National Portrait Gallery, Glamour



Glamour Factory was devised and curated by Contemporary Vintage, in collaboration with Guerilla Science and The Broken Hearts. This was held as a Friday Late Shift Extra event, to support the exhibition Glamour of the Gods at the National Portrait Gallery, and sponsored by FTI Consulting.

Glamour Factory broke all previous public events records with over 5,000 attendees, successfully attracting an 18-35 fashion forward audience. Contemporary Vintage liaised closely with the gallery’s marketing and PR departments, and achieved the highest press coverage ever received for a public event.

“The partnership with Contemporary Vintage has been an amazing collaborative experience”  Helen Whiteoak, Head of Participation, National Portrait Gallery.


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Glamour Factory took over all four floors of the National Portrait Gallery, transforming it into the NPG Film Studio. Participatory activities, workshops and a debate were programmed, recreating Hollywood’s studio star system. The gallery’s historic portraits, period film stars and contemporary celebrities were used as examples, for the audience to deconstruct the elements behind glamour.

“Contemporary Vintage delivered a diverse and rich mix of events with different levels of engagement…the event became a Friday night destination…and generated strong social media interest” – Helen Whiteoak, Head of Participation, National Portrait Gallery
“You should be ecstatic to get such a huge crowd of fashionable under-30s in on a Friday night, it was a phenomenal triumph! I had quite a few moments where I felt quite speechless to see the whole spectacle”  Audience response


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Themed on a black and white dress code, the audience were handed an NPG Film Studio contract on arrival, informing them of the different departments they were to report into. Each department was based on a different aspect of the star system, to learn these skills and be transformed into matinee idols and film goddesses.

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A cocktail lounge was hosted and curated by The Broken Hearts, with Contemporary Vintage securing Hendrick’s Gin as its sponsor. The lounge was themed with live performances drawn from London’s leading cabaret and burlesque scene, based on the 1920s – 1950s.

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Seven studio departments were held, including Image is Everything, Myth Machine and School for Scandal. These were based on exploring the different aspects that go into creating a public image such as psychology, neuroscience, physionomy, gender and mortality.

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A Vintage Twitter Bureau was set up with typewriters, for the audience to write in 140 characters or less their most glamorous or scandalous aspirations. These were then pinned to an old-style notice board for all to view. Twitter hashtags were created representing film stars, for the audience to tweet their questions. A vintage-styled secretary tweeted responses in the role of the stars, from a laptop hidden within a period typewriter case. These were projected live, for the audience to compare and contrast the roles of old and new technologies.

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Photo Booth Out of Order recreated a Hollywood portrait studio, teaching the audience how to pose and capturing 94 black and white portraits in 100 minutes. Visitors met with a graphic artist to explore the retouching process, and consider how portraiture through history has been used to project an image.

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The Broken Hearts co-curated A Glamorous Debate examining the power of dress, between leading anthropologist Ted Polhemus, fashion stylist and broadcaster Grace Woodward, professor of neuroaesthetics Semir Zaki and Award-Winning costume designer of Gladiator Janty Jates. A live recording of the event was held, featuring interviews by The Broken Hearts with the debate guests, and broadcast on their Peppermint Candy radio show on Jazz FM.

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Contemporary Vintage secured cutting edge makeup brand Illamasqua, to create a highly popular Vintage Visage makeover department.

“Such a wonderful event, the overall response from all areas has been a really positive” – Spob O’Brien, Head of Professional Development, Illamasqua
“A big success in terms of numbers, range of crowd, buzz and variety. The crowd spotting, the music, the showmanship of what people were wearing all added extra dimensions to the evening” – Audience response 


Wellcome Collection, Feast >