Thursday, August 20, 2009

Savoir Faire with Jacques Doucet

Earlier on I did a post on that wonderful arbiter of savoir faire, Paul Poiret, however where would Poiret be without Jacques Doucet. Doucet was practically a mentor to a young Poiret, and influenced him for the rest of his life, from his design aesthetic to what art he should purchase. Poiret had done ‘time’ with Doucet and remained a lifelong friend even after opening on his own.

Born in 1853, he was renowned for his elegant dresses of diaphanous, translucent materials in superimposing pastel colours. An enthusiastic collector of eighteenth-century furniture, objets d'art, paintings and sculptures, many of his gowns were strongly influenced by this opulent era. A designer of taste and discrimination, Doucet valued dignity and luxury above novelty and practicality and therefore gradually went out of popularity during the 1920s. By far his most original designs were those he created for actresses of the time. Cecile Sorel, Rejane and Sarah Bernhardt. All often wore his outfits, both on and off the stage.

A passionate collector of art and literature throughout his life, by the time of his death he had a magnificent collection of Post-Impressionist and Cubist paintings (including "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon", which he bought direct from Picasso's studio, which Poiret subsequently bought and hung in his bedroom), as well as two libraries of manuscripts by contemporary writers. It could be said that Doucet was a catalyst for the beginning of the Art Deco period, when he decided to sell all of his classical collection of furniture through a huge auction sale that took place in 1912. This event was as large and as important as the recent Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Berge sale that took place in February 2009.

Legrain Lamp owned by Doucet.
Dubrujeaud Comode also owned by Doucet

He was one of the first to promote the new “art deco” style emerging in Paris after World War 1, and his new studio apartment was furnished by some of the best designers of the period. For example the doors leading into the main salon were Lalique! How fabulous is that?

Although in the 1920s he was aging and his couture house merged with another lesser firm, and eventually closed, he never lost touch with foreseeing the needs of the French luxury goods market.
While little-remembered today, in his time he was equaled to the likes of Charles Worth and Jeanne Paquin and even now is remembered by fashion historians as one of the great old masters of fashion design.


  1. French Art Deco is my favorite. Loved this post. Doucet was very talented. Ruhlmann is my favorite!


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