For someone who loves fashion and all things about the history of fashion, this next designer is someone who I knew little about. Surprising, since my favourite eras in fashion are The Jazz Age and The Golden Age, which this designer fits right into. It’s slightly embarrassing that I have only recently discovered the true talent and beauty of British born designer Edward Molyneux, but I’m so glad I did. I have seen many of his pieces exhibited in shows I have been to, but never knew anything about the man behind them all. It was difficult researching this genius of design as many of my vintage fashion books glazed over him as a designer. But I kept digging and found some stunning images and information on his work. So if you’re keen to know more about another grand couturier from the 1920’s, then join me on this next stylish instalment on Anastacia Rose Blog!
Captain Edward Molyneux was born in London on 5th September 1891 as was of Irish decent. The story of his early childhood remains much untold. When he was sixteen, Molyneux dropped out of school after the death of his father, to begin working to support himself and his mother. Molyneux had a keen interest in painting, and it was this form of art that he initially pursued. Working as a sketch artist, Molyneux entered a competition with a sketch of an evening dress. He won, and his career in fashion was born. This award introduced Molyneux to the prominent and influential Lady Duff Gordon, who hired Molyneux to work for her in her English fashion house Lucile. Here Molyneux nurtured and crafted his own talents and styles, and became a leader in the style game.
After gaining such valuable experience and knowledge, Molyneux branched out on his own, and established his own house in 1919 in Paris, with a philosophy based on seamless elegance. The designers’ success rose quickly in the nineteen twenties, with women from all walks of life recognising his name. From the aristocratic women of wealth and heritage, to the café society flappers, Molyneux mixed with them all, and was happy to dress any woman who was tall and slender. His creations were not showy, with emphasis placed on the cut and fabric that was used rather than embellishments. His designs were not only chic but also wearable, with a refined elegance that capsulated the Jazz Age. When the decade evolved into the 1930’s, Molyneux adopted the bias cut, with his sheath gowns a display of sculptural simplicity. One of his most recognised outfits was that of a backless gown, bias cut, and finished off with a fur draped effortlessly over the models shoulders.
The 1930’s saw Molyneux cross paths with some famous clientele, which only emphasised his position in the world of fashion. He designed costumes for the stage during this decade, and also the wedding gown and trousseau for Princess Marina of Greece in 1934. The colour pallet in which Molyneux dabbled was most simplistic, with black, navy, grey and beige featuring heavily in all his collections throughout time. Also in the 1930’s, Molyneux displayed luxurious coats made of velvet, and was one designer who adopted the matching dress and coat look of the era. Towards the end of the decade, Molyneux started to experiment with changing the silhouette of the waist, making it narrower and more fitted to the models own features. This is a look that was largely successful during the 1940’s thanks to Dior’s “New Look”. With the radiant success of his House, Molyneux was able to diversify and introduced to his company a line of furs, lingerie, millinery and perfume. All were a success.
With the looming threat of a Second World War, Molyneux escaped Paris for London. Here he was conscripted into the British Army, where he served as an infantry captain. He served his time in the army, and suffered health issues as a result. He lost the vision in one of his eyes. Post war, Molyneux returned to Paris to try and pick up where he left off. Unfortunately due to his ailing health he could not return to the greatness that he had been known for. In 1950, Molyneux retired to Jamaica, and watched the world of fashion flourish in a new direction. Some years later, in 1965, Molyneux flirted with the idea of making a comeback. For a brief time he came out of retirement, but much had changed in the realm of fashion and Molyneux no longer had the passion or the energy to reinvent himself.
At the age of eighty three, Edward Molyneux passed away in 1974. During his time in the luxury world of couture, he achieved greatness. His designs have stood the test of time, and now take their place in the history of fashion. They are inspiring, elegant, timeless and breathtaking in their simplicity. A sketch artist, war veteran and fashion design. It’s a resume that reads well and honours the success of this great man. At a time when the French largely dominated the runway, this quiet British achiever well and truly left his mark. You just have to search a little deeper to find him, that’s all!
Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx