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New play will put spotlight on iconic Liverpool fashion shop Wade Smith

1 year ago

By Dawn Collinson

New play will put spotlight on iconic Liverpool fashion shop Wade Smith

A new play is about to put the spotlight on one of Liverpool’s biggest fashion names.

Wade Smith Make Me Famous centres around the iconic shop which became a go-to for anyone wanting to buy designer labels in the 80s and 90s – as well as plenty who just wished they could.

The play has been written by Paul Daley, who was working at the time with wife Barbara on another of Liverpool’s business success stories, Barbara Daley hair salon.

He says he felt it was time Wade Smith was recognised for the part it played in so many people’s lives and in the city’s resurgence. 

Wade Smith

“I think Wade Smith brought some colour and glamour after what had been quite bleak times, and it raised the profile of the city more than maybe we realise,” says Paul. “We underestimate what it contributed, it was at the start of the regeneration that went on with Capital of Culture, so it’s nice to look back and remember the positives.”

Paul began penning scripts about five years ago after joining the Lantern Writers group which encourages people who want to write for stage, screen and radio.

Since then he estimates he’s created at least 20 plays, mostly on subjects close to his own heart including one called The Bitters, a comedy about one of his other favourite hobbies – being a Blue.

The idea for Wade Smith Make Me Famous came from another of his plays, The Manopause, which is about to be staged at Hope Street Theatre in April.

He explains: “The Manopause is about four friends growing older who are looking back on their lives and reflecting on how they got to where they are now and the different paths they’ve taken.

“Part of it mentions different fashion trends they’ve been through, which includes the casuals in the 90s, and one of them says he always went to Wade Smith. It’s only a couple of lines but it made me think more about Wade Smith and what an iconic place it was.

“It was really one of the defining things of the city at the time – we had Cream, Brookside and This Morning down at the Albert Dock, there were all these things going on, and Wade Smith was at the centre of it all.”

Paul says as soon as he decided to go ahead with the idea and started doing some research, he found everyone had their own memories of the shop they wanted to share.

“When I told people I was going to write about Wade Smith, everybody had something to tell me about it – about going there and walking round but not being able to afford any clothes, or going there to see the celebrities and the footballers who were in there.

“The director I work with, Michelle Parker, immediately said to me ‘me and my friend used to go there every Saturday and sit outside and watch people going in and out.’ That’s the way it was and everybody’s got their own stories

“This was the time when designer labels and style really started to become important. Wade Smith got onto that and that was the attraction, you could buy clothes there that nobody else was selling. 

“The play is about two girls and what it means to them and their generation. One of the girls has applied for a job as a stylist there, that’s her dream job, and again that was something that was never a thing in Liverpool before Wade Smith.

Wade Smith

“It was the first time people had experienced that kind of personalised service, and it was exclusive – there wasn’t a rail full of 30 dresses or shirts, you knew if you were buying something there it was really unlikely anyone else would be wearing the same. That’s what made it feel special.”

The other big appeal, remembers Paul, was having a carrier bag with the Wade Smith name on.

“The bags were a status symbol, you’d rather be carrying a Wade Smith bag than a C&A or an Owen Owen one any day, so you’d go in and buy something cheap just to get the bag or you’d wait for the sales just so you could say you’d got something there.”

An original bag will appear in the play, which he plans to stage in August, although Paul had to do some searching to find one.

“I knew we must have one somewhere but I looked everywhere in the house, then I remembered some old suitcases in the garage and there was one in there – and I found another in the loft full of old birthday cards.

“Now we’ve got two to use in the show – they’re proper collector’s items!”

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