Redfern (couture)

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Redfern suit called "Rugby", illustrated in the Gazette du Bon Ton, April 1914

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. By the 1890s it had branches in London, Paris, Edinburgh, and New York.


John Redfern (11 November 1820 - 22 November 1895) started out as a tailor in Cowes in 1855.[1][2] With the support of Ernest Redfern and Charles Poynter Redfern (1853-1929), John Redfern opened a salon in London in 1881, followed by shops in New York and Rhode Island in 1884-85, and by 1891, there were Redfern & Sons branches in Edinburgh and Paris.[1][2][3] Ernest ran the London and New York branches, whilst Charles, and later, John Poynter Redfern, ran the Paris salon.[1][2] From 1892, when Redfern's sons took control of the business, the house became known as Redfern Ltd. Redfern Ltd. eventually closed in 1932, briefly reopened in 1936, and closed again in 1940.[3]

By 1871 Redfern had expanded his tailoring business to include the design and sale of silk dresses and mourning dress.[1] During that decade Redfern & Sons began offering clothing specifically for sport, with tailored garments for women who rode, played tennis, went yachting, and did archery. Although intended for specific sporting pursuits, these clothes were adopted as everyday wear by their clients, making Redfern probably the first sportswear designer.[3] In 1879 the house created a dress in jersey which was worn by Lillie Langtry who became known as the 'Jersey lily' (from her birthplace in Jersey).[1] In 1888, Redfern became Dressmaker By Royal Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen and H.R.H. The Princess of Wales.

Redfern Ltd. is one of the designers credited with helping popularise the high-waisted so-called Grecian style of 1908.[1] At this time, and into the early 1910s, the house's designs were often illustrated in la Gazette du Bon Ton with six leading Paris designers of the day – Louise Chéruit, Georges Doeuillet, Jacques Doucet, Jeanne Paquin, Paul Poiret, and the House of Charles Worth. In 1916 Redfern created the first women's uniform for the Red Cross.[1]


Redfern designs as illustrated in La Gazette du Bon Ton, 1912-14.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • North, Susan (2008) "John Redfern and Sons, 1847 to 1892" Costume 42: pp. 145–68
  • North, Susan (2009) "Redfern Limited, 1892 to 1940" Costume 43: pp. 85–108


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Callan, Georgina O'Hara (1998), The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Fashion and Fashion Designers, London: Thames & Hudson, ISBN 0-500-20313-X 
  2. ^ a b c "1890 Doll" in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, New York
  3. ^ a b c Redfern suit, circa 1911 in the collections database of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London