HE WAS Glasgow’s answer to the Great Gatsby, who transformed the family drapery firm into one of the UK’s retail giants.
As the nation struggled to emerged from recession, Hugh Fraser embarked on a major expansion of the business on the corner of Buchanan Street and Argyle Street, despite being only 21 when he was made managing director.
Now his legacy as the founder of the House of Fraser chain and the forefather of Glasgow’s status as a fashion capital is set to be honoured at the city’s newest festival this summer.
Design guru Wayne Hemingway is joining forces with the department store, which Hugh Fraser dramatically expanded in the 1920s, for a Great Gatsby-themed catwalk show.
It will be the centrepiece fashion event of a Vintage Festival, which Hemingway, founder of the Red or Dead chain, is launching in July and is hoped will be a fixture for the next three years.
Hemingway said: “When we first started to plan the festival, we had no idea this was going to be the summer of the Great Gatsby.”
The film of F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, is packing out US cinemas.
Hemingway said: “The 1920s was the first big ‘youthquake’, as it was called then. It was quite shocking for girls’ skirts to go above the knee and the flapper look was as completely and utterly revolutionary as punk.”
“For me it was probably the best fashion of all-time. That’s the whole point of vintage – it celebrates great things in history and brings them back in a modern context. The whole idea of the festival is to create an immersive environment in the Merchant City where you can completely lose yourself for a couple of days.”
Stock from the Fraser’s store will be transformed for 1920s looks by dozens of mannequin-style models, who will emerge from shop windows.
Lavish fashion shows were regularly hosted at the store by Fraser, who had trained as an accountant, and Christian Dior was among those to visit.
After snapping up Glasgow firms Arnott & Co and Robert Simpson & Sons, Fraser made a string of acquisitions throughout Britain in the 1930s.
Show curator Lynne McCrossan said: “Although the company was started by the Fraser family on the corner of Argyle Street and Buchanan Street, it was very much a drapery and haberdashery business. He was the one who really made it a big name in fashion. There are a lot of similarities between Hugh Fraser and Jay Gatsby from a style point of view. He was also very much a playboy of the time.”
Hemingway’s Vintage Festival is hoped to attract 100,000 to the Old Fruitmarket and City Halls in July. Part of the Merchant City Festival, it is billed as a celebration of “all that has made Britain the world’s capital of cool”.
Highlights will include a Charleston-era brunch dance, pop-up hair and beauty salons, nightclub events and screenings of classic films such as Bugsy Malone and The 39 Steps.
Vintage Glasgow is being staged on 27 and 28 July.