DISCOVER: Jean Patou & His Legacy

Jean Patou born 19 August 1880 was a French fashion designer and founder of the Jean Patou brand.

Patou was born in Normandy, his family’s business was tanning and furs. Patou worked with his uncle in Normandy, until he moved to Paris in 1910, intent on becoming a couturier. His foray into fashion started in 1912, when he opened a small dressmaking salon called “Maison Parry”. In 1914 his entire collection that year was purchased by a single American buyer. He continued until his work was interrupted by World War I and he was mobilized in August 1914, shortly after the German invasion of Belgium where he  served as a Captain in the Zouaves.

Notable Designs and Fashion Legacy

Back into fashion by 1919, his return marked with the creation of fashions we still see today; he designed sportswear for women – he designed the then-daring sleeveless and knee-length cut tennis wear for Suzanne Lenglen. He is also considered the inventor of the knitted swimwear and the tennis skirt. Also notably he popularized the cardigan and moved fashion towards the natural and comfortable. He is also credited with inventing the designer men’s tie, designing it in the same fabrics as his women’s collection. In 1925 he launched a fragrance collection of three perfumes. House of Patou catered to rich American women, and it thrived until he Depression, after which its perfumes took over to keep the house alive. Designers for the House of Patou included Marc Bohan (1954–56), Karl Lagerfeld (1960–63) and Jean Paul Gaultier (1971–73). Christian Lacroix was the last to join the label in 1981 ending in 1987 when the haute couture business closed when Lacroix’s departed to open his own house.

Fragrance of the Century

His fragrances are still available today and are vastly popular. The best known of Patou’s perfumes is “Joy,” noted for its heavy floral scent. Based on the most precious rose and jasmine, which remained the costliest perfume in the world, until the House of Patou introduced another fragrance “1000” heavy and earthy floral perfume, based on a rare osmanthus in 1972. In 2000, voted by the public at the Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards, “Joy” was voted “Scent of the Century” beating its rival “Chanel No. 5”.

 

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