New major exhibition announced with public call out for iconic pieces of fashion history

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New major exhibition announced with public call out for iconic pieces of fashion history
Bowie dress designed by Mr Fish © Trinity Mirror, Mirrorpix, Alamy Stock Photo.

LONDON.- The Museum of London Docklands unveiled plans for its major exhibition, Fashion City: How Jewish Londoners Shaped Global Style (13 October 2023-14 April 2024). For the first time, the exhibition will uncover the major contribution of Jewish designers in making London an iconic fashion city.

From East End tailors to the couture salons of the West End, the exhibition tells the story of Jewish designers, makers and retailers responsible for some of the most recognisable looks of the 20th century. Those who fought against the odds to become leading figures in their industries, founded retail chains still present on the high street today, and whose businesses boosted the British post-war economy.

Featuring fashion and textiles, oral histories, objects, ephemera and photography, Fashion City will use the places and spaces of London to weave together individual stories with a broader social history.

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.

“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.”

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)

Anyone who has information about the location of these objects are asked to email with any information.

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. During his career, the designer shunned the concept of gendered clothing, both by revitalising staples of menswear and playing with entirely innovative silhouettes for men. Known for inventing the ‘Kipper tie’, his distinctive tailoring including bold colours and luxurious fabrics, were worn by a range of A-listers including Jimi Hendrix, Pablo Picasso, Muhammad Ali, and Michael Caine. His gender-fluid style continues to have relevance today, reflected in designs worn by pop culture icons including Harry Styles and Billy Porter.

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. His designs were worn by many rich and famous clients including Wallis Simpson and screen star Greta Garbo.

“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.”

Offering new insights from in-depth curatorial research, Fashion City: How Jewish Londoners Shaped Global Style will be the first major exhibition in two decades centred on the museum’s extensive Dress & Textile collection. Past major exhibitions have featured Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation dress, Anna Pavlova’s Dying Swan costume (one of only three thought to survive) and a selection of Vivienne Westwood’s most famous designs.

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