Museum seeks Bowie dress for show spotlighting Jewish designers | The fashion industry

Wanted: David Bowie’s dress, Greta Garbo’s hats and the shirt worn by Sean Connery in his first role as James Bond.

They are iconic items of 20th century clothing – but their whereabouts are unknown. Now London’s Docklands Museum has launched a public appeal for help in finding these and other garments ahead of a major exhibition planned for later this year.

The missing clothes are significant because of what they have in common: they were all created by Jewish designers working in the London fashion scene, a legacy the museum believes has been overlooked.

“Jewish people worked at all levels of London’s fashion industry during the 20th century, but the scale of their contributions has been widely unknown,” said Dr Lucie Whitmore, curator of fashion at the museum.

While East End tailors and shoemakers may be well-known, she believes few recognize the influence of Jewish designers and makers at all levels of the fashion trade, from the creation of the ready-to-wear industry to mainstream fashion meccas like Carnaby Street in the 1960s. .

“The new research has allowed us to uncover some really rich personal stories that show the contributions those people made to the London fashion industry.”

Among them is Mr Fish, born Michael Fish in Wood Green, north London, in 1940. He rose from cleaning counters in a London shop to working for some of the capital’s leading tailors before opening the shop his, which quickly became a destination for the fashionable set.

He dressed Connery, Princess Margaret and Jimi Hendrix, made the garment worn by Muhammad Ali in Rumble in the Jungle, invented the necktie and – infamously – invented the ‘man dress’, examples of which were worn by Mick Jagger in Hyde Park. in 1969, and by Bowie on the cover of The Man Who Sold the World, which Whitmore calls “an absolute dream piece to find”.

“He was quite a radical thinker in terms of how he approached the dynamics of gender in his design and we want to celebrate the contribution he made,” she said. “I think he deserves to be a household name.”

Also in demand are hats made by Otto Lucas, a German-born Jew whose Bond Street label enjoyed huge global success in the post-war years and whose clients included Garbo and Wallis Simpson, and more elusive names such as Rahvis , a fashion label worn by the aristocracy. and film stars, and Madame Isobel, called “London’s leading dress designer” in the 1930s, but whose surviving pieces are rare.

Not all of these various characters will relate to their Jewishness in the same way, Whitmore admits, but with around 60-70% of Jewish immigrants to London in the early 20th century working in the fashion trade or textile, “for a lot of people, this is a really personal story,” she said.

“We’re not going to talk about a shared experience, but we’re using Jewishness as a lens through which we can see fashion in London. When you do that, you realize that the contribution of the Jewish people is massive and really important, and we’re just celebrating that.

Fashion City: How Jewish Londoners Shaped Global Style opens October 13 at the Museum of London Docklands. Anyone with information about the items in question is asked to contact the museum before March 1

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