While Mary Quant and Biba have – rightfully so – made fashion history with their innovative designs and ground-breaking boutiques, one of Swinging London’s coolest design duos,  Foale and Tuffin, remain fairly obscure. Once described as “the queens of Carnaby Street” by Zandra Rhodes and with a celebrity following including Julie Christie and Cilla Black, Foale and Tuffin – and not Quant – were truly the epitome of cutting-edge, youthful design in Sixties London.

Throughout her childhood and teens, Londoner Sally Tuffin designed and made clothes, initially for her dolls and then later for herself.

In 1954 she enrolled in the Walthamstow School of Art initially with the intention of becoming a fine artist but she changed her mind at the last minute and enrolled on the fashion course instead. It was here that she met Marion Foale

After graduating from Walthamstow Art School, the two friends took the diploma course in fashion design at the prestigious Royal College of Art. After graduating they set up their own business in 1961 rather than join an established brand.

Under their own label – Foale and Tuffin – they designed fun, sexy clothes for a generation of women who couldn’t imagine wearing their mothers’ sedate dress suits.

A simple bedsit in Gloucester Road initially doubled as a design studio before they moved to a small house and shop front in Carnaby Street. Equipped with two sewing machines and a steam iron they produced their entire collections by hand, selling not only in their own boutique which they opened in 1965, but to other outlets such as New York’s  Paraphanalia boutique.

“Our clothes were for girls who needed to express themselves,” explains Tuffin. “They were young, busy, trendy, wanting to do their own thing and kick down the barriers of so many years. These girls wanted to hoick up their skirts – literally – and get rid of their suspenders.”

Always keen to innovate, Foale and Tuffin  (pictured right) pioneered designs such as trouser suits for women years before YSL, wearing the ‘boyfriend look’ – they loved raising their partners’ wardrobes for inspiration, cut-out lace dresses, print clash looks such as pairing a striped jacket with a spot-print skirt, frill details and opt art prints. Sharply tailored and in vibrant, bold colours their designs perfectly sum up Britian’s youthquake.

Their clothing range was still going strong in the early Seventies but by then both were married with children and had begun exploring other creative outlets. They quit in 1973.

Sally Tuffin is now a ceramicist, and Marion Foale designs knitwear.

Although relatively cheap to buy (dresses have sold for £100 at auction) Foale and Tuffin designs are hard to find. Try specialist auction sites or Sixties specialists such as Vintage A Peel.



2 Responses

  1. Claire at Poppy Valentine

    Excellent post, such a joy to read! I had heard of Foale and Tuffin but you have educated me on the detail. It’s so nice to read a post by someone who has looked beyond the obvious x

  2. kSto

    Wow, thanks! I had not heard of Foale and Tuffin. Now I will have to start looking for their designs.