Monday, February 7, 2011

No Piguet No Dior?

Many refer to the period immediately after World War II right through the 1950’s as Couture’s Golden Age, with Christian Dior even proclaiming in 1948 that “A new Golden Age is dawning”

Houses in Paris, such as Dior, Balenciaga Fath, Balmain, and Givenchy were at the forefront of this golden age capturing worldwide attention with their elegance and glamour. One name that is very rarely mentioned during this golden age is that of Robert Piguet. If it was not for him we might not have had the likes of Dior, Balmain and Givenchy as they all worked for him at some stage in their careers.

Born in Switzerland and at the age of 17 leaving for Paris (after much Parental opposition) to gain his fortune, Piguet learned the trade from Redfern and Poiret. Both houses were at the top of the couture radar in Paris and the world when Piguet arrived. Both were fashionable and influential however they held completely different design aesthetics, which was to influence Piguet when he created his own house in 1933. Piguet combined the imagination and awareness of Poiret at his peak with the quality and stability of Redfern.

Taking inspiration from Poiret, Piguet had an astute understanding between the links between high fashion and art, with collections reflecting his sensitivity to the cultural movements of the times.

With his own couture house Piguet became known for the delicacy of his style especially in morning and afternoon dresses, the certain flamboyance of color in clothes for evening and for the perfect cut of his thin grey flannel suits…every collection a reflection of his infallible eye, refined simplicity and the quality that most defined Piguet: elegance. Constantly acknowledged by his peers, the women he dressed and the press as “the most Parisian of couturiers”.

There was a lot more behind the Piguet style or design aesthetic than just Piguet himself. It could be said that the most lasting contribution and prominent effect that Piguet had on Haute Couture was on the actual designers whom he hired to design his collections for him. Piguet was most notably a stylist who chose designs from a series of contributors, made the final adjustments and then showed under his own name. Piguet's wisdom in choosing able designers, however, was more than matched by his skill in maintaining the identity of his house and collections, no matter who produced the actual sketches.

Pierre Balmain, Marc Bohan and Hubert de Givenchy all trained at the hands of this master as did Christian Dior who said “Robert Piguet taught me the virtues of simplicity through which true elegance must come.” Another who benefited from his three-month internship at the House of Piguet was James Galanos, one of the greats of American designers. All of these men were later on to become major forces behind the Parisian world of Haute Couture

Let’s not forget that Piguet was the house behind some of the greatest perfumes of the era, including the ultimate single floral, Fracas. Piguet’s perfumes Bandit, Fracas and Baghari and others, “have a particular feel, very characteristic of his trademarks: strict adherence to good taste, true luxury, a horror of the commonplace and an innate sense of seduction”

In short in light of his success one would think that Piguet was an extremely well trained couturier, however I think that his success lies in the fact that he was an extremely profound and influential mentor to some of the great names of the Golden Age of Couture.

Closing in 1951 and due to ill health and passing away in 1953, we seem to forget the lasting and enormous contribution that Piguet made to haute couture

Upon Piguet’s death, Jean Cocteau, a dear and trusted friend, as was Colette and the actor / director, Jean Marais, wrote of Piguet “he loved, he invented, he gave…a generous and vibrant member of our team.”


  1. I love the photo of the beautiful lady in the yellow dress. So pretty, so chic!

  2. What I would do to be able to time travel into this golden age era and just stare at all the classic beauty and designs. Truly a marvelous time.

  3. I'm not that familiar with Piquet. I wonder if he is less known simply because he wasn't pushing publicity, and although his fashions are very beautiful, he didn't become associated with a particular look like Chanel's jacket, or a revolution, like Dior's New Look.

    I think this will also be true of Givenchy.

    1. Yes, Robert Piguet is largely associated with the iconic fragrances Fracas and Bandit created for his house by Germaine Cellier, the first woman in the history of perfumery. Piguet is also responsible for Edith Piaf's trademark little black dress. A true talent should not be too vocal, otherwise it's a sign of bad manners :-)

  4. I had not known about Piguet!! Thank you for sharing this info, I find him rather intriguing and he was obviously a very talented and smart business man in many ways as well.

  5. I always learn so many fabulous new things over was no exception! The illustrations are just as amazing and beautiful as the clothes.

  6. Very interesting. I've found in my own life that the people who are information sharers and mentors usually benefit as much as those they help. It sounds as though Piguet was not only a great designer, but also a good mentor and influence.

  7. Great post!! I am a fashion design student, and this post it's really helpful :)
    I love YSL,
    if there was no Robert Piguet, there was no Christian Dior, and there was no Yves Saint Laurent too, and the Fashion History might could have changed :)
    Sorry about my English, I am not a native English Speaker.

  8. ======================================================================

    Oohh it's great Gerald found You on my blog ! {^_^}

    About this new amazing post.....All is in my : Super David !

    And i liked a lot the " quite yellow dress " !
    Kiss_Kiss !

  9. I'd only ever seen the name. Now I know!

  10. Amy, she is gorgeous, isn't she. I love the colour and design.

    Mr Gratz, save a seat for me in your time machine.

    Mr SWF,what you say is very true, and who knows in 50 years or so Givenchy might only be known for dressing Ms. Hepburn.

    Nancy, yes he definitely had the eye.

    Gerald, many thanks for visiting and your comment. I hope I have been of help. I checked out your blog and I love it!

    Jean-Pierre as always I do appreciate your comments!

    Jason, so don;t forget it!

    Zhush, thank you so much for your comment

    Mark, I believe he was a great mentor as both Dior and Balmain thought very hard about leaving him.

  11. hello my dear friend excellent taste

  12. G'day, we deal in old wares and recently purchased a collection of victorian to vintage clothing, one jacket is Robert Piguet Paris with rouleau work around the cuffs and edge of the jacket. I would love to send you a pic as it is easy to see from your blog you too are so passionate about history. cheers eve heath heaths old wares bangalow australia.


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