Angel Costumes is the longest running costumier company in the world, originally being founded in 1840 by Morris Angel. The original shop was in Seven Dials, North London, selling second-hand suits and samples from Savile Row, as well as supplying military and service uniforms, before moving into an outfits for hire business model, supplying actors and eventually film studios and design companies with custom made costumes for over 100 years. Historically, costume designers where perceived to be culturally low-brow garment makers in the early days of Hollywood when compared to the Parisian couture fashion houses (Munich, 2011), something that is particularly ironic given Alexander McQueen’s previous employment with the company credited as influencing his later work.
However, the company remains in London and is still over-seen by the Angel family to this day, with the current chairman, Tim Angel OBE, taking over the position from his late father with the company reaching an £11 million turn over in 2014 alone. Angel Costumes has the largest collection of costumes in Europe, with over 8 miles of clothing lines housing them, at carefully set and controlled temperatures. From Star Wars and Moulin Rouge to Wes Anderson’s recent whimsical hit The Grand Budapest Hotel, Angel Costumes have worked with Hollywood since the early days of film, as well as in TV, theatre and private costume hire.
As a result, the company has been credited as being ‘instrumental to the success of several Oscar nominated films’, helping a total of 35 to win best costume design awards (Armstrong, 2015). The company were consequently awarded the British outstanding contribution to cinema BAFTA at the 2016 awards, and are recognised in the media as one of many British creative companies behind huge Hollywood blockbusters including special effects, hair and makeup businesses.
The company also run a government funded apprenticeship scheme, and have been ranked among the top 100 apprentice employers in the UK. Much like networking, schemes such as these can be seen to mitigate against the risk often associated with creative sectors, especially as government strategies to counter them are decreasing over time, with more pressure placed on the individual to secure their employment in a sector ‘embedded within the unique working practices and forms of (dis)organisation characteristic to the fashion, music, design and promotions industries’ (Banks et al, 2000:455).
Many emerging ethnographic studies are focusing on ‘new micro-business’, such as start-ups, characterised by their intermittent and un-guaranteed work, irregular working hours and reliance on social networks (Gill and Pratt, 2008:14). However, in many ways Angels’ subverts this ‘precarious’ view of creative industries due both to its age as a company, and its survival as a family business (Gill and Pratt, 2008). Its continued success is also arguably due to the companies’ ability to adapt to the changing market, with each generation of Angel seeing a sea-change in the industry as online subscription services, such as Netflix, producing new original content become the newest customers ‘knocking on the doors’.
Armstrong, A. (10/10/2015) From Star Wars to modern day Macbeth: 175 years of dressing stage and screen at Angels, The Telegraph
Banks, M., Lovatt, A., O’Connor, J., Raffo, C. (2000) Risk and trust in the cultural industries, Geoform, 31: 453-464
Gill, R., Pratt, A. (2008) In the Social Factory?: Immaterial labour, precariousness and cultural work, Theory Culture Society, 25(1):1-30
Munich, A. (2011) Fashion in Film, Indiana University Press, Bloomingdale, Indianapolis.