Dressing Sydney is brought to life through an exquisite collection of rare photographs, garments and accessories. This exhibition, a collaborative partnership with The University of Technology Sydney, presents shimmer and shine and plenty of glamour.
But the beginnings of the industry are far more humble. Sydney Jewish Museum’s current exhibition, “uses testimonies and oral histories from over 100 contributors to describe the successes and failures of family businesses of Jewish immigrant and Holocaust survivors” says Curator Shannon Maguire.
Companies filling gaps in the market – then and now – such as Jets swimwear, Bloch ballet suppliers and the American Shoe company also tell their histories.
The big name brands of Lowes, Katie’s, Best & Less are all represented as well as the rise of individual couture houses such as Anthony Squires, Hammerman Furs, Cornelius Furs and more modern counterparts like Peter Weiss and Dinosaur Designs. Companies filling gaps in the market – then and now – such as Seafolly and Jets swimwear, Bloch ballet suppliers and the American Shoe company also tell their histories. The story of Vogue founder Bernard Leser is told as adjunct to the voices of seamstresses, cutters, designers and retailers.
The deliberate inclusion of a cross-section of the industry makes the show appealing, personal and defines the interconnectedness of industry and Jewish culture. Maguire says “we tried to be very democratic, we could have just pulled out the big names but we didn’t want to do that”. For immigrants coming to Australia as in other parts of the world employment in the ‘scmutter’ trade (a Jewish slang term for the clothing trade) was the way they survived, many of them having to reinvent themselves after the tremendous trauma and upheaval.
This exhibition has something for everyone – lovers of fine fabric, furs and frocks definitely should get along, but those interested in personal story, social history and Sydney’s past will also find it a must-see.
Closes 31 December, so hurry!
Video courtesy of Australian Jewish News Television.