Beautiful fashions can leave you salivating. You decide to save your lunch money to make a big purchase on an ultra-chic, must-have French import. (Who needs lunch when you could have new Louboutins??) Whether it’s a handbag, shoes, or a great dress, your impending shopping spree is all you can think about.
The day arrives, and your excitement is through the roof. But the inevitable moment happens. Your elation turns to panic. How do you pronounce the designer???? Fumbling, your confidence goes down.
“Do I sound like a complete idiot?”; you think to yourself.
You’re not alone in your frustration. French fashion labels are tricky to pronounce, and one mispronunciation can leave you crimson with embarrassment.
How to Speak Fashion is a series dedicated on how to pronounce those beautiful, and tricky, French designer names. Also included are brief snippets about the designers/design houses to help you feel polished and confident when talking about your latest fashion obsession. (New to my blog? Please read How to Speak Fashion, Part I)
Jacques Fath (zhahk FAHT)
Jacques Fath (1912-1954) was an eminent Parisian fashion designer that rose to fame during the WWII Occupation. He became popular by designing dresses that could be worn while riding bicycles – which was the main mode of transportation.
After the war, he was considered to be one of the “Big Three” fashion designers – the other two were Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain.
His influence sky-rocked postwar, as he created very feminine silhouettes. Fath’s garments were also fun, and allowed women mobility. He died of leukemia in 1954. His wife, GeneviÃ¨ve, took over the fashion house’s direction after his death until 1957.
Jacques Fath gown illustrated by Charles Kiffer, 1945.
Jacques Fath garments illustrated by RenÃ© Gruau, 1945.
Jacques Fath gowns illustrated by Pierre Mourgue, 1945.
Jacques Fath and Pierre Balmain gowns illustrated by Tom Keogh, 1950.
Jacques Fath design photographed by Philippe Pottier, 1950.
Today, Jacques Fath Heritage is a line of 50s inspired handbags that are available for purchase. Sumptuous materials, like lizard skin, are used to make the beautiful clutches and purses. To purchase online, please visit Jacques Fath Heritage.
Germaine Krebs (1903″“1993) was known by many names – first as Alix and later as Madame Grès or simply Grès. She is best known for creating Grecian gowns that employed extravagant use of fabric, creating allusions to classical sculptures. Grès said during her career: “I wanted to be a sculptor “” for me it is just the same to work with fabric or stone.”
She was revered by clleauges and referred to as a “designer’s designer”. She always designed without assistance by draping fabric on a live mannequin. Prior to having her own label, Grès was an active sculptor.
Evening Gown and Portrait of Madame Grès, 1946.
Robe du Soir by Grès, 1945.
Evening Dress by Grès. Photo by Phillipe Pottier, 1950.
Evening Dress by Grès. Photo by Phillipe Pottier, 1957.
Madame Alix Grès (1903 ““ 1993), France, 1965 “Grecian” evening dress (front detail), off-white silk jersey The Museum at FIT, Museum Purchase Photograph: Irving Solero, Courtesy of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York
Madame Alix Grès, evening dress, ivory and blue matte silk jersey, 1950-1951, France, 2005.88.1, Gift of Solange Landau, Photograph by Irving Solero
If you happen to be in Pairs, the MusÃ©e Bourdelle has an exhibition featuring Madame Grès work. The Bourdelle is a sculpture museum. The Museum at FIT held an exhibition of of her work in 2008. You can see the exhibition, Madame Gres: Sphinx of Fashion, online.
Madame Grès – La couture à l’œuvre by paris_musees
Jacques Griffe ( zhahk GREEF)
Jacques Griffe (1917) was one of very few designers capable sketching, draping, cutting, and sewing. He trained early on with a local tailor, and later with Madeleine Vionnet. Vionnet exposed him to unique ways of cutting, and how techniques in draping that enhanced the female body.
Griffe opened his own house at the end of WWII, and his career spanned until 1968.
Evening Dress by Jacques Griffe. Photograph by Pierre Mourgue, 1948.
Day Ensemble by Jacques Griffe. Illustrated by AndrÃ© Delfau, 1948.
Jacques Griffe. Illustrated by Pierre Mourgue, 1956.
Evening Gown by Jacques Griffe, 1953.
Established in 1837, Hermès started crafting fine leather harnesses and bridles for horse-drawn carriages and equestrians. By the 1880s, the company began expanding to other retail products made of fine leather. By the 1920s, Hermès was known for creating luxurious handbags. The most well-known today are the Birkin and the Kelly. By the 1930s, Hermès expanded to women’s clothing. The company focused on clothing for sports like horseback riding, skiing, and skating.
Skijump Ensemble by Hermès. Illustrated by Pierre Pagès, 1938.
Ice Skating Dress and Jumpsuit by Hermès, 1938.
Hermes Birkin Bag
Lanvin is Paris’s oldest couture house, founded by Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946) in 1889. Lanvin started as a milliner, and then expanded into making mother and daughter matching ensembles. Lanvin was known for her elegant use of applique, embroidery, and beautiful trims. The robe de style was a Lanvin signature. A robe de style is characterized by its full skirts. The bodice is fitted, with a dropped waist. The full skirts were usually supported by hoops or petticoats.
After her death in 1946, her daughter, the Comtesse Jean de Polignac, ran the business. She hired couturier Antonio Canovas del Castillo in 1950 to continue designing. Her namesake label continues to deliver elegant clothing and is now under the artistic direction of Alber Elbaz.
Portrait of Jeanne Lanvin
Hat and Ensemble by Jeanne Lanvin, 1913.
Designs by Lanvin in “La Gazette du Bon Ton”, 1922.
Evening Gown by Lanvin. Illustration by Christian Berard, 1936.
Evening Gown by Lanvin. Illustrated by Willaumez, 1939
Robe de Style by Jeanne Lanvin, 1926. Image courtesy of Met Museum.
If you are a fan of Lanvin, I highly recommend Dean Merceron’s book, Lanvin. What a beauty! Also, if you enjoyed the vintage fashion illustrations, please visit HPrints.com to see more.