British couture and ready-to-wear firm, Bellville Sassoon & Bellville Sassoon-Lorcan Mullany, respectively.
Founded: Belinda Bellville founded own company, 1953, joined by designer David Sassoon to form Bellville Sassoon, 1958; Bellville retired from company, 1983; Bellville Sassoon-Lorcan Mullany founded, 1987. David Sassoon born in London, 5 October 1932; attended Chelsea College of Art, 1954-56, and Royal College of Art, London, 1956-58; served in the Royal Air Force, 1950-53. Lorcan Mullany born 3 August 1953; trained at Grafton Academy, Dublin; worked for Bill Gibb, Hardy Amies, and Ronald Joyce in London before producing collection under his own name in 1983; joined Bellville Sassoon in 1987. Company History: Ready-to-wear collection sold in, among others, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, and Henri Bendel, all in New York, and Harrods and Harvey Nichols, both in London; flagship store in Chelsea, London. Exhibitions: Fashion: An Anthology, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1971. Company Address: 18 Culford Gardens, London SW3 2ST, England.
On BELLVILLE SASSOON-LORCAN MULLANY:
O'Hara, Georgina, The Enyclopedia of Fashion, New York, 1986.
The Cutting Edge: Fifty Years of Fashion, New York, n.d.
Thomas, Jacqueline H., "Profile," in Vogue Pattern Book (New York& London), 1984.
Holder, Margaret, "That Sassoon Touch," in Royalty (London), 1989.
Griffiths, Sally, "Well-Dressed Surroundings," in House & Garden (London), 1991.
Polan, Brenda, "Vital Sassoon," in the Tatler (London), September 1992.
Watson, Ines, "Sassoon Assesses South African Talent," in the Dispatch Online, 13 November 1998.
I like clothes that flatter a woman and are sexy; if a woman feels good in the clothes I design, she looks good. I enjoy designing cocktail and eveningwear with my codesigners Lorcan Mullany and George Sharp. We work together as a team to produce ready-to-wear dresses, sometimes in a romantic mood, sometimes whimsical or sexy… I love colour and beautiful fabrics. Each season we try to do something different, but always with a distinct Bellville Sassoon-Lorcan Mullany handwriting, which our buyers always look for. Our collection is sold internationally and each country looks for a different fashion concept, so our collections are always varied, never sticking to one theme. I do not like to philosophize about clothes; they are, after all, only garments to be worn and discarded as the mood of fashion changes.
The company of Bellville Sassoon-Lorcan Mullany has been jointly run by David Sassoon (who owned the company and designed the couture), and Lorcan Mullany who joined in 1987 and was responsible for the ready-to-wear. Together they provide a very English version of glamorous occasion dressing and eveningwear, uncomplicated, clear, and immensely flattering clothes worn by society ladies and the international jet set, which included the late Princess of Wales, Ivana Trump, Shakira Caine, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and the Countess von Bismarck, to name but a few. The company has also been renowned for its romantic wedding dresses, designed to order, and the selection of designs available in the Vogue Pattern Book 's designer section, which sell internationally.
"You have to find your own niche," declared David Sassoon to the Tatler in September 1992, when questioned about his approach to design. "You cannot be all things to all markets. My philosophy of fashion is that I like to make the kind of clothes that flatter. I am not interested in fashion for its own sake. If you make a woman feel good, she looks good automatically." On leaving the Royal College of Art fashion school in the late 1950s Sassoon was recruited as Belinda Bellville's design assistant. She recognized in him a designer who had a strong, distinctive signature and a simple approach that was romantic in style but dramatic and very feminine.
Together Bellville and Sassoon became business partners, naming the company Bellville et Cie, to capitalize on the prevalent conception that all smart clothes were French. From the start it attracted vast attention from press and buyers. "We gave our first show in my grandmother's house in Manchester Square and the next day there was a queue outside the shop, with Bentleys blocking the street," declared Belinda Bellville.
Sassoon identified the peak of his career as being the period between the late 1960s and 1970s when he believed the taste for high romanticism and fantasy clothes endorsed his style. The company was constantly featured in the pages of glossy magazines, sharing the stage with contemporaries such as Zandra Rhodes, Gina Fratini, and Bill Gibb. Sassoon regrets that the British fashion press often flippantly discarded designers as no longer newsworthy, comparing this with the American press who always acknowledged good design. Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta, he declared, may no longer be in the forefront of fashion but the press still regards them as newsworthy.
In the 1970s emphasis on couture was dwindling and the company realized that in order to survive, the ready-to-wear line had to be built up. The decision proved correct as the firm's business grew immensely in America and was promoted with fashion shows across the U.S. and at trade fairs in London, Paris, New York, Munich, and Dusseldorf. Their agents had little problem building a strong and impressive clientéle.
Lorcan Mullany, who joined the company upon Bellville's retirement, had a strong background in occasion and eveningwear. He trained at the Grafton Academy in Dublin and before joining David Sassoon, worked for Bill Gibb, Ronald Joyce, and Hardy Amies. The label soon bore the joint name Bellville Sassoon-Lorcan Mullany, justifiably crediting all designers for the product. By the mid-and late 1990s the company's clothes represented the top end of British occasion dressing, from sumptuous ballgowns to flirty cocktail dresses. Frills, sinuous draping, streamlined side splits, and plunging backs evoked memories of Hollywood in its glamorous heyday. Tulle, encrusted embroideries, taffetas, duchesse satin, mink, and double silk crepes were characteristic of the luxurious fabrics used. Unlike some eveningwear, the clothes were never gaudy or overstated; their success was reliant on a streamlined sense of style.
In 1998, after more than 40 years in the design business, David Sassoon was selected as the secret "international judge" of J&B's Rare Designers award. Sassoon traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, for the competition and enjoyed the experience. He told Ines Watson of the Dispatch Online (13 November 1998), "It's been an interesting experience because I arrived with no preconceived idea of the South African fashion industry." He did, however, see "two huge differences between European and South African design—the latter is more individualistic but the former has the advantage of the enormous resources of textiles on offer."
In the 21st century, Bellville Sassoon-Lorcan Mullany continues to clothe a discerning clientéle, creating an annual ready-to-wear collection sold to the best of stores worldwide, including Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nieman Marcus to name a few. Additionally, vintage designs remain popular Vogue patterns, available in sewing stores and at various international websites.
updated by OwenJames