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|KAHN & BELL
|Straight to Kahn & Bell in grotty old Hurst Street.
The shop may be what estate agents politely describe as 'in need of improvement', but the window-dressing and the rails within crook a seductive finger and invite you to feast your eyes on an extravagant collection of clothes to match the wildest of imaginations
There are dresses - almost demure - apart from the plastic cups which allow the real live tits of the wearer to show through. "People don't realise very often at first. It's only when the plastic starts to steam up that they sus it ", says Patti Bell.
Metal breast platers clash with brass studs in soft black leather as a potential customer rakes through the rails. Kahn & Bell stand by, offering a silent prayer he will buy something. Yesterday Patti lost the only money they had - 8 pounds - and the reels of black cotton they need can't be bought until something else is sold off the rails.
"Money is a real Problem," says Jane. "We've always wanted to do up this shop, but everything we earn goes either into stock or to paying someone back"
Lack of money is not the only irritant they've had to endure in their time together. Apart from a loyal local following and the occasional refugees from London ( Hot Gossips for example), until 12 months ago Kahn & Bell were often one step ahead of the capital without recognition for it. On the contrary when similarities to London designers were spotted in their collections it was assumed that Birmingham had copied London
In recent months however, following the establishment of a Kahn & Bell outlet in the Kings Road's Great Gear Market, fashion editors in the national press have begun to sit up and take notice. That's London for you. It is part of its rich cultural tradition of ignore life north of Watford unless if jumps up and bites it in the face.
Birmingham need the Kahns and Bells of this world to help beat the image of drab uniformity it persists in showing to the rest of te country. Jane and Patti are well aware of this, but they have to be realists too. They need money. Money to establish praper facilities in both London and Birmingham so they can meet big orders and dont have to stand by and watch wholesalers simply copy their designs. and money to put some of their more extravagant idea into practice.
- NEW SOUNDS NEW STYLES - 1981 / PICTURE BY PAUL EDMOND -
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