Post-war fashion blog article (pt.2)
25Aug

Label me fabulous: an exploration of post-war fashion (pt:2)

Many of the gorgeous vintage items we see at Repsycho have an interesting label – research has proved that many also have an amazing history!

The British fashion industry certainly produced some cracking designs in the post-war era! Sadly, some of these design labels have left little information about either the designer or the label.

The Frank Usher label was started by Anne and Max Bruh, refugees from Nazi Germany, in 1946. Due to restrictions at the time, the couple bought an existing company and repurposed it- hence the totally unrelated name Frank Usher.

The brand was known as one that notes fresh, high-end details on the catwalk and used them to create affordable, ready to wear designs. Although sneered at by the fashion world at the time, Frank Usher clothes were popular, well made and flattering and they also stand the test of time.

Rhona Roy was a very nice brand, but little is known about it. It seems to have traded during the ’50s until the ’70s. It seems to have made really pretty cotton dresses very well! Dress patterns were also available.

There was a mainline labelled simply “Rhona Roy” and a line for teenage girls called, ‘Young ideas by Rhona Roy’.

Susan Small was a British ready-to-wear fashion label, best known for their party dresses and evening wear. They were often using exotic prints to create interest on the piece.

Founded by Leslie and Fay Carr Jones in the early 1940s Susan Small was joined by Maureen Baker in 1943 as head designer, she remained until the company closed. One of Baker’s most famous design projects was that of Princess Anne’s wedding dress in 1973.

In 1947, Susan Small joined forces with other fashion design companies including Horrockses and Polly Peck, to form the Model House Group. In 1953, Brian Duffy, later photographer and film producer, joined as an assistant designer, having studied dress design at Saint Martin’s School of Art.

In 1958, Model House Group became the Fashion House Group, headed by Carr Jones. Susan Small bought the label Jane and Jane (ran by Jane Muir in the early 60s) following Muir’s departure in 1966.

Dress labels are to be found bearing the name: Jane and Jane by Susan Small. It continued for several years before quietly disappearing circa 1970. In the 1970s Susan Small et al. were bought by Courtaulds.

Susan Small label
Susan Small label

The only information I have been able to find out about the Kitty Copeland brand is that it seems to have been operating in the 40s and into the 1970s. This information has been gleaned from discussions about dating items; otherwise, no other information seems to be out there, although there are plenty of gorgeous examples of the designs. Must have been very well made!

Wanting a new outlet for their manufacturing business, Lee Bender and her husband Cecil opened a new store in London in 1968, called BUS STOP. She quickly became synonymous with the popular clothing store for which she designed the collections.

An original idea at the time, designs were produced to co-ordinate – clothes could be easily matched with each other. Tops, jackets, coats and sweaters were made as matching ensembles, with the opportunity to purchase trousers, dresses, skirts and accessories to combine with your outfit or wear as separates.

Lee Bender’s designs were worn by famous names such as Brigitte Bardot, Marianne Faithfull, Pattie Boyd and Angie Bowie, but they were also affordable and suitably wearable to ordinary women.

Lee Bender at Bus Stop is now a collectable vintage label, and she has had her designs displayed in exhibitions alongside contemporaries such as Ossie Clark and Biba.

Shubette is a family business based in London which was begun by Jack Offenbach in 1913. Designing, producing and supplying British stores, they were known for women’s special occasion wear with beautiful detail and elegance while maintaining a fun and youthful vibe.

The company expanded internationally and became a leading fashion name which is still a family concern. Today Gina Bacconi is the power brand of the Shubette group and is still synonymous with glamourous event clothing.

Shubette label
Shubette label

John Bates was a designer who produced a label called Jean Varon (a more glamorous name than his own).

He started designing under the name Jean Varon from the late 1950s, and he is perhaps best known for Diana Riggs’ outfits when she starred as Emma Peel in The Avengers.

His style is typically glamorous, swirly, slightly boho, well made, lots of fabric and just all-round-gorgeous.

Anyone who was anyone in the 1960s and 1970s wore John Bates’ designs. Cilla Black got married in one of his designs, Julie Christie wore his dresses in the film ‘Shampoo’ and the fashion pages of Vogue were always filled with them.

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