Many of the gorgeous vintage fashion 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.
Anne and Max Bruh, refugees from Nazi Germany, started the Frank Usher label in 1946. Due to restrictions at the time, the couple bought an existing company and repurposed it- hence the totally unrelated name Frank Usher.
Known as a brand that notes fresh, high-end details on the catwalk and used them to create affordable, ready to wear designs. Although the fashion world at the time sneered at the brand, Frank Usher clothes were popular, well made and flattering and they also stand the test of time.
Rhona Roy Fashion
Rhona Roy was a very nice brand but we know little about it. It traded during the ’50s until the ’70s, making 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 too.
Susan Small Fashion
A British ready-to-wear fashion label, best known for their party dresses and evening wear. They often used exotic prints to create interest on the piece.
Leslie and Fay Carr Jones founded Susan Small in the early 1940s. Maureen Baker joined 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 (repackaged as The Fashion House Group in 1953). Brian Duffy, later photographer and film producer, joined as an assistant designer in 1953. Susan Small bought the label Jane and Jane following Jean Muir’s departure in 1966. In the 1970s Courtaulds bought Susan Small et al.
The only information I have been able to find out about the Kitty Copeland brand is that it operated in the 1940s 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 exist plenty of gorgeous examples of the designs. Must have been very well made!
Lee Bender at Bus Stop
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, Bender created co-ordinating designs – 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.
Famous names wore Lee Bender’s designs, such as Brigitte Bardot, Marianne Faithfull, Pattie Boyd and Angie Bowie. However they also appealed to ordinary women as affordable and suitably wearable clothing.
Lee Bender at Bus Stop is now a collectable vintage label, and her designs have been displayed in exhibitions alongside contemporaries such as Ossie Clark and Biba.
In 1913 Jack Offenbach began Shubette in London. Designing, producing and supplying British stores. Well 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.
John Bates began designing as Jean Varon (a more glamorous name than his own) from the late 1950’s. His style is typically glamorous, swirly, slightly boho, well made, lots of fabric and just all-round-gorgeous.
He is perhaps best known for Diana Riggs‘ outfits when she starred as Emma Peel in The Avengers. But anyone who was anyone in the 1960s and 1970s wore John Bates’ designs. Cilla Black married in one of his designs, Julie Christie wore his dresses in the film Shampoo and the fashion pages of Vogue often carried them.