Bob Schulz: Fashion designer who captured the spirit of the Swinging Sixties

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Bob Schulz was right at the cutting edge of British fashion. His superbly crafted haute couture dresses were much sought after, and one layout from the fashion pages of the Daily Express of the time shows one of his early creations juxtaposed with a gown by Christian Dior.

His ready-to-wear designs were all the rage in American stores, from Bloomingdale's and Bendel's in New York to Neiman Marcus of Dallas. In 1967, Women's Wear Daily described Schulz as looking like "a young Kirk Douglas – and his clothes look terribly right... typical of the new wave of London designers combining classic good tailoring with a young mood". In London, during the Swinging Sixties, Shulz's designs were ubiquitous, always wearable and feminine and refreshingly free of gimmickry. He enjoyed a huge success in the UK with Young Jaeger, the line he pioneered and ran from 1959 until 1965, when he accepted an irresistible offer from the Milan store La Rinascente and moved to Italy for several years.

Schulz's plan had been to return to London and resume his couture business, to live and work in a large house which he had acquired on a short lease in Wilton Place, Knightsbridge. But the building was virtually wrecked by a burst water-pipe on the fifth floor, which had been vandalised, and the insurers refused to compensate since the flooding had not been accidental. Schulz was never to know financial security again, although he continued to produce beautiful and original dresses and designs until two years ago, when he finally retired, at the age of 83. As recently as 1988, Tatler magazine described a wedding dress he made for Flora McEwen as "the loveliest dress seen at a London wedding for years".

One of three children, Robert Schulz was born on the edge of Australia's central desert, at Booleroo, north of Adelaide, in 1923. His parents separated when he was 13 and he remembered hearing King Edward VIII's abdication speech on a crackling radio sitting in his mother's car on the way to Adelaide, where she went on to open a fashion shop. A few years later, the war reached the Pacific and Bob Schulz joined the army. His precise drawing skills were put to good use mapping the coastline and drawing machine parts, before he was sent to Papua New Guinea on active service.

At the age of 21 he began training as a dressmaker on an army rehabilitation course. After working in a Melbourne fashion house for a few years he could cut, sew and design. Armed with these skills and little else, besides good looks and quiet charm, he travelled to London in 1948 .

The Mayfair couturier Charles Creed, whose wife, Patricia, was fashion editor of Vogue, was impressed by his portfolio of sketches and gave him a job at once. After a few years, Schulz found backing and premises in West Halkin Street, Knightsbridge, and floated like a feather from success to further success, propelled by his innate talent and skill. His clientele included many of London's chicest hostesses, yet he always enjoyed a challenge and made the occasional foray into theatrical costume, designing dresses for Kay Kendall in a 1954 production of Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit, for instance.

In 1966, he and nine other designers, such as John Bates, Maggi Shepherd and Burberry, were chosen by the Fashion House Group of London and sent on a trade offensive to New York. Incidentally, the British ambassadress to Washington, Katherine Freeman, was photographed wearing a Bob Schulz dress .

In the late Fifties, Bob had enjoyed the bohemian Soho clubs such as the Colony Room, whose proprietress, Muriel Belcher, was a friend. He also spent time at the French House. The cinema was something of a passion and his knowledge of the medium was encyclopaedic. There was hardly a Hollywood bit-part actor whose name was not known by him, and certainly not a designer. The Starlight cinema under the Mayfair hotel was a favourite destination and he loved the nostalgia of Busby Berkeley and Fred Astaire pictures, but no more than the contemporary work of Robert Altman.

In the late 1980s, he moved into a studio flat in a council block off the Fulham Road which he decorated with characteristic style, continuing to entertain his loyal friends and the occasional couture client. Eternally boyish, invariably dressed in a well-cut tweed jacket and jeans, a shock of sandy hair across his forehead, he totally accepted these reduced circumstances and never allowed the absence of money to quench his personal optimism or creativity.

He shared the last three decades of his life with his devoted friend Elio Marchesi, and together they travelled to India and the Far East repeatedly. Just 18 months ago they made a valedictory trip to Australia, and, of course, visited Booleroo.

Jonathan Hope

Robert Schulz, couturier: born Booleroo, South Australia 16 April 1923; died London 17 May 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all