moment in his life—the renovation of his home. During our many conversations, a constant stream of people was always stopping to say hello. Joseph Ettedgui was the most popular guy in the hood, his charms and charisma irresistible.

September 14 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of 77, and celebrations are afoot for the man who brought Kenzo, Castelbajac, Alaïa, and Yamamoto to the world and who basically created the mold for concept stores like Colette and Dover Street Market. Celebrations start by revealing twenty-five quotes from Joseph’s nearest and dearest, like Naomi Campbell, Katie Grand, and Alexandra Shulman, and they’ll live on the Joseph Web site during London fashion week.

There will also be a window during LFW designed by Vanity Fair‘s Michael Roberts, a great friend and confidante of Joseph’s who, back in the day, worked as a stylist and was all but Joseph’s “right-hand man.” The window is inspired by one of Joseph’s only fashion shows, held around twenty-five years ago, styled by Roberts, where body mapping was somewhat of a thing. Louise Trotter, Joseph’s creative director, has also created a Haring jacquard jumper, inspired by the same fashion show, which will hit the shops September 14. On the eve of the anniversary, Style.com sat down with Roberts to discuss Mr. Ettedgui, who died from cancer in 2010, at age 74.

What are your fondest memories of both Josephs—the man and the brand?
I would see Joseph with a cigar and a coffee, listening attentively, and then motivating you to just “do it.” He was a doer, making sure that things got done. There would be one central meeting, then he would spring into action. Once you had done what it was you set out to do, he would become almost childlike, exclaiming and jumping up and down in celebration and excitement.

Joseph's Haring Jacquard

In your opinion, is there contemporary retail visionary that could come close to what Joseph did 25 years ago?
I would say Colette in Paris. Milan Vukmirovic, who was involved in the early days, is someone who I think is very good at retail. Similarly, Comme des Garçons’ Dover Street Market is also a good step up toward the sort of thing Joseph would have done.

Was it emotional for you to do the window…a trip down memory lane?
Well, yes, it is very much nostalgic. When we did the body mapping the first time ’round, it was at the time when London was doing all of these crazy things. I would say it was sentimental in the way that we have focused on the graphic aesthetic and this styling, something that was so prominent for us in the eighties. This is a long time ago now…this window definitely celebrates that period of creativity.

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Dept. of Culture