Knits of the realm

knitwear, mary farrin, sally levison, website listings

Advert from 19 Magazine, May 1972

Part of why I love my job is the seemingly endless ability it has to baffle me. Maybe I come across as being a smarty pants who knows
everything (or, thinks she does) but, really, I have huge gaps in my knowledge. Usually these are opened up when I find a new label on my travels, or a nugget appears in a magazine. Or, in this case, both.

Most people are [vaguely] aware of Mary Farrin, the knitwear designer, whose shop on South Molton Street opened at the height of the British Boutique movement in the late Sixties. Her clothes were largely manufactured in her chosen home of Malta; knitted interpretations of the overriding boutique look.

A while ago, I came across this stunning green knit dress. The label baffled me. Levison Originals by Mary Farrin. Levison who? At that moment, I couldn’t find any reference to Levison Originals other than this photo. I listed the dress anyway, it’s all you can do.

Piqued once more by the fabulous advert at the top of this page, where knits by ‘Sally Levison’ and ‘Mary Farrin’ both feature side by side, I googled again and suddenly found a solitary reference to the company.

“After she left college Claire went into journalism, eventually to become features editor of the respected fashion trade ‘bible’, the Drapers Record. In the late 1960’s, needing a new challenge, Claire became a director of a small fashion company, started by Sally Levison (the mother of the writer, the ‘Levison’ of LMP) called Levison Originals. The company specialised in hand-made designer knitwear. The clothes were made on the island of Gozo in the middle of the Mediterranean.

Over the next eight years or so Claire and Sally transformed this tiny start-up company into one of the two or three leading high profile knit and crochetwear organisations in the world. At its height it employed over 500 people knitting away in the Gozo factory and exporting to the major fashion houses world-wide. Whilst Sally provided the creative flair for the business it was Claire’s level-headed skill in interpreting Sally’s eccentric ideas which was so instrumental in enabling the business to flourish.

The writer believes that without Claire’s ability to transfer Sally’s ideas into pragmatic reality, Levison Originals would not have been the success that it was. Examples are now held in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s permanent clothing collection.”

I still don’t quite know where the collaboration with Mary Farrin fits in with this, other than that they were both producing clothes in Malta, but it’s always nice to [potentially] start a snowball of faint interest which might produce more information over time.

Oh, and the exceedingly yummy dress is still for sale!

6 thoughts on “Knits of the realm

  1. Its great to find random info about items you have bought and knew nothing about, the info often turns up a little while after an acquisition – spooooky.

  2. If you are saying that I can still get this dressor others like it, please,plase tell me where!! I used to work around the corner and had loads of Mary Farrin dresses and tops and skirts. Sheri Webb

  3. What a great post .I'm Maltese.The wool was knitted on the smaller Island of Gozo . Malta features in a great 70's film called 'Pulp ' starring Michael Caine whixh is rather in fitting with your blogs. The other great Maltese contribution to fashion is the fact that,in the 1950s/1960s Soho, Maltese gangsters/Landlords/Pimps walked with a swagger, looked sharp and turned heads. Ah, they had a name for the exhilarating feeling of wearing something stylish or sharp – they called it Zanzi. That's Soho-Malti talk ….Zanzi meaning 'buzzing'.Sahha habib L

  4. Sally levison sold her factory in Xewkija Gozo to Mary Farrin who also took over Sally’s shop in south Molton street. The other great knitwear company in another huge factory in gozo was Crochetta owned by the Herst family from London. Also Monsoon fashion chain stated by selling hand knitted sweaters from gozo in early sixties.

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