And then there were three… The House of Fath


It’s well established by now for anyone who has been reading my blogs on a regular basis, how passionate I am about the decade on the 1950’s. Every time I see something related to this era, be it an old-fashioned movie, some historical patterns at my local haberdasher, or some striking book or article featuring gorgeous images of the time, I cannot help but feel inspired and in love. I often think how grand it would have been to be alive during this time, and to be able to wear such magnificent gowns on a daily basis. Sure there would have been hardships, and I’m sure if would become tiring having to lug so much fabric around all day, but the appreciation for such wonderful couture would have been sensual. I’ve decided to inscribe about one of the other greats of fashion during the fifties for this next blog. This man competed alongside Dior and Balenciaga, but put his own unique stamp on couture of the decade. Jacques Fath. He was a member of this elite club whom I’m so envious of, and I feel that fashion would not be where it is today had it not been for his striking influence.

Born in the town of Laffitte, France, on 6th September 1912, it was evident from early on the Fath would be a strong influencer on fashion. There was a sturdy lineage of artists in the Fath ancestors, including his Great Grandmother who was herself a dressmaker (she designed clothing for Empress Eugenie, Napoleon’s love interest), and his Great Grandfather who was a writer. His Grandfather was also a painter, so it was only natural that this flair for creativity would flow onto a young Jacques. His father worked in insurance, and was hoping the Jacques would follow in his footsteps. Whilst he did for a short time, working as a bookkeeper and then as a broker, it was obvious that Fath had a calling for fashion. After completing the compulsory one year military service for the French Army, Fath final decided it was time to head to Paris and join the elite fashion world. At only twenty five, he launched his first collection in 1937.

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Being self-taught, Fath was able to craft his skills from studying designs himself, as well as costumes, and he often went to museums and galleries to learn all he could about fashion. He was also an avid reader. Like many other couturiers of the era, Fath designed his clothes directly on the female form, draping fabric to his heart’s content, and never used a pattern. His designs glorified the female figure, with hourglass waists, plunging necklines and full skirts. The House of Fath can also be credited for giving some other grand designers a start in the industry, with Hubert de Givenchy, Guy Laroche and Valentino all being hired at one time or another, as assistants or apprentices to Fath.

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Jacques Fath certainly had a dominant influence on post war couture. His designs were overtly feminine, and put a large emphasis on the bosom and hips. Many of his gowns had irregular necklines, which drew attention to the décolletage, and his skirts were either full or slim, nothing in between. The full skirts displayed lots of pleating and gathers, with the slimline designs showcasing draping techniques. Fath also used angles in creating a point of difference, with collars and pockets often being sewn asymmetrical. Hem lines too could occasionally be seen uneven, and lots of diagonal panels were evident in his designs. Tucks, tiers and knife pleats were also a Fath signature, and only enhanced the glamour look of the 1950’s. Fath was also not afraid to use colour in his work, with bright blues and greens being one of his favourite combinations. As always with couture, fabric was a vital part in making a woman feel opulent. Fath was accredited to using natural fibres and resources, utilising hemp in his garments, and also creating sequins from walnut and almond shells. Some of his biggest supporters naturally came in the form of Hollywood starlets, with Ava Gardner, Greta Garbo and Rita Hayworth all fans of Jacques Fath.

As did many other couture houses of the time, Fath also diversified his business to manufacture other products than clothing. Fragrance was a growth industry at the time, and has withstood the ever changing fashion world which continues to evolve decade after decade. In total, nine perfumes were produced under the House of Fath, with some still being accessible today. Fath also saw the potential to claim the American market, and in 1948, struck a deal with an American department store to supply a range of ready to wear garments. In later years, after the passing of Jacques Fath, the company diversified even further to produce gloves, hosiery and other female accessories. Fath married once during his life, in 1939, a couple of years after the establishment of his couture business. Genevieve Boucher became Fath’s life partner, but also his business partner as well, operation the corporate side of the company so that Fath could continue to concentrate on design. They had one child together, a son named Philippe in 1943. Fath was also credited to designing costume for various motion pictures from 1948 to 1955.

Sadly in 1954, Jacques Fath passed away after a courageous battle with leukaemia. There was a reported four thousand guest at his funeral service, all who paid homage to this grand couturier. After his death, the House of Fath continued to operate for a further three years under the direction of his widow. The company however closed in 1957, leaving a legacy of grandeur. Years later, the brand was reborn when it was purchased by the French Luxury Group in 1992. Since then, the House of Fath has been sold on many times, and has seen many different designers take control. In 1993, a retrospective of Fath was held in Paris to pay tribute to the influence and style that the stunning designer contributed to the fashion world.

From austerity in 1940, to posterity in 1960, the Fath couture brand made a lasting impact on fashion and history. Through his creative genius, Jacques Fath gave us many superb couture items to marvel at and be envious of.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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The lady with the white pearls – Nina Ricci

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Whilst trying to decide who I would dedicate my next blog to, I had trouble deciding if I should write about another designer, an influencer or a particular decade in fashion. Nothing inspiring was coming to mind as I’ve previously blogged about all of my immediate favourites. I started doing a bit on research about other influential designers surrounding the decades of fashion that I truly love. And the first name to strike me was Nina Ricci. It’s a name that I am familiar with but couldn’t really tell you much about until now. I was surprised to learn that the House of Nina Ricci was prominent during the 1940’s and 1950’s, as I always thought it was a label that came along some years later. How wrong was I! Nina Ricci competed alongside that greats Chanel, Lanvin and Vionnet, and is a brand that is still strong today.

Maria Nielli, the founding mother of the House of Nina Ricci, was born in 1883, in Turin Italy. She was one of five children, and live a modest life with her siblings and parents. Her father was a cobbler, and at the age of five, the family moved to the French Riviera. As a teenager, Maria, or Nina as she was more casually known, had a flair for sketching and was highly interested in fashion and dressmaking, like many other young girls of the era. At only fourteen, she moved to the capital of fashion, Paris, and took on an apprenticeship as a seamstress. She had natural talent for this type of work, and soon found herself in charge of her own division at the House of Raffin. Nina began working for the designer in 1908, when it began as a small retail company that enjoyed financial success. However, The House of Raffin was often lost among the many other dressmaking and couture establishments in Paris at the time. Here, Nina controlled her own workshop and seamstresses, and had her own clientele base. She remained a loyal employee for over twenty years. During this time, Nina also sold patterns to other dressmakers in rural areas who produced their own garments. When Monsieur Raffin passed away, he left the company and its financial wealth to Nina, who was forty nine at the time. This was the beginning of the House of Nina Ricci.

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Whilst Nina was working in Paris, she met her husband, a jeweller, and they married soon after. Luigi Ricci was a successful man and the two shared a passion for the arts. Nina married young and the couple had their first and only child when she was twenty three, a son named Robert, who would in years to come be the guiding force for Nina to open her own fashion empire. Sadly at only twenty seven, Nina was widowed, and was left to raise their son alone.

With all of the skills and financial wealth that Ricci was left with after the passing of her employer, Monsieur Raffin, Ricci and her son Robert took charge of the House and turned it into a business to rival Chanel. It was in 1932 that the House reopened under its new name and with its new directors, with Robert taking charge of all things financial, and Ricci concentrating of designs. The new direction of the company was greatly received by the public and media alike, with reviews honouring the romantic, feminine and refined styles that were produced. Ricci had never received any formal training other that what she learnt in her apprenticeship, and because of this she draped her designs in fabric directly on the mannequin as apposed the constructing a pattern. Ricci is also well known for only requiring two fittings with a client to master the perfect fit! From its opening in 1932 when it employed forty people, the House of Ricci soon swelled, and by 1939, employed over 450 workers.

One of the most well-known products to come out of the House of Ricci, is fragrance. In 1941, Robert created the first scent of the brand, and went on to develop many more in the years to follow. The most famous perfume from the House is L’Air du Temps, mastered in 1949, and translating to “Air of Time”. The crystal bottle in which it was held is best known for its twin dove design.

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After the completion of World War Two, many Paris designers got together to create an exhibition to bring the love and light back to the people after living in such dire conditions during battle. Forty French couturiers combined, and over one hundred and fifty mannequins went on display at the Louvre, including Madam Gres, Lelong and Balenciaga masterpieces. Ricci was also one of the brands involved, and the exhibition was such a success, that it then travelled to Europe and the United Sates.

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Part of the great success of Ricci would have to be the competitive prices in which it produced. Most garments were sold at one third of the cost of rival brands, but the quality never suffered. The clientele that the House attracted was not your typical aristocratic or international woman, but rather the more bourgeoisie French woman who loved the look and feel of fine fabrics and couture, but without the hefty price tag. The House of Ricci also produced uniforms for airline companies as well.

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At close to seventy years old, Nina Ricci decided it was time to retire the scissors and pins, and enjoy the remainder of her life in comfort and peace. Having worked hard her entire life to create a fashion empire that her whole family would have been proud of, Ricci left the company to continue on its path of success. She passed away in 1970, aged eighty seven. The dream the Ricci once had still lives on today, with the business being purchased in 1998 by the Massimo Guissani family, and is currently controlled by creative director Guillaume Henry.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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