The Artistry of Jean Peron Couture
Jean Peron Couture was a thriving couture establishment with outlets in Paris and London that flourished in the Jazz Age. During the 1920s Peron received glowing praise for its gowns in publications such as The Queen and The Times and The Era announced in one feature that ‘Peron prides himself on always being a little in front of fashion.’
Peron’s Parisian salon was located at 2 Rue de Paix and it is a good guess that the company was founded at the end of the First World War like so many others. It would appear there was no real M. Jean Peron since the company was under the direction, and fronted by, a M. Maurice, who clearly was believed to be Jean Peron himself.
In the autumn of 1920 Peron Couture Ltd was inaugurated in London at 184-186 Regent Street with a collection of six hundred new creations. Four creations were highlighted. The first, a mauve bustled taffeta dress with from the hips a flounce of the new dyed lace and fastened into the belt a beautiful jade green and blue flower. Second, a black crepe de chine frock with an over dress of coarse lace dyed to match, the whole ornamented with gold gallon lined with jade. Third, a dress with a bodice with cerise-dropped velvet top, the velvet being swathed to form a belt and side sash, while the skirt was of jet and silver embroidered net. Finally, there as a magnificent gold gauze creation intermingled with black and blue with a large blue-gold motif and both the train and corsage.
Peron knew the importance of the London stage as a vehicle for publicity and immediate stage commissions were secured and Peron dressed French Leave (1920) and Renee Kelly in The Heart of a Child (1921). The firm went on to furnish the gowns for at least twenty West End productions in the 1920s and dressed individual stars. For example, in January 1922, Evelyn Laye and Clarice Mayne were photographed in Eve magazine wearing Peron gowns. Peron also created gowns for Jenny Golder in the revue Avec le Sourire (March, 1921) at the Casino de Paris, Paris.
Peron’s spring collection in March 1921 received considerable attention. ‘There is nothing outré about Peron’s gowns; they are artistic in the best sense of the word and beauty of line, marvellous cut and attention to the smallest detail that would enhance their charm make them second to none.’ Particular mention was made of a dress with silver sequins and massed pearls from headdress to wrist, a range of Pompadour gowns, a silver ‘paillets’ gown with enormous mauve bow forming a double tissue train, a pale pink diaphanous Georgette with long hip draperies of charmeuse satin and a graceful bodice with diamante shoulder straps and a moonlight blue creation with rose shaded uncurled ostrich feathers for skirt trimming.
Throughout 1922 Peron was in great demand and created gowns for the show Jenny at the Empire and The Nutcracker Suite, To be Continued, The Hand of Death, The Better Half, London’s Grand Guidnol at the Little Theatre.
The dress designer Dolly Tree was clearly swift off the mark to realise the potential of Peron’s artistry and commissioned him execute all her of gowns for Julian Wylie’s spectacular revue at the Hippodrome, Round In 50 (1922).
By the spring of 1922, Peron had moved to bigger premises at 184 -186 Regent Street. One of his models from his spring 1922 show was regarded as ‘exquisite’ by the Queen. Made of acier silver lace that had a curious net-like quality it was mounted over a sheath of silver tissue that gleamed through the lace mesh. There was a little triangular shaped vest disclosed by the line of the overdress where a diamond and jet square clasp gave a handsome finish.
The following year Peron provided all the modern gowns from designs by Dolly Tree for Julian Wylie’s next show Brighter London (1923) at the Hippodrome, Dion Titheradge’s Toni (1923) which had an initial regional run and a series of gowns for Anita Elson and Maidie Hope to wear in C.B. Cochran’s show Little Nellie Kelly at the New Oxford. One model worn by Anne Croft in Brighter London was particularly admired and featured a velvet cloak embroidered in silver, black and Egyptian blue jewelled with aquamarines and bordered with white fur and ermine tails.
The spring collection of 1923 saw considerable Egyptian influence (because of the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in November 1922). One model was created out of a new rippled lame in orchid mauve and leaf green. The under bodice was of gold tissue, with a clasp of varied stones. There was also a frock featuring an almond green lace overdress, superimposed on a sheath of black satin, with a girdle repeating the tones of black and green. There was also a blue day frock with upstanding frill of organdie edged with red a hip girdle weighted with two huge tassels one red and one white. Most conspicuous however were the fans. Every mannequin in an evening frock carried one –. from pheasant feathers dyed every conceivable shade, lace fans edged with feather fronds and fans of lace with ostrich feathers.
There had been reports in the summer of 1923 that Peron Couture was going into liquidation, but the business seemingly carried on. Clearly, Peron must have been impressed with Dolly Tree because in August 1923 she was appointed as designer. With fashion styles changing so radically and the innovative trends being set by the new French female designers such as Chanel and Vionnet, Peron must have thought that her appointment would be of immense benefit. Peron clearly recognised her skill and realised the importance of securing the fresh new talent of a young, energetic and thoroughly modern woman who would be able to present new and more innovative contemporary collections. He would have also been fully aware of the fact that the London branch of Paquin had employed Elspeth Phelps in February 1923 which precipitated considerable media interest and that it was prudent to employ a British house designer for his London salon.
In all probability the first Peron collection that Dolly Tree would have been involved with would have been the autumn shows of 1923. The Queen magazine thought that Peron’s new models were ‘very Parisian in their originality.’ The hallmarks of this collection included the unveiling of what was referred to as an unusual and fascinating new skirt developed by Peron and Reville and the introduction of a new shade of blue. The skirt was plain to the knees, then flared out in flounces or frills. It was decided that this new skirt would need a good deal of handling, but because it was new it would probably catch on.
It was also observed that he was clever at devising frocks that – ‘to use the word much in vogue and perfectly horrible – slenderise us.’ The Times thought that Peron’s models were ‘quite distinctive’ and expressed a ‘quiet good taste.’ Peron apparently used a great deal of chiffon velvet for fur-trimmed long coats and he was not afraid to use it in colours as well as black, securing an extraordinary effect of slimness. There were also sheath like frocks that featured simple drapery and a range of black frocks for day wear in charmeuse and heavy morocain with collars and cuffs of organdie or ruffled valenciennes. The new line had a slenderising effect and at another Peron show at the Carlton Club, one coat illustrated this by the skilful use of narrow panels on the bodice, which widened to give a godet effect below the hips almost to the hem. There were also hand painted velvet and picture frocks on Grecian lines and every wrap coat and cloak was reversible.
In late 1923 Peron presented his St Moritz Collection of specially designed winter sports suits, evening gowns, furs and sketches for fancy dresses by Dolly Tree. There were Peron gowns from Dolly Tree’s designs in The Little Revue Starts At 9 (October 1923).
But for two major West ends shows in 1924 – Leap Year at the Hippodrome and The Punch Bowl at the Duke of Yorks – Dolly Tree turned to Josephine Earle to create the modern gowns. The fact that Earle was chosen above Peron must reflect the second phase of turmoil Peron Ltd was seemingly going through at this time, since the company was placed into voluntary liquidation in January 1924 and this would have been about the time that Dolly Tree would have been planning the wardrobe for these shows. Clearly Peron was not able to fulfil her requirements and instead she gave the commission to Earle who had just opened her own fashion house the previous season in late 1923.
However, the company was re-launched again very quickly as Peron (1924) Ltd in March 1924 at the new address of 235 Regent Street with mannequin parades at 3-5pm on 24th, 25th and 26th March with tea and music. At this time Peron was described as court dressmakers and furriers. This second phase of activity may have been marked with a greater deal of involvement in the company on the part of Dolly Tree, since according to Billboard a few years later, Dolly Tree was described as sole designer for Peron Modiste, explaining that as a result she had created gowns for practically every prominent European artist.
In the spring collection of 1924, black and magpie dresses were very noticeable. Some were black with white trimmings, others opened over a white underskirt, and there was also a long white crepe de chine coat over a black satin frock, the hem and back of the sleeves embroidered in red and black. A black charmeuse was perfectly plain in front with a fringe filled V opening at the side and a tunic at the back finished with two triangular pieces fringed at the ends.
Further stage credits in 1924 included Lord O’Creation (at the Savoy), Private Room Number and Peter Weston at the Comedy. Peron also created a wardrobe for Doreen Read who with her partner Davico was the featured dancers at the Carlton Restaurant in early 1924. The most admired was made of yellow georgette edged with no less than 150 little black and white ermine tails.
Dolly Tree selected further Peron models for inclusion in Julian Wylie’s Hippodrome show of Better Days (Spring 1925) and there were a host of other shows dressed by Peron in 1925 including No No Nanette (Palace Theatre), We Moderns (Fortune Theatre) and The Desire For Change at the Playhouse. For Sometime (February 1925 at the Vaudeville) Peron’s gowns were described as ‘prophetic.’ An uneven skirt in a new form was introduced which was turreted with three thicknesses of chiffon making the skirt dwindle to one on the left side by a series of square ended cuts outlined by diamante.
In the spring 1925 collection, there were subtle hints in several of Peron’s frocks of an attempt to revive the bustle. One was in fine lace over cyclamen satin and had one flounce of lace in front and two behind rather fuller and held in place by a broad band of turquoise and mauve beads. Another was perfectly plain in front and gathered behind with a distinctive bustle-like outline.
Little information can be traced about Peron’s further collections in 1925, 1926 or 1927. However, in the summer of 1926, before Dolly left London for New York, Peron dressed some of the featured players that included Frances Day in Beaumont Alexander’s cabaret show What staged at the New Princes Restaurant. At the same time Alfred Hitchcock used a range of Peron gowns in a mannequin parade at a dressmakers salon for a scene in his film The Lodger starring Ivor Novello.
With Dolly Tree’s departure for New York in late 1926 her association with Peron may have ended. Peron carried on creating ensembles for stage shows in the first part of 1927 including The Donovan Affair at the Duke of Yorks and Fire and Overruled at the Everyman. It is not inconceivable that Dolly Tree continued working for Peron during 1927 as she did return to London in the summer of 1927 and costumed Victor Saville’s film The Arcadians amongst other British endeavours. However, by mid 1927 Peron Ltd underwent changes with the company again being wound up in October 1927 although it resurfaced in 1929 at 121 Westbourne Grove and being credited for Miss Leggatt’s dresses in Diversion at the Arts and Little Theatre before moving to 80-85 Regent Street in 1930.
Thereafter the firm disappears. Peron Couture had a brief, brilliant decade at the forefront of fashion. Yet, like so many other short lived, amazingly creative and innovative fashion houses, its history and fame has been sadly forgotten.
All images and text © copyright Gary Chapman / Jazz Age Club and must not be re-used without prior consent
The Times, The Era, The Queen, The Stage, Les Modes and Picture Show
Doreen Read Collection/Westminster City Archive