Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Savoir Fath!

Fashion is such a fickle thing, especially in the world of couture. One day you are in and riding the crest of raging sales, and increased awareness of your label, the next day you are out, due to falling sales, only to fall into obscurity. This doesn’t reflect on your talent as a designer, but basically how good the marketing is behind you and the size of the bankroll your backers are prepared to put up. Then if you die, well most of the time that is it, your house might continue for a few seasons, only to quietly close and your name regulated to a bottle of perfume or an entry on Wikipedia. There have been some genius’ who while they were alive influenced fashion more than what we are aware of today, that have died and their names have passed into obscurity, such as Madame Gres, Madeleine Vionnet and Jacques Fath.

Fath, a contemporary of Dior, Balenciaga and Balmain, did a lot more for couture in the 1950’s than what we are aware of, only to die in 1954 of leukemia. He was a genius to rival Dior and dressed similar clients, in glamour that dripped in savoir faire. Some of the young designers he had hired for his house went on to greater things on their own, such as Laroche, Givenchy and Valentino. Fath was a popular and innovative designer who was known for dressing “the chic young Parisienne”

If Dior and Balenciaga were the architects of fashion, Fath was couture’s star of glamour and vivacity. Long before the word sexy came to describe fashion; Fath’s clothes were sexy, emphasising narrow waists, curvaceous bosoms and hips.

Fath was increasingly regarded as the "heir apparent to Dior's throne." As Life Magazine said in 1949: "Dior is still generally acknowledged to be the head man, so to speak, of the fashion world, but Fath has recently had a spectacular rise in prestige, and it now seems likely that the next look to confront and impoverish the U.S. male will be the Fath look." Carmel Snow, editor of Harper's Bazaar, revised her earlier opinion of Fath, declaring, "He makes you look like you have sex appeal—and believe me, that's important."

The man himself had infinite personal appeal, with an impish quality, and was very much a social personality, throwing lavish parties with his wife, which had the added boost of much needed publicity. "An atmosphere of glitter, chic, and perfumed excitement permeates both his personal and business affairs," observed Life magazine in October 1949. Yet behind the scenes, Fath was struggling with illness. Only a year before his death in 1954, the American press had hailed him as the "fabulous young French designer who…is out to make every woman look like a great beauty." This promise was tragically cut short; Fath died of leukemia at the age of 42.

Of course with any old name these days there have been several attempts at a relaunch, however these have not come to much.
Fath himself was less than generous towards the female gender as a whole. He had notably declared, “Women are bad fashion designers. The only role a woman should have in fashion is wearing clothes,” and “Fashion is an art and men are the artists.”

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