Fashion Flashback: Jacques Fath

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Considered to be one of most important French designers of the post-war period who designed for the modern, cosmopolitan woman. Jacques Fath, along with Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain, made in an indelible stamp on post-war haute couture. Fashion Reverie looks back at his short, but illustrious career.

Born to fashion illustrators and writers, Jacques Fath was self-taught and learned his trade by studying fashion books and going to museum exhibitions after first trying his hand at business law and bookkeeping. Fath presented his first fashion collection in 1937 out his two-room atelier on the Rue de la Boetie.

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In the beginning his success was modest, but he became a breakout fashion personality after he married the very chic socialite Genevieve Boucher de la Bruyere, and dressing her in an asymmetrical drape dress and fluttery cape which caused a sensation at the Grande Nuit de Longchamps, a horse race society event. Society women started coming to his modest atelier to commission garments. Among his early assistants were Hubert de Givenchy, Guy Laroche, and Valentino Garavani.

Later, Fath become known for dressing the chic, well-heeled young French woman, to be more exact, la jeune Parisienne. Fath pioneered some important fashion elements, lace-top hosiery and glove-fitting daywear ensembles.

 

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Fath rise to fame came during the German occupation of Paris WW II when he used yards of tartan to mock the occupiers, designing tunic dresses and peasant skirts, suitable for women riding bicycles. This collection was both sporty and feminine at the same time. Ond of the first of its kind. Fath, at times, used unconventional fabrics—hemp-sacking fabric and sequins made of walnut and almond shells. (This use of unconventional fabrics was made reference to in an episode of “I Love Lucy,” when Lucy coveted one of Jacques Fath’s so-called ‘sack dresses.’)

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Early in his career, Fath had a substantial celebrity clientele which included Rita Hayworth‚—she wore a Jacques Fath dress for her wedding to Prince Aly Khan—, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, and most famously Eva Peron. Fath also designed several of Moira Shearer’s costumes in “The Red Shoes.” Additionally, some iconic models of the 1940s and 50sexpanded their modeling careers modeling Jacques Fath’s clothes, namely Lucie Daouphars, Rose Marie Reid, Dovima, Ivy Nicholson, and Fiona Campbell Walter.

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After Fath’s untimely death from leukemia in 1954, his wife Genevieve run the company for two years until garment-making was totally abandoned. The House of Fath officially closed its couture business in 1957, but re-emerged as a producer of gloves, hosiery, fragrances and other accessories.

Image courtesy of perfumeposse.com

The company has produced a number of fragrances, namely Jacques Fath L”Homme (1998), Yin (1999), Yang (1999), Fath de Fath (1953, reformulated and relaunched in 1993), Chasuble (1945), Expression (1977), Canasta (1950), Iris Gris (1946), Fath’s Love (1968), and Green Water (1947 but reformulated and re-released in 1993). The fragrance license was held by L’Oréal until 1992.

 

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