When I am not engaged with fashion curatorial projects, I often work as a prop stylist and set designer. Among the many frivolous perks of this type of work (openings, parties, celebrity sightings, etc.) the prop sourcer and stylist gets to frequent less known but equally as fascinating places as private luxury and fashion industry soirees.
To those working in film, event or theatrical fields in the UK, the prop houses of Acton are likely well known to. My frequent visits with missions to find items such as taxidermy, art deco furniture or vintage children’s toys are also peppered with distracting forays to admire a plethora of other unrelated objects. In the future this knowledge might come in handy – so time is not being wasted of course.
Today while searching for circus and fairground items, Egyptian statuary and creepy mannequins (always a favourite), I stumbled upon a series of objects of fashion history interest. They all fascinated me for their own individual reasons, but overall left me ruminating on how the the prop hire house is a strange place for objects. They are for hire, but not for sale. Like museum objects they are seperated from their unit monetary value.
Yet, many of the items in the prop houses I visit are genuine antiques which were likely purchased at market prices. They can appear in the most popular films again and again (there is quite bit of furniture I recognize from period films made in the UK) or they can lie un-rented for years, seen only by handfuls of “industry” people or more likely, their assistants.
I felt a bit sad for the objects in this photo essay. My curator/historian side said, “These should be in a museum!.”
I wondered how much one would have to pay for hiring and the “losing” an item. A quick and not so crafty plan to hire, pay the loss cost and then donate to a museum ensued. Then, my more pragmatic and less criminal mind, considered that these pieces were relatively safe here in a prop house, arranged to some degree like a museum display, seen by few and hopefully appreciative accidental visitors. I feel fortunate and enriched to be one of those who get to pay regular working visits to some marvelous fashion historical treasures.
Indeed, these items may inspire some future research, or ignite projects down the road – maybe a project that would require me to hire and exhibit them? Now that sounds like a sterling plan. In the meantime, you don;t have to wait for me to devise and fund such an exhibition – you can go and visit these items if you fancy a trip over to North Acton, London.