Thursday, 16 September 2010

Belatedly, Joseph Ettedgui

   Early this April, my father received a card from Issy Ettedgui, with a heartfelt, touching and unlachrymose handwritten message regarding the peaceful passing of her husband Joseph that made a particular note of the affection he held for "his brother," for our families were close enough for me to refer to him, with a certain honour, as "Uncle Joe." That habit, as it seems to do when Britishers grow into their teens and beyond, had  indeed dissipated by the time I became a young adult

   But don't mistake a loss of formality for a loss of respect and admiration; I'm perennially inclined to admire men of taste, of class, of perseverance and of percipience. And perhaps our personal relationship also served to elevate Joe in this particular facet of my esteem, but there's certainly little wrong with that


   This post is an apology, for I do a great many things out of time and sequence. Perhaps those who choose to read this post might feel a morsel of understanding; a sympathy founded on the difficulty in composing and cohering thoughts regarding the death of a presence in one's life. But it is still rather belated a post, especially because Joseph was one of the vaunted few in the last years of the 20th century who continued to make fashion retail a sphere of interest. His patronage alone of Kenzo Takada's output in his formative retail years is proof of his nous for talent. We also shared a belief in a wardrobe that was built upon dependable, finely made clothes with ample room for the fashionable and the expensive to elevate it - a philosophy that more than hinted at his adaptability

   Amongst the various branded shopping bags that filled my childhood, the minimalistic black rectangles on a white background motif that signified a purchase from a Joseph shop always lodged in the mind in a manner that was both iconic and in tune with the visual modes of the 1980 - as stark and neat colour arrangements, Nagel prints, deceptively simple but striking aesthetics, pristine glamour, and so on. He may not have aimed his shops at children, but for a time, Joe's Café was a cherished, if infrequent, treat that forms a fond part of my South Kensington memories. I can only imagine what celebrated restaurant he might have overseen had he lived to see his hotelier desires come to fruition

   Even as he battled the cancer that ultimately took his life, Joe made time for me during my nascent forays into fashion-related work, and encouraged me not to discard my semi-romantic notions after the crisis that is financial eradicated my former livelihood. Indeed, given the upcoming evolution of my professional life, I believe that he was correct in his steering, although it is a shame that he could not be there for me to tell him the news. I spent a fair amount of time at the former Conduit Street site of his luxury goods operation, Connolly, over last year, covetously admiring the Charvet shirts and unconstructed sportcoats, imbibing the genteel and warm aura of its woody yet somewhat minimalist decor, striking up friendships and letting him know in which directions Mode Parade was pulling me that week

   I have always suspected him as responsible for my father's Habanos habit, though he was always a responsible and devoted man. Still, with his brand of unassuming charisma, I imagine that it would have not taken much convincing; it seems symptomatic of his trenchant way of discerning what one might need in life

   The photograph chosen for the remembrance postcard is an excellent, dégagé portrait of Joe reclining in a beautiful silk dressing gown, shirt, trousers and designer trainers; a happy, joyfully eyed depiction of Offbeat Informality, if ever there was one, and certainly an encouragement to those who knew him that we should not remain sad for long

Merci et Bon Nuit,

B


For Joseph Ettedgui; 22 February 1936 - 18 March 2010

3 comments:

ADG said...

lovely

Barima said...

Many thanks. He was a great man

B

rodd22 said...

I thank you My years working for him at Joes Cafe are, in hindsight,far too few.
My love to Issy

R David Tapsell

ShareThis