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Jacques Fath

His father wanted Jacques to join him in the insurance brokerage business, and for a while Jacques worked as a bookkeeper at the Paris Bourse, and later, briefly, as a broker. But there was too much of the artist in Jacques’ genetic pool for brokerage work to be completely satisfying. His great-grandmother was a dressmaker who was very popular during the time of Empress Eugenie, the great beauty and consort of Napoleon III. Jacques’ great-grandfather was a writer, and his grandfather a landscape painter. From early childhood Jacques wanted to be a dress designer. He often criticized his elder sister’s clothing. This blond-haired young child had been born with a heightened artistic sensibility.

Empress Eugenie

After two years working at the Paris Bourse, Jacques took his required one year of military training. As soon as Jacques returned to civilian life, he furiously prepared for his career as a couturier. Fath was entirely self-taught; he threw himself into studying designs, studying costumes, studying fashion, going to museums and reading books.

In 1937, at the age of 25, Fath opened his first salon on the Rue de la Boetie, where he employed 10 workers. His first collection of twenty dresses brought in enough profit to enable him to plan a more ambitious collection for the next season. An offer of a role in a movie helped Jacques subsidize his growing business. The director of the movie, Leonide Moguey, paid for Jacques' lessons in diction and acting with a well-known acting teacher, Eve Francis. Francis became interested in Jacques’ dress designs, and brought her circle of friends to Jacques’ salon. Jacques’ world was expanding.

While at acting school, Fath met a young drama student, Genevieve Boucher de la Bruyere, who had been a photographer's model and a secretary for Chanel. They fell in love, and shortly after, Genevieve became Madame Fath. She was to be Fath's favorite model and his muse. The young bride also took over the business end of their enterprise, and successfully built it up.

Two years later, in 1939, the war came. Fath served in the army as a gunner, second class. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm, and the Legion d'Honneur for his gallantry in action. During the German conquest of France, Fath was briefly a prisoner of war, and was released when France fell. Fath returned to Paris and reopened his dressmaking business. He is credited with innovating the wide fluttering skirts worn by women throughout Paris during wartime. Fath conceived the shape of the skirts for women forced to ride bicycles because of gasoline shortages.

When the war ended Jacques desperately wanted to become a leader of French haute couture. Instinctively flamboyant, he launched a publicity campaign that rivals modern day publicists’ acumen. Fath made sure all the great society women were seen in Fath creations. He held lavish parties that were the talk of Paris. He moved his salon to more fashionable quarters on Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, and purchased a chateau in the country. Fath’s good looks, his charm, his charisma, his good humor all helped to make him immensely popular. Described by one reporter at the time, "Fath and his wife live in an atmosphere of glitter, chic, and perfumed excitement."

Jacques was one of the founders of the Chambre de Syndicale, a consortium of haute couture designers. Fath had become one third of the triumvirate known as "the big three" -- Dior, Fath, and Balmain. His salon was the apprenticeship training ground for such future luminaries as Givenchy and Guy Laroche. Fath's star was on the rise.

1947 "Gibson Girl" striped shirt,
grey and white cross-striped skirt.