A recent dive into our archives helped me to uncover some information about a talented fashion illustrator once active in Belfast named Anna Lowe.
Working from an office in Crescent Gardens, not far from the Ulster Museum, Anna’s drawings featured in international editions of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, as well as local papers and shop windows across Northern Ireland. Her elegant illustrations capture the 1950s era and showcase Lowe’s talent for depicting different types of fabrics on paper.
In 1983, Anna’s sister, Mrs Dangerfield, offered these illustrations to the Ulster Museum to add to its Fashion Collection and provided the information we have now about her life and career.
Childhood interest in fashion
Anna Lowe was the daughter of the Very Rev WJ Lowe, MA DD. She was born July 27th 1895 in Londonderry and died 30th Nov 1975, aged 80. Her interest in fashion was apparent at an early age and she designed many of her own clothes as a child and would go on to train in Belfast Technical College.
Showcards for Belfast stores
Anna’s drawings were often made into showcards for Belfast shops, such as Goorwitchs – a high-end drapery in Castle Place in the city centre. These showcards were placed in shop windows to advertise merchandise, but were gradually replaced by photographic work. Shop staff would place orders for showcard illustrations by phoning Anna directly and sending the goods they wanted her to illustrate to her home where she would put them on a mannequin to draw.
Keeping up with the latest trends
Though based in Belfast, Anna was able to keep up to date with the latest fashions thanks to her sister who lived in London. She would regularly send catalogues from high end department stores such as Harrods.
International and local clients
Anna Lowe’s elegant illustrations attracted many high-end international as well as local clients. Her work was regularly featured in Belfast Telegraph and Newsletter, but she also did work for Harpers Bazaar and for Vogue magazine’s US, French and Austrian editions.
These examples show Anna Lowe’s ability to illustrate high end fashions that would have been featured in publications such as Vogue and Harpers Bazaar.
Though Anna Lowe had an international clientele, this set of three illustrations for knitwear show the influence of Irish artists such as Paul Henry in her work. These were probably commissioned for Anny Lewinter knitwear of Newtownards.
Lowe’s clients also included lingerie manufacturers, such as Rose of London who advertised using her work on escalator walls on the underground. Lowe also produced underwear drawings for shops in Belfast.
One of Anna Lowe’s most regular clients was Anny Lewinter, a couture knitwear factory in Newtownards that specialised in high quality knitwear for export. Anny’s husband, Zoltan Lewinter Frankl, was a patron of the arts in Northern Ireland and was the person Anna dealt with most closely when producing drawings for the Lewinter company.
The following series of eight illustrations are some of Anna’s most colourful work, and show a range of Lewinter knitwear designs, depicted by Lowe using poster paint and ink on coloured paper.