Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Visiting Birmingham's Fashion Icon The Bull

The Bull at the Bullring Fashiob

This month I will focus on Birmingham as a fashion destination and recently, I had the opportunity to travel to the Westmidlands to attend a few exciting events. 

I went to my first fashion show, the Birmingham International Fashion Week (end), and I've also arrived in time for Birmingham's stylish fashion icon, the Bull at The Bullring shopping centre, to receive a brand new outfit! 

A Style Icon In Birmingham: The Bull 

The Bull at the main gateway to the Bullring in Rotunda Square is not only the UK's largest animal statute and the city's mascot; to me, ‘he’ is also the secret fashion icon of the West Midlands. Whether ‘naked’ or ‘dressed’ the Bull always makes an impression.

This picture was taken last summer (2013) and shows the statue in his own little flower garden. The year before he supported Team GB.

The Bull in Birmingham with his Team GB dress

Ever since its introduction in September 2003 by designer Laurence Broderick, the Bull has been known for having his own wardrobe filled with designer clothes and handmade garments. From woolly jumpers to stylish leather jackets he has sported a number of outfits, which have all been very popular with visitors. Whenever I go shopping at the Bullring, there are always people posing and taking photographs with him. Everyone wants a picture with a famous fashion icon!

For someone, who is 2.2. meters high, 4.5 meters long and weighs six and a half tonnes, it must be a nightmare to go shopping. I can totally understand that the Bull has his own personal designer, but I still find it very mysterious how he gets dressed in the middle of Birmingham's busy city centre. 

Time for me to get some research done to find out!

Who Dresses The Bull in Birmingham: Interview With Kate Unwin

Did you know that a winter jumper, knitted by Stitches and Hos, was made from 14kg of wool and 12 people were involved in putting the jumper on him?

I was curious and interviewed talented designer Kate Unwin, who created the recent Christmas wear and several other styles for the bull. Here’s the full interview.

Q: What was your reaction when you were asked to design an outfit for the bull?

K: I was initially asked to come and interview for the outfit before the Christmas bull and was offered the job. They mentioned in the interview that the Christmas bull was also on the cards. I was really excited to be creating an outfit for such an icon but aware it would be challenging!

Q: How different is it to design an outfit for a 6-tonne sculpture in contrast to dressing people?

K: I do a lot of jobs like this which involve lots of problem-solving and designing from scratch with no prior specific experience.

I began by taking a lot of measurements and photos, I used these to make a calico toile and did my first fitting on the bull. This was then cut, pinned and marked to get the fit perfect. I used this edited toile as a pattern for the final garment with the chosen fabrics. I then did two more fittings to make sure the fit and placing of details were right.

It was very difficult! He is a very odd shape! Also both sides are very different and he is just very large. When I made him a faux leather jacket it was very heavy and difficult to manoeuvre through the machine. Also the materials and processes need to endure the elements and still look good three weeks after I've installed them.

All fittings needed to take place before 7 a.m. and as it was winter it was very cold and a couple of times raining heavily. I have to take a ladder to reach his head and get the garments over the top of him. Also there are people who want to talk to you at 5 a.m. in the morning that you'd prefer left one alone!

The Bull Birmingham wearing a leather jacket

Q: Have you had different designs in mind for the bull?

K: The brief from the Bullring shopping centre was a Christmas jumper. I thought of what you might wear with your Christmas jumper on Christmas Day and thought of jeans and a paper hat out of a cracker. I sketched it out and emailed it over to the client. They were happy so I went ahead.

Q:  Do you see the bull as a fashion icon for Birmingham?

K: I think he might have started on a fashion journey... I think the Christmas bull is the first outfit which is referencing current trends and reflecting the shoppers who use the Bullring.

Q: What do you think would suit him and what sort of style would you like to see him in?

K: I think he looks good in jackets, the leather jacket suited him very well. Skintight trousers look pretty good as well. He is a strong, powerful figure and I'd like the opportunity to emphasise his best qualities.

Thanks so much for reading,

Till next time,

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