The Museum of London Docklands is planning an exhibition later this year on London’s Jewish fashion designers and is looking for people to contribute items for display. From East End tailors to the couture salons of the West End, the exhibition aims to tell the story of Jewish designers, makers and retailers responsible for some of the most recognisable looks of the 20th century.

Sean Connery at men’s outfitters having clothes made to measure, for James Bond Film (c) Harry Myers, Shutterstock

Representing all levels of the fashion industry at key moments throughout the twentieth century, the exhibition will allow visitors to step into the world of a 1960s Carnaby Street shopping boutique and a traditional tailoring workshop from the East End.

Alongside pieces from its own collection, the Museum of London Docklands is searching for high-profile items created by leading designers, including:

  • Menswear pieces made by Mr Fish and worn by famous names such as Sean Connery, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Muhammad Ali and Michael Caine
  • Menswear pieces made by Cecil Gee and worn by famous names such The Beatles
    1930s or 1940s womenswear pieces made by Rahvis and worn by famous names, including Hollywood film stars
  • Hats made by Otto Lucas and worn by famous names such as Greta Garbo or Wallis Simpson
  • Theatre costume made by Neymar for Cecil Landau’s production of Sauce Tartare (1949)
  • 1930s gowns made by dressmaker Madame Isobel (Isobel Spevak Harris)

“Jewish people were working at all levels of the fashion industry in London throughout the twentieth century but the extent of their contribution has been widely unrecognised,” says Fashion Curator Dr Lucie Whitmore. “Jewish makers established the ready to wear industry, worked their way into the highest levels of London fashion and dominated Carnaby Street in the swinging sixties. Many of these designers were internationally famous – favoured by the rich and famous and highly respected for their creativity, skill, and originality. It’s a contribution that deserves to be recognised.”

Mr Fish, who designed David Bowie’s dress worn on the album cover of The Man Who Sold the World and Sean Connery’s 007 shirts, was well known as a leading figure of the Peacock Revolution. Known for inventing the ‘Kipper tie’, his distinctive tailoring includes bold colours and luxurious fabrics.

Otto Lucas was a German-born gay Jewish man who came to London in the 1930s. He was incredibly famous and known as one of the most successful milliners of all time. He put London on the map for high-end millinery and was featured regularly in Vogue, with his hats appearing on the cover multiple times.

“This exhibition is a real celebration of the excellence of London fashion, highlighting the fantastic contribution of London’s immigrant communities,” says Dr Whitmore. “To tell the all-encompassing story, we want to locate other pieces by these designers and would love anyone who knows their whereabouts to get in touch and help us showcase their work and legacy.”

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5 comments
  1. Hilary Wrightman says:

    I Have my grandmother’s wedding dress that was made by a Jewish seamstress for her wedding in 1900.
    It was made in the East End of London and needs some tender loving care.
    I have a wedding photograph as well
    Is this of interest to you?

    • Ruth ( Cookie) White says:

      My mother Jean Conn was a top designer in the 50’s and 60s with salons in Clifford St. and South Molton St. Mayfair.She was VERY well known. I have 5 dresses here which I would be happy to ‘loan’ to your exhibition but wouldn’t want to part with them permanently-too precious to me.Her clents were celebs./ aristocracy/ and, of course, her Jewish clientele! I worked in South Molton St. in the 60s and loved every minute of it.I have been a dressmaker/ designer my whole life, my mother’s mother was a dressmaker and my grandfather had a trouser factory in the East End. My granddaughter also makes clothes-so 4 generations!

  2. jackie says:

    I have a 1950’s wedding dress that was made by hand by a jewish seamstress, can send you a pic if needed

  3. Janet Taplin says:

    My mother worked for Jean Conn in the 1950’s she recently passed away and I now have found her work book with designs and clients measurements and bills

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