Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Savoir Patou

If there ever was a couturier whose name should be better known than what it is today, it is Jean Patou. Of course most of us have heard of “Joy” his mega perfume created in the 1930’s that was billed as the most costly perfume in the world, and his name does live on in the perfume world, however we need to give him more credit. The man was the epitome of savoir faire between the wars, and was famous for the paired down luxurious simplicity of his clothes. His genius was his ability to interpret the times in which he lived and translate the ideals of that era into fashion.

Among one his finest and most important achievements in the world of fashion was the creation of sportswear. In the early 20’s, his inspired work in the sportswear field gave fashion another dimension. He dressed tennis star Suzanne Lenglen in styles that she wore both on and off the tennis court. Ms. Lenglen became famous not only for her tennis, but for the Patou creations she wore.

Patou’s design philosophy was influenced by sportswear, continuing the theme of casual elegance into day and evening ensembles. He believed in beautiful but functional clothes which reflected the personality of the wearer. Patou never felt fashion should dictate; the cut of the clothes was simple, often accented with architectural seam lines, embroidery detail, and attention to fabric, trims, and finishings.

Patou was also the first to devise a logo monogram which was to his sportswear designs—the first visible designer label.

The legendary rivalry between Patou and Chanel was well known and intense and perhaps fuelled both of their successful careers. Their visions for the modern woman were quite similar, and although it is Chanel that fashion history has credited with many of the silhouette and conceptual changes of 1920s fashions, it was Patou who, in 1929, dropped the hemline and raised the waistline—Chanel quickly followed suit. (Seems poor Coco was rivals with everybody who threatened her)

The House of Patou prospered during the Depression but Patou himself was unable to interpret the 1930s as he had so successfully captured the 1920s. He died in 1936, a relatively young man. While Patou had demonstrated a brilliant business sense, ultimately undermined by his destructive gambling tendencies.
His sister's husband George Barbas took over the house. Jean Patou's great-nephews Guy and Jean de Mouy now run the company. The family has continued to manage the house, with a range of designers who have gone on to fame themselves such as Christian Lacroix and Karl Lagerfeld. Now, however they only produce fragrance.

* Suggested reading – Patou by Meredith Ethrington-Smith (If you can get it)


  1. Awesome post. I was thinking the pics seemed very Chanel like, but maybe it is Chanel who seems very Patou like???

  2. I love all three dresses...unfortunately that style is not flattering on me. Lovely post.

  3. Joy may be the most expensive perfume ever created but the result is a little bit disappointing.

    My mother used to wear it on Sunday's family dinners. Maybe it is just an association I do with those boring nights...

    Great post nevertheless.

  4. YSL- I would say that Chanel is very Patou like. I don't mean to dish poor Coco, however I think she was a bit insecure.

    Jill- You can always dream.

    Fabulistic- I aggree with you, I was very disappointed when I smelt Joy for the first time. A better fragrance from Patou that deserves the costly title is "1000". It is so rich and luxurious. I wear it occassionally (like today)


Blog Widget by LinkWithin