Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Changing Face of Jean Varon

Armstrongs returns to Ebay this week and we have unearthed some absolute gems from the archive.  At auction as I type away we have some vintage Burberry and Aquascutum for the gents, and an array of 1950s lace prom dresses for the ladies not to mention a vintage Harris Tweed 50s swing coat.  Our star item has to be an original 1950s Lewis Leather Biker jacket but there is one other item that is getting its fair share of the lime-light; a 1970s Jean Varon maxi dress.  I have done some further investigation to expose a little of the history behind this lesser known brand.

In 2006 The Fashion Museum in Bath held a retrospective exhibition of the work of a radical designer by the name of John Bates.  Since 1959 Bates had been working under the Jean Varon label creating cutting edge pieces alongside designers such as Jean Muir and Zandra Rhodes, names now synonymous with the 1970s.  John Bates slipped out of the history books and into obscurity in the 80s when his own label went under however it seems that he still has a devoted following creating a fierce market for his avant-garde Op Art prints of the 60s and 70s.

This label from a piece Bates designed in 1973 is an exact replica of the label inside our maxi dress pictured above and allows us to precisely date our item.  I have also located a similar item from the same year in none other than The V&A archive!  To offer a stylistic comparison we also came across this later 1980s Tom Bowker design for Jean Varon.   While not as collectable this too is a beautiful item and just goes to show that while label design may imitate the times, a brand must always keep one step ahead to survive!  

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