There was a time, not too long ago, when every corporate brochure, DM catalogue or promotional piece was printed on a gloss or silk stock.

Clients would ask with a knowing stare, ‘Is the stock triple blade coated?’, ‘How smooth is the sheet?’, ‘Is it bluey white or creamy white?’ Upon receipt of a sample of the proposed stock they would ​inform you that your competitor’s offering was far superior.

Oh, how times have changed. The designer buzzword now is texture. Silks and glosses are dismissed as so last century. In other words, if it isn’t on uncoated it is old hat, passé, distinctly not ‘A La Mode’. In fact, all a bit Penelope Keith meets the Women’s Institute.

However, this headlong race to whip off the coating, so to speak, creates a bit of a problem. Uncoated stocks do not reproduce detail particularly well. All that expensive moody photography disappears into an unholy miasma of mushy CMYK dots, which no amount of laminate, or foil blocking, can salvage.

You may well ask how did this happen? Who do we blame? How have we come to a point whereby we no longer care what the product, the very thing we are trying to promote, looks like, but instead just what it feels like?

The answer to this seemingly impenetrable conundrum can be answered in three words. Word one ‘Fashion’, words two and three are Jamie Oliver.

Back in the noughties, at the height of the Crown Prince of Clavering’s fame, the magazine that bears his moniker switched over to using an uncoated stock. Despite the fact that the food looked terrible on the page, in fact it was almost impossible to tell the difference between a bowl of moules mariniere and a smouldering pile of barbeque coals, the magazine sold in huge numbers.

People saw the circulation figures and instead of thinking “we need a cheeky chappy chef with lots of lovely mates” they thought “it must be the paper”, and so, a fashion was born

Fashion is such a fickle word. It is often misinterpreted as stylish. This could not be further from the truth. Fashion is sometimes stylish, whereas stylish is always fashionable. Mr and Mrs Kardashian may be in fashion but Mr and Mrs Clooney are stylish.

History has some hard lessons to teach us about the perils and pitfalls of following the latest fad.

In 1966, Mr Ray Davis, leader of the famed popular beat combo, The Kinks, opined the following lines for the first time

‘They seek him here, they seek him there,

His clothes are loud, but never square,

It will make or break him so he’s got to buy the best

‘Cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion’

Little could the hero of this whimsical ditty, the dedicated follower of fashion, have imagined that his chosen path would be a switchback littered with social upheaval, sartorial and musical triumphs, and disasters.

The 70’s brought us flares so voluminous you could hide half of South Korea up your right trouser leg. Spotty kids from Solihull to Southampton called Jason, Angela and Jennifer were clad in man-made materials so combustible they weren’t allowed within ten feet of their Gran’s gas fire.

Young girls, in platform shoes the height of the Forth Road Bridge, swooned over David Cassidy, while the cool crowd all tottered around in similarly ludicrous footwear worshipping at the altar of Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust, Monty Python and Joe Strummer.

The turn of the decade brought huge social upheaval to a country that was still in the process of discovering itself. The obvious causes of which were the advent of Punk and the election of a grocer’s daughter from Grantham to Downing Street. Both of which sought to change the way we lived forever. The idea of society was dead, long live the individual.

However, the 80’s, from a cultural point of view, were in reality dominated by two things, big hair and Delia Smith. Whilst Joshuas, Christophers and Nicoles all over the UK donned flouncy blouses and padded shoulders, prior to slapping on eyeliner, black lippy and dousing their locks in six cans of Harmony hairspray, their parents sat agog watching a frumpster from Norfolk. She told them how to knock up a snappy coq au vin with which to impress their friends while they listened to Sade on a continuous loop.

The 90’s were greeted by Gazza’s tears and we all learned that Nessun Dorma was an aria and not the left back for AC Milan. Areas across the UK were yuppyfied. Out with the corner shop, in with the coffee shop. The high streets of Britain bore a chilling resemblance to a warzone as Garys and Melissas everywhere cut a swathe through the High St lugging huge mobile phones with batteries the size of Cirencester.

Many of the above mentioned Gs and Ms collapsed with exhaustion after carrying the 300kg handset 10 yards, all so they could shout out at 110 decibels ‘Hello darling, I am calling you from my mobile, I am on the way home’. Tragic.

The 90’s also saw Olivers, Hannahs and Williams everywhere, greeted, not only by the Teletubbies, but by the birth of something that would change the world forever: The Internet.

The inventor of the WWW, Sir Tim Berners Lee (whose name I always think sounds like he should be opening the batting for Middlesex at Lords) has to rank alongside the all time great brain boxes, such as; Watt, Einstein, Nietzsche, Stephenson and Alexander Graham Bell. That is unless you come from Wilmslow or Chigwell, in which case your heroine of choice is more likely to be Eva Wittgenstein, an early pioneer in the spray-on tan business.

With the sounds of Nirvana, Oasis, Blur and Cool Britannia fading away we drifted helplessly into the horrors of the D list celebrity Noughties.

In the Noughties any form of talent was the last thing that you needed to ‘Make it Big’ in the public consciousness. Big Brother, Towie, The Voice, Strictly –  all very Z Factor.

This blandness was all played out to a soundtrack from artists whose names would make a great scrabble score, Jay Z, NWA, Kanye West. They came straight out of Compton and straight into High Wycombe and Tunbridge Wells. Teenage boys called Sebastian, Josh and Jamie donned their hoodies and baggy pants, and along with their ‘Hoes’ Jemima and Imogen, embraced the music of a culture they couldn’t be further removed from. The nearest they ever got to the ‘Hood’ was to don a parka.

As you can see from the above the finger of history is not always kind to the dedicated follower of fashion. So unless you are peddling a line in bespoke Mongolian Yurts, personalised Szechuan pepper grinders or other such artisan wares, get yourself some decent coated paper, a stylish design, a set of High Resolution proofs, and get ready to show the world what you really have to offer, and not a pale imitation of it. Your product deserves no less!


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