Museum is looking for a Bowie dress for a show to draw attention to Jewish designers

Wanted: a David Bowie dress, Greta Garbo hats and the shirts Sean Connery wore in his first James Bond role.

They are iconic pieces of 20th-century clothing – but their whereabouts are unknown. Now the Museum of London Docklands has launched a public appeal for help locating these and other pieces of clothing ahead of a major exhibition scheduled for later this year.

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

“Jews worked at all levels of the fashion industry in London throughout the 20th century, but the extent of their contributions was widely unrecognized,” said Dr Lucie Whitmore, curator of fashion at the museum.

While East End tailors and shoemakers may be famous, he believes few are aware of the influence Jewish designers and makers had on all levels of the fashion industry, from the establishment of the garment industry to dominant fashion meccas such as Carnaby Street in the 1960s. .

“New research has allowed us to pull out some really rich personal stories that show the contribution these people have made to London’s 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 department store to working for the capital’s leading tailors before opening his own shop, which quickly became a destination for fashionable ensembles.

He dressed Connery, Princess Margaret and Jimi Hendrix, sewed the robe worn by Muhammad Ali in Rumble in the Jungle, invented the herringbone tie and notoriously invented the “men’s dress” exemplified by Mick Jagger in Hyde Park in 1969 and 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 when it came to approaching gender dynamics in his project, and we want to celebrate his contributions,” she said. “I think it deserves to be called a household name.”

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

Not all of these diverse figures were related to their Jewishness in the same way, Whitmore admits, but it is estimated that 60-70% of Jewish immigrants to London in the early 20th century worked in the fashion or textile trades, “for many people, this really personal story,” she said.

“We won’t talk about one common experience, but we use Jewishness as a lens through which we look at London fashion. When you do that, you realize that the contribution of the Jewish people is huge and really important, and we celebrate that.”

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

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