Jacques Fath (born Maisons-Laffitte, France, 6 September 1912 – Paris, France, 13 November 1954) was a French fashion designer who was considered one of the three dominant influences on postwar haute couture, the others being Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain.
The son of André Fath, an Alsatian-Flemish insurance agent, Fath came from a creative family. His paternal great-grandparents, Caroline and Theodore-Georges Fath, were a fashion illustrator and writer, and his paternal grandfather, Rene-Maurice Fath, was a landscape painter.
Fath presented his first collection in 1937, working out of a two room salon on Rue de la Boetie. The studio was later moved to a second location on Rue Francois Premier in 1940 before settling into a third location at 39 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie in 1944. Among his models was Lucie Daouphars (1921 or 1922–1963), a.k.a. Lucky, a former welder who eventually became the top house model for Christian Dior.
As self-taught designer who learned his craft from studying museum exhibitions and books about fashion, Fath hired a number of 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 Garavani.
A popular and occasionally innovative designer known for dressing "the chic young Parisienne", Fath utilized such materials as hemp sacking and sequins made of walnut and almond shells. His 1950 collection was called Lily, and its skirts were shaped to resemble flowers. For eveningwear, he advocated velvet gowns. During World War II, Fath was known for "wide fluttering skirts" which, The New York Times explained, "he conceived for the benefit of women forced to ride bicycles during gasoline rationing". His clients included Ava Gardner, Greta Garbo, and Rita Hayworth, who wore a Fath dress for her wedding to Prince Aly Khan.
The house closed in 1957, three years after Fath died of leukemia, a disease diagnosed in 1952. It was operated in its last days by his widow, who presented her first well-regarded collection for the fashion house in 1955 and who worked with three of her husband's former associates: Catherine Brivet (who previously had worked for Paul Poiret, Jean Patou, Pierre Balmain, Coco Chanel, and Cristóbal Balenciaga), Pierrey Metthey, and Suzanne Renoult (a fabric expert who had worked for Lucien Lelong, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Gaston Worth). After the company's haute couture operations ceased, it went into business producing perfumes, gloves, hosiery, and other accessories.
The company has produced a number of scents, including Jacques Fath L"Homme (1998), Yin (1999), Yang (1999), Fath de Fath (1953, reformulated and relaunched in 1993), Chasuble (1945), Expression (1977), Canasta (1950), Iris Gris (1946), Fath's Love (1968), and Green Water (1947 but reformulated and re-released in 1993). The fragrance license was held by L'Oréal until 1992.
Relaunched by the France Luxury Group in 1992, Jacques Fath was purchased in 1996 by the Banque Saga Group, which appointed Tom van Lingen, a Dutch designer, as its head designer. In 1997, when the company was purchased by Groupe Emmanuelle Khanh, van Lingen was replaced by Elena Nazaroff. A year later, Nazaroff was replaced by Octavio Pizarro. The firm became part of the Alliance Designers Group in 2002, which announced the hiring of young English designer Lizzie Disney to revive the fashion side of the brand. . Disney and the firm parted ways in 2004, and the company was sold again in 2006.
Fath, who has been described by Italian journalist Bonaventuro Calora as extremely effeminate and a former lover of the French film director Léonide Moguy, married, in 1939, Geneviève Boucher de la Bruyère. The bride was a former model from an aristocratic family who had been a secretary to Coco Chanel. They had one son, Philippe (born 1943). According to Fath's friend Princess Giovanna Pignatelli Aragona Cortés, Geneviève Fath, who directed the business side of her husband's firm during his lifetime, was a lesbian.
Fath appeared in Scandale au Champs-Elysées (1949, directed by Roger Blanc).
He designed costumes for several films:
- Entre onze heures et minuit (1948, directed by Henri Decoin)
- Quai des orfèvres (1947, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot)
- The Red Shoes (1948, costumes for Moira Shearer)
- La minute de vérité (1952)
- Genevieve (1953, costumes for Kay Kendall)
- Abdullah the Great (1955)
Fath served agunner, second class, in the French Army. He received the Croix de Guerre with palm and the Legion of Honor. He also was held as a prisoner of war for a month.
Fath died of leukemia on 13 November 1954. Approximately 4,000 people attended his funeral at St. Pierre de Chaillot Church in Paris.
- Sumathi, G.J.: "Elements of Fashion and Style", p.115. New Age International Publishers, 2002.
- Neiman Marcus
- Valentino & Simmons, R., Is There A Future In Fashion's Past?, Time, 5 Feb. 2003.
- "Hemp Sacking Employed", The New York Times, 4 February 1949
- Giovanbattista Brambilla: Jacques Fath, 2006-03-12. (Originally: "Pride", n.80: Mani di fata, February 2006)
- "Princess Wed in Rome to Actor", The New York Times, 25 June 1954
- "Law Delays Entry of Paris Designer", The New York Times, 30 November 1952
- Jacques Fath at the Fashion Model Directory
- "Jacques Fath and his Couture Client". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
- Jacques Fath, Self-Taught Fashion Designer, A.G.Nauta couture, 2013-05-05.
- "Interactive timeline of couture houses and couturier biographies". Victoria and Albert Museum.
- Sewing patterns by Jacques Fath
- Interview with Jacques Fath model Janine Pons, 1948-1950