I’d like to start off my series on fashion designers with a man who may not be all that well know, but had a short and brilliant career during and after WWII. Jacques Fath was one of the three dominant male influences on haute couture fashion during the post war years, along with Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain. These men stood poised and ready to take the lead from the pre-war triumvirate of female designers Chanel and Schiaparelli and Vionnet after the war.
Jacques Fath was born September 6, 1912 in Maisons-Laffitte, France. His father was Flemish/Alsation and his mother British. Jacques's great-grandmother had been a courtier to the Empress Eugenie in Victorian times.
Fath’s parents tried to rein in his artistic leanings and sent him to business school, where he studied bookkeeping. His first job was in a stockbroker's office. Subsequently he entered military service. After his discharge from the army, he attended drama school and started designing for the theatre.
Fath taught himself the craft of design by studying museum exhibitions and books about fashion. As a result of this, Fath often hired young designers as assistants and apprentices, some of which later went on to form their own houses, including Hubert de Givenchy, Guy Laroche, and Valentino. Fath married Geneviève Boucher de la Bruyère in 1939. Geneviève ran the business side of the House of Fath as well as acting as one of his models. They had one son, Philippe.
Fath presented his first collection in 1937, working out of a two-room salon on Rue de la Boetie. This first collection consisted of only 20 garments He later moved his studio the Rue Francois Premier in 1940 before settling into a final location at 39 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie in 1944.
Although during World War II Fath was taken prisoner in 1940, he was soon back in Paris, where he reopened his couture house with his wife Geneviéve. It has been said that Fath did not suffer any scruples of conscience as he was closely associated with various Franco-German groups and his clientele consisted heavily of Germans, wealthy collaborators, and black marketeers. Unlike Chanel, whose reputation as a Nazi sympathizer injured her career, Fath's image emerged intact, and after the war, his international career took off.
While not a terribly innovative designer, Fath was always popular and became known for dressing "the chic young Parisienne". Fath utilized many unique materials such as hemp sacking and sequins made of walnut and almond shells. His 1950 collection was entitled “Lily”, and featured skirts that were shaped to resemble flowers. Fath was mostly know for his glamorous eveningwear, were he advocated the use of velvet. During World War II, Fath was known to feature "wide fluttering skirts" which he said he designed to help aid the women who had to ride bicycles due to gas rationing. During the zenith of his career, Fath counted among his clients Ava Gardner, Greta Garbo, and Rita Hayworth, who wore a Fath dress for her wedding to Prince Aly Khan.
Fath had great personal appeal, with his boyish good looks and charm. He was also very much a social personality, and he and his wife loved throwing lavish parties.