Designer Royalty Jacques Fath

Jacques Fath was a key figure in the post-war revival of Paris haute couture. The House of Fath, along with The House of Dior and The Balmain Fashion House, are known in the fashion industry as the "Big Three."

Pearl bracelet twisted in knot named Napoleonic Knot Bracelet by Jacques Fath
Jacques Fath "Napoleonic Knot Bracelet"
Manufacture: Marvella ca. 1950s
©Metropolitan Museum
Gift of Michael Paul

Jacques Fath was born on September 6, 1912 in Maisons-Laffitte, France. His great-grandmother was an artist who also did work in fashion illustration. An unproven rumor is that she was a couturière to the Empress Eugénie.

Contrary to his parents wishes, Fath had no desire to enter the business world. After his required one year military service, Fath took evening classes in drawing and pattern cutting. At 21, he began educating himself in fashion design by visiting museum art and fashion exhibits, reading books, and analyzing the detailing of women's dresses. He took inspiration from the 18th century masterpieces.

In 1937, at the age of 25, Jacques Fath opened his first fashion house and presented his first collection. Although his fashions were well received, Fath's first few years were a financial struggle.

Black evening gown displayed on mannequin. Design by Jacques Fath 1937-1939
Jacques Fath Evening Ensemble 1937-1939
©Metropolitan Museum
Gift of Dame Alma DuPuy
In 1939, Jacques Fath wed Geneviève Boucher, a young model he had met during his studies. She was the perfect sponsor for his elegantly finished fashions. Recognizing the value of publicity, Fath and his bride (and his fashions) became one of the most photographed couples in Paris.

Jacques Fath and wife Genevieve fashionably dressed and walking in the rain
Jacques Fath and wife Genevieve
The style magazines eagerly accompanied the handsome and congenial young couple to their trendy society functions.

After the conclusion of the Second World War, French fashion again reigned supreme with wealthy Europeans as well as Americans flocking to Paris for the latest in chic and glamorous gowns. In an effort to woo the wealthy American buyers to The House of Fath, the Faths arranged a three month tour of The United States.

Genevieve Fath sitting in floor with shoes, purse, scarves surrounding her for American Tour
Genevieve Fath Packing for American Tour
Genevieve's wardrobe included 35 outfits for day and evening, 17 hats, 16 pairs of shoes, and 10 handbags.

Fath developed a strong following in Hollywood after he designed Rita Hayworth's bridal trousseau for her 1949 wedding to Aly Khan. Although he had the opportunity to design for several Hollywood films, his costumes for Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes are considered classics.

Jacques Fath Designed Gown for Rita Hayworth and Prince Aly Khan 1949 wedding
Rita Hayworth and Prince Aly Khan at 1949 Wedding
Gown Designed by Jacques Fath
Google: Life
Shortly after his return from the United States, Fath contracted with the Seventh Avenue ready to wear manufacturer Joseph Halpert to design two collections a year.

Jacques Fath for Joseph Halpert Strapless Gown
©Live Auctioneers

Model in black pencil skirt advertisement for Jacques Fath 1954 design. Photo by Guy Arsac
Lena Madsen in Jacques Fath 1954 Design
Guy Arsac Photo

Model in pencil skirt suit with hat for 1954 Jacques Fath ad for Lord & Taylor
Jacques Fath Design for Lord & Taylor 1954

Much like his own personality, Fath's designs had a sophistication that attracted the young and modern shoppers. He enjoyed a lavish lifestyle that translated to a flamboyance in both his couture and ready to wear fashions.

Jacques Fath 1950 "Lily" Collection
©Live Auctioneers
His first collection in 1950 was named "Lily" with skirts shaped like flowers. His designs often featured a plunging décolletage with voluminous skirts. He was fond of an asymmetrical line as well and was not afraid to use bold colors and prints.

Iridescent blue dress on mannequin for Jacques Fath 1951
Jacques Fath 1951 Evening Dress
Textiles by Bianchini Férier
©Metropolitan Museum
Taking advantage of the United States mass production practices, Fath developed Parfums Jacques Fath and his boutiques began to offer more affordable items like scarves, accessories, and stockings.

Ad showing bottle of Jacques Fath Parfum
Jacques Fath Parfum Ad

Jacques Fath employed a polite and respectful manner with his workers that assured their loyalty. He called his women seamstresses by their first name, never forgot their birthday, and offered wedding dresses to female workers getting married. They respectfully called him "Monsieur Jacques."

The 500 plus employees were grief-stricken when Jacques Fath died of leukemia on November 13, 1954. Over 3,000 people, mainly women, attended his funeral in Paris.

Anticipating his death, Fath had designed several seasons of couture to be carried on by his wife. The design house closed in 1957.

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