2 June 2013

Redfern & Sons (later Redfern Ltd.), was a British couture house, (open c.1850 to 1932; 1936–40) founded in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, England.

John Redfern (born Charles Poynter, from 11 November 1820 to 22 November 1895) started out as a tailor in Cowes in 1855, with the support of his sons, Ernest and Charles Poynter Redfern (1853-1929).

1860s- While the Second Republic left France (and the world of fashion) without fashionably-inspiring empress, the attention was on the Britain royal family. Alexandra of Denmark became Princess of Wales when she married Prince Edward in 1863 and although people admired her elegance, six consecutive pregnancies will hold remoteness nated from the spotlight until 1871, year of the departure of the Empress Eugenie. The mistress of the Prince Wales, Emilie Le Breton Langtry, also had a role as fashion icon. "Lillie" Langtry was the most illustrious"professional beauties" - women from good society and celebrated in the world for their paces - and thus became the first celebrity "muse". Lillie's hourglass-shaped silhouette contrasted with the slender appearance of Alexandra, but both were praised for their beauty and John Redfern contributed to one as for the other, imposing their styles. Redfern used both supreme customers of his as advertisement.

1869- One of the first acknowledged dresses from the house were the wedding dress and bridesmaids' outfits crafted for the wedding of the daughter of W.C. Hoffmeiter. The aristocracy noticed personalities from the high society and Redfern then realized the need of using the reputation of famous people to promote his fashion house. At this time, a change began to operate: people required appropriate clothes and diversified wardrobe for sports and leisures. Fashion magazines set the phrases such as costumes de marche and costumes de promenade (walking costumes), and costumes de bord de mer (seaside suits).

1881- They opened branches in London (Redfern Gallery in Old Bond Street is a legacy of their success), Manchester,  and in Nice, Cannes, Aix-les-Bains (south-eastern France), New York, Chicago, Newport (Rhode Island) opened in 1884-85

1885- The English aristocrats, the new rich American and many other personalities of high international Society went to Cowes for its regattas and also participated in other outdoor activities. The combination of pleasure, affluent and development of sports clothing, Redfern was found in good place at the right time. It was engaged in activities such refined as croquet and archery, but more physical sports such as hiking, golf and shooting gaining popularity and required wearing long skirts, while tennis became very popular and called for specific outfits and Redfern designed corsages and jersey dresses for tennis yachting, riding, and traveling suits.

Redfern Riding habit jacket Detail, 1885

Redfern walking suit, 1889
1891- there were Redfern & Sons branches in Edinburgh and Paris.  Ernest ran the London and New York branches, whilst Charles, and later, John Poynter Redfern, ran the Paris salon. Redfern opened a shop in Paris, led by Charles Poynter, opened alongside French couturiers like Worth, Doucet and Pingat. Supervised by Poynter, more shops were opened in France, especially in the ball-station in Deauville. In 1884, Redfern and Sons crossed the Atlantic and opened a boutique in New York led by Ernest, one of Redfern's sons while other dressmakers such as Lucile and Paquin already preceded him twenty years earlier. Stores in Paris and New York proposed the same choice in London, while in Newport, Rhode Island, and New York are addressed to customers resort. While in Paris, where Redfern was directly competing Worth with the two designers sought a broader market segment. While the House Worth its customers had to come to rue de la Paix, Redfern and Sons, with their branches in England, France and the United States, put their products available to a broader customer base.

1892- the company was changed to Redfern Ltd.

Outfit (Jacket/bodice), 1892, Medium : silk, glass, chiffon, jet. London, England Accession Number D187.a-c-1974 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

1895- The death of John Redfern had a little impact to the success of the company, although Redfern Ltd. transformed from a women tailor to the most prosperous international fashion company equal to Worth.

1903- The advertising placate below shows the address of his fashion house established in Paris, in 242, rue de Rivoli. It was for Robes de Bal, Diner & Soirees.

John Redfern was directing the adjustment and the process making of a dress, pointing and barking instructions to his "Redfern Bunnies", a name given to his assistants.

In early 20th century, Redfern created many gorgeous gowns which can survive until now.

Redfern evening dress, 1905

Court gown & train, 1907, courtesy of The FIDM Museum

It was worn by American Ann Bloomfield Gamble Post during her 1907 presentation to King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom.

1913- Redfern, like any other couturiers in that time, also launched perfumery line.

 Redfern perfume ads. Photo courtesy

1916- John Redfern created the first female uniform for the Red Cross Society.

Charles Poynter controlled the Paris shop, equalling Jacques Doucet and Jeanne Paquin, and the company participated in the World Expo in 1900. During the 1900s, Redfern Ltd. concentrated more on the couture business, away from but still offering the casual wear. This change was highlited by the closure of the original Cowes shop. Redfern continued well beyond the next decade. Redfern Ltd. eventually closed in 1932, briefly reopened in 1936, and closed again in 1940.

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