Find out about some of the wonderful items we’ve collected this year.
New Additions to the Collection this year
Don’t worry if you missed our online talk, Objects of the Year 2023, here are some of the highlights along with a link to the talk itself – so you can make a cuppa and catch up at your leisure!
We have one of the strongest collections of wartime civilian clothing (known as CC41) in the UK – it’s a real highlight within our clothing collection and we are always keen to add to this part of our story. The Utility Scheme was introduced by the Government in 1941 as a way of making sure that the quality of garments produced remained high, despite raw materials being in scarce supply during the Second World War. Textile technologists at M&S worked with the Board of Trade to set the standards for the scheme, ensuring that all garments met the specifications for good quality clothing that would last, despite the restrictions.
Earlier this year we were offered this rare CC41 coat by a donor, and we were delighted to accept. This well-preserved wool, duck egg coat now forms a key part of our collection, previously unrepresented, as we didn’t have any CC41 outerwear until now. The coat is now on display in the exhibition, paired with a CC41 blouse and woolen skirt to complete the look.
The Home Furnishings department opened in 1970 with a selection of rugs, curtains and bed linen all in matching patterns, shades and tones. This selection of items came from a fairly large donation of 15 items early in the year. This vibrant octagonal design boasts a range of shades of purple, and it also came in autumnal colours too. Our large floral designs were also popular. Available in multiple colour-ways including browns, yellows and oranges, shades of pink, purples, blues and greens, all could be paired with matching curtains, rugs and bedspreads. These sheets were also practical, being machine washable, minimum iron and having crease-free appearance. Vintage prints and patterns like these are often a source of inspiration for our design colleagues in Head Office, who regularly use archive objects to help inspire future ranges.
Eugene Black's Watch
This 25-year Long Service watch belonged to former employee and Holocaust survivor Eugene Black. Born Jeno Schwarcz in Czechoslovakia in 1928, 16 year-old Eugene returned home from school in May 1944, to find a lorry outside his home containing his parents and two sisters. They arrived at Auschwitz several days later where he was separated from his family and eventually transferred to Buchenwald, Dora-MittleBau.
Eugene was liberated from Bergen Belsen on 15th April 1945. Walking out of camp that day he met a British Army doctor from Liverpool, who became a good friend. Eugene became an interpreter for the British Army, met his future wife, and came to the UK as a refugee. In 1950 he had an interview at our Manchester store for the position of warehouseman. He got the job and Eugene and his wife bought a house in Oldham and started a family. Eugene worked his way up to the position of Store Manager and settled in Leeds, finishing his career after working for M&S for 35 years. He was presented with this watch to mark his 25 years’ service in 1975 and we are fortunate to have been given the opportunity to take custody of this gift and tell his story alongside it.
To discover more of the fascinating additions to the collection we’ve acquired this year you can view the full talk on our You Tube channel.