Victor Stiebel

Victor Stiebel
Victor Frank Stiebel (1907- 1976) was a South African-born British couturier.

Born in Durban he arrived in Britain in 1924 to study architecture at Jesus College, Cambridge. Having designed for theatre wardrobe at university, he worked as a dress designer for the House of Reville for three years beginning in 1929 until he opened his own fashion house in Brunton Street in 1932. Terry Reville was a court designer and his fashion house was one of the foremost in London before the First World War. Here Stiebel learned the art of fashion design, this being the method by which the trade was learned prior to fashion design courses being established at the art schools. He enlisted for the Second World War in 1940, closing his house, but he was allowed to continue designing while involved with the services, his designs being manufactured as part of the war effort using the government stock fabrics which were all that was available at the time. Called “Utility Fashion”, each designer produced a coat, dress, suit and shirt or blouse. He returned to designing in 1946, working for Jacqmar, and becoming Chairman of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers. He reopened his own house in 1958, having great initial success, but being forced to close after only 5 years in 1963 on health grounds, having become confined to a wheel chair as a result of multiple sclerosis. Hardy Amies was kind enough to take all 120 of Stiebel’s employees.
Stiebel was commissioned to design new uniforms for the WRENS (1951) and the WRAF (1954) whilst also creating the going-away outfit for Princess Margaret on her marriage to Lord Snowdon in 1960. He was for many years the companion of composer Richard Addinsell.

Published works
In 1968, Stiebel published an account of his youth in South Africa but it did not include his career in fashion. Instead, he writes about his experiences as a child described as ‘artistic’ by his mother, something that was not appreciated by the rest of his family. He was regarded as odd for preferring the dramatic society to playing rugby at school. He describes the landscape, the flowers and the sea but is not oblivious to the realities of life in a racially divided land.

 

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