Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sixties Savoir Faire from Lapidus

Ted Lapidus, the 1960s fashion revolutionary whose accessible clothing earned him the epithet "designer of the street", is another couturier whom most of us are unfamiliar with.

The Parisian couturier, who is credited with pioneering the hugely successful unisex look was described in a tribute, by French president Nicolas Sarkozy as someone who had "democratised French elegance and classicism" by making fashion available to ordinary men and women.
Worn by such French celebrities in the 60’s as Brigitte Bardot and Alain Delon, he became famous in the 1960s when fashion was looking for a way of keeping up with the social changes sweeping Europe.

His quirky label, created in 1951 and now run by his son Olivier Lapidus, came to be defined by the clean lines of unisex and military clothing and, most of all, by his famous sandy-coloured safari suit, which is something Yves Saint Laurent is usually credited with creating.
"Ted was the first designer of the nouvelle vague [new wave]," Lapidus's sister, Rose Torrente-Mett, told Agence France-Presse. "The whole world knew him."

After an apprenticeship with Dior, he started his own fashion house in 1951. In 1958 he opened the Ted Lapidus boutique on the Rue Marbeuf. In 1963, he created a near scandal in the world of haute couture by forming a partnership with the manufacturer Belle Jardinière, which mass-produced his designs and sold them at its 250 budget-priced stores in France.

Lapidus proved influential outside France, too, and was the first designer to persuade Twiggy to wear a suit and tie rather than a mini-skirt. Lapidus also designed the white suit that John Lennon wore on the cover of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album.

He designed the safari suit, a style of men's suit that was popular in Australia in the 1970s. In the late 1970s the Lapidus label started to produce fashion accessories as the haute couture market declined.

What I like about Lapidus is the fact his clothes were easy to wear and relevant for the era. He captured the mood of the 60’s much more so than Rabanne and Courreges whose clothes appeared contrived and more like costume for the impending ‘space age’.

Determinedly modern, he translated the design vocabulary of haute couture into sleek, affordable clothes aimed at French consumers barely in their 20s.

“In France now, the daughters are clothing the mothers and the sons the fathers,” he said in a 1964 interview when introducing his ready-to-wear line at Macy’s.

“His clothes really fit,” it was quoted. “Even people without good bodies looked good in them because they were so well tailored. He was a pioneer in making the denim category sexy by putting some style and fit into it.”

In the 1970s he turned his energies to franchising his boutiques and licensing his name for perfumes, jewellery, watches and sunglasses.

There is often a huge discrepancy between the media coverage and attendant publicity generated by fashion shows and the visibility of the couturiers' designs on the street. Ted Lapidus aimed to bridge that gap and make haute couture more affordable, believing that, "with the right workforce, there is no reason why a factory-made garment should not be as well-produced as one coming out of a fashion house."

Lapidus also created uniforms for the Israeli women's army and China Airlines. He brought denim material, traditionally associated with the French working classes, into the world of fashion, and boasted: "My clothes make anyone look 10 pounds slimmer and 10 years younger."

His sister, Rose Torrente-Mett, who is also a fashion designer, felt Lapidus would have been even more successful if he had met someone like Pierre Bergé, whose business acumen proved crucial in the career of Yves Saint Laurent.

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