A prominant London couture atelier in the Jazz Age was that of Jean-Philippe based originally at 39 Conduit street, W1, which thrived through the 1920s and into the 1930s. Jean-Philippe was owned and run by the society hostess Mrs Simon Hartog and since the first known listing in the press was in late 1926, one must presume that the establishment was formed in or around 1926.
Mrs Simon Hartog was of Dutch origin and born Elisabeth Amalia Philips on 28thMay 1889 in the Netherlands.. Clearly she used part of her maiden name as the name for her fashion business. In April 1912 she married Simon Hartog (born 1888), a merchant in Amsterdam. Both moved to London where they became UK citizens in October 1913 living at 58 Belsize Ave Hampstead with one son Howard Isaac born in 1913. The couple had two further sons Arthur (born 1916) and Donald (born 1919).
At some point the Hartog’s were living at 12 Gloucester Square and Simon Hartog was a director of a firm of produce agents, and in 1919 they made a trip to New York City and visited Chicago and Cincinnati. However, by 1921 they had moved to 46 Upper Grosvenor Street where they remained until the mid-1930s.
The creations from Jean-Philippe started to attract attention in late 1926. One black velvet evening gown attracted attention in the Daily Mirror that had a short skirt , a low even neckline and shoulder straps with an embroidery in diamonds of a bird on the skirt. Another evening gown was similarly admired in early 1927. This was in white with a profusion of fringe and a shirt front effect that added to its originality.
The firm then began to advertise in 1928 highlighting the London venue at 39 Conduit Street and a branch at 13 Rue Congres, in Nice. It was made clear that Jean-Philippe’s core message was that its creations were of French design and cut but a British Atelier and that they created original models of gowns, hats and tailor mades. The firm clearly settled into the usual seasonal fashion showings and in March 1928 gave special showings of their Spring collection.
Stories in the summer of 1928 indicated that Jean-Philippe were very busy with wedding gowns and trousseaux, Ascot orders and frocks for society functions. It was made it clear that Jean-Philippe specialised in dressing daughters as well as the mothers since when daughters were launched into society they needed a large number of frocks to carry them through a London season. They were also admired for being one of those discerning houses that took into consideration that the younger generation have not always unlimited sums to spend. As a result there were many reasonably priced and smartly cut jumper suits, dainty dance frocks and lovely little Ascot frocks on offer.
The keynotes of Jean-Philippe’s phenomenal success were defined by their attention to detail with the fitting and ordering of all frocks, adapting the individuality of the client herself to build up outfits and gowns that suited character and finally, a knack of designing gowns for those who were not blessed with the fashionable silhouette by slenderized the fuller figure. One of their latest and loveliest models was in soft black tulle fronds with a big sash of black cire and Madonna blue moire ribbon.
By the spring of 1929 further stories continued praising the idea that Jean-Philippe specialized in gowns for women who were not very slim and that they had carefully studied the effect of the ‘line’ so they were able to create amazing illusions of slenderness. Their original dance dresses were greatly admired and one dress was of black georgette, delicately embroidered in very small diamente in a delicate fern design. The folds were skilfully arranged at the back where they created the fashionable dipping hemline and the left shoulder strap terminated in a scarf which gradually widened and finished with a fringe. The overall effect was one of grace of line.
Sometime in 1929, Mrs Simon Hartog moved the business from 39 Conduit street to 18 Grosvenor Street and then shortly afterward to 14 Grosvenor Street. Meanwhile, the Hartog’s residence at 46 Upper Grosvenor Street became a rendezvous for London’s high society. In the Spring of 1929 Mrs Hartog hosted an Empire Fellowship Ball with the Prince of Wales a special guest and her ballroom was so crowded and there was only a small space for the special cabaret turn of the exhibition dancing of Lady Plunkett and Frank Leveson.
For her autumn showing in 1929, Mrs Hartog held a Dress and Jewel parade at the cocktail hour at the Jean-Philippe showroom, which became one of the most amusing and original of the season’s dress shows. The interior décor was reminiscent of Montmartre, music was provided by a Hungarian Tzigane band and the audience sipped cocktails and observed a floating bevy of beautiful mannequins wearing alluring afternoon and evening frocks. For the Spring 1930 collection, one advertised model was a striking evening dress and coat made of printed moire and chiffon to match with grey fox cuffs on the coat. There was also a picture frock of white net with a matching train strewn with little buds of lily of the valley.
At a society function in the summer of 1930, Mrs Hartog wore one of her own Jean-Philippe models which was a delightful pink chiffon gown encrusted with pink and white crystal beads sapling among costly flowing draperies with dew drop effect. There was also a train of pink chiffon lined with pink net and sprayed with the same glittering embroidery.
Through the early 1930s Mrs Hartog continued to be in the social limelight and entertained with events at her house in 46 Upper Grosvenor Street and at one charity ball she was photographed dancing with HRH Prince George. However, by 1935 she had moved to 50 Princes Gate and later to a flat at 71 Park Street, W1 with a butler, housemaid, lady’s maid, footman and kitchen boy.
In late 1938, Elisabeth Hartog’s husband Simon was cited as correspondent in a suit for divorce by Harford George Olden against his wife Constance Mary Olden. Allegedly Simon Hartog had met Constance on a cruise in 1934 and an affair blossomed. Elisabeth and Simon did not divorce.
It is not known when Elisabeth’s fashion house of Jean-Philippe closed, but perhaps World War 2 sealed its fate. In late 1952 Simon and Elisabeth made a trip to New York and Elisabeth died 27thDecember 1957 aged 68. Simon Hartog died 27thFebruary 1961 and left £109,453 in probate to two sons Howard and Donald.
Daily Mirror 7/12/26
Daily Mirror 1/1/27
The Bystander 21/3/28
The Sketch 27/3/29
The Bystander 27/11/29
The Sketch 27/3/29
The Bystander 27/11/29
The Tatler 4/12/29
The Sketch 21/5/30
The Sketch 4/6/30
Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer 13/4/32
Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette 25/2/33
Nottingham Evening Post 28/10/38