Seeking info on Michael Howard of London - A Cem-broi or Gem-broi model dress

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion Q & A' started by Pinkcoke, Aug 13, 2015.

  1. Pinkcoke

    Pinkcoke Alumni

    I am restoring a 1950's dress which is similar in construction methods and quality to Frank Usher from this period. Both used a pannier style underskirt construction made of pleated net and pellon.
    I have found that the Michael Howard label continues on garments until the 70s roughly but it is clear that the 50's was a different era for the company. I wonder if they were a 'model house' brand at this point and later went into more accessible RTW. My dress has some hand finishing.
    Also if anyone can identify what the range name of this label is for sure, I'd be grateful! It's down on some sites and auction catalogues as either Gem-Broi or Gem-Bioi neither make a lot of sense to me, it might be Gem - Brioi? I assume it refers to the gem-studded leaves that decorate the dress.

    Last edited: Aug 13, 2015
  2. lkranieri

    lkranieri Trade Member

    I don't have, or know of, many UK research resources, so I haven't been able to find anything useful for your query. I did, however, find this photo: GemBroiLabel.jpg

    at this URL:
    On this label the name looks much more like Gem-Broi, but as you said, that doesn't make any sense at all--and I can't find anything with that spelling either.
  3. lkranieri

    lkranieri Trade Member

    With some creative attempts at tweaking the spelling, I tried searching for "Cem-broi" and found THIS article that refers to Cembroi, the House of Embroidery. A possibility, I suppose...
  4. Pinkcoke

    Pinkcoke Alumni

    Thank you very much Lynne.

    UK resources are not much help I'm afraid, as most articles are about the comedian and film star of the 40s/50s or another Michael Howard who was an infamous politician here in more recent years.

    The first link is a person who is buying second hand clothing in Romania that has been exported from the UK, hence all the British brand clothing they are selling.

    The Malaysian embroidery company is a distinct possibility - the main panel of my dress is ribbon soutache embroidery with some lurex chenille soutache, lurex thread embroidery and finally claw set diamantes. It's a lot of machine work so I can imagine it might have been done abroad for cheaper manufacture.
    It's a shame they have no online contact details, as that article is only from 2001 they may still be active.
  5. Winston Churchill

    Winston Churchill Registered Guest

    My grandfather was the CEO of Michael Howard. If you like, I can forward to him any queries you might have.
    Pinkcoke likes this.
  6. Pinkcoke

    Pinkcoke Alumni

    Thank you very much for the offer. I will PM you with the details.
  7. Winston Churchill

    Winston Churchill Registered Guest

    This is the message from my grandfather:

    My father and his brother ran an embroidery business from about 1920; my uncle died in 1935. When war began in 1939 it was the largest embroidery business in the country.with 190 staff. Most of the workers were called up or went to work in armament factories and only 24 were left. Early in the war embroidery on garments was banned under the war-time "austerity" laws, like double-breasted jackets and turn-ups on men's trousers, and the only embroidery allowed was on things like curtains for "ENSA", an organisation providing theatrical entertainment for the armed forces.
    After the war my father diversified into dress manufacture with the company name "Michael Howard", incorporating the 24 skilled embroideresses Embroidery was thus a feature of the products and the rather clumsy name "gembroi" was used but later dropped,
    The dress which you describe was very much a best-seller, known famliiarly as the penguine dress". We continued the company until 1983,
    Thank you for the compliment but it was never a model house. It was always aimed at the mass market, albeit with a decent standard of workmanship.
    I hope this helps.
    Michael Goldblatt.
  8. Pinkcoke

    Pinkcoke Alumni

    Thank you once again Winston for your help in identifying this brand. I thought you may like to see the dress in question, which I finished restoring and wore to sing an opera concert this week to around 400 people. It was ideal - a friend said she could see the diamantes twinkling from the auditorium. Perhaps you would show it to your grandfather.
    Before (let out two sizes & dye run from previous owner who washed it!!)
    After: removing white panel, removing diamantes, soaking in dye run remover, reattaching, re-setting all the waist and bodice darts to original seams, letting hem down and lengthening shoulders for my 5'9" frame:
    The Italian Job sisters.jpg

    Interestingly the hem had been moved 4 times (it had been as short as the bottom leaves), so clearly it was loved for a long time through at least a couple of decades by the previous owner.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2015
  9. Circa Vintage

    Circa Vintage Alumni +

    Nice work Melanie: the dress looks beautiful now, and fits you very well.
  10. Pinkcoke

    Pinkcoke Alumni

    Thank you Nicole - I must admit I was awfully lucky - I didn't want to risk making new seam lines as the material once pierced shows a grey cord inner so just sewed it all up along the original stitch holes and miraculously it was my size. It's the strangest material - horiztonal rows of cord bound together by a woven thread - I wonder if it's technically a corduroy?
  11. sarah-jane

    sarah-jane Trade Member

    Great work Melanie. And how lovely to have it explained direct from the horse's mouth. I trust you are now referring to this as your Penguine Dress - such a great name!
    Pinkcoke likes this.
  12. Midge

    Midge Trade Member

  13. mike forman

    mike forman Registered Guest

    Just found a dress with these detail today - the label reads Gem-bioi to the eye - thanks for the posts above very useful

    Attached Files:

  14. amandainvermont

    amandainvermont Trade Member

    I don't remember seeing this thread the first time around - lovely information and sharing.

Share This Page