Born: Bourg-Argental, France, 1917
Died: Saint-Cloud, France, 1974
Jacques Esterel had no attraction to fashion at first, he instead presided over a factory that imported and exported machine tools. In 1950 he visited Louis Féraud’s fashion house in Cannes. The visit and Féraud himself inspired Esterel to try fashion. With a lack of formal training Esterel hired two of Féraud’s sales assistants. Working together they helped him launch his label in 1958 in Paris.
Esterel saw steady success and captured the interest of Brigitte Bardot. After large speculation on who would design her wedding dress for her marriage to Jacques Charrier in 1959, it was announced that Esterel had been chosen. The “Vichy” bridal gown he created marked the first celebrity endorsement for him as a designer.
With an unusual style, Esterel was nicknamed the ‘court jester’ during his rising fame in the sixties. His bizarre designs included plaid skirts for men and trousers featuring zips on the front and back. Esterel had a love of performance, which he portrayed through his designs. He wrote songs and plays, fuelling his love for fanciful creations.
In 1963 he created tweed hats with small black veils and umbrellas that featured built in lights. The following year Esterel presented models with shaved heads to press a heavier importance to the face. His 1965 “Confused and Complicated” collection included striped swimwear that featured long skin-tight legs.
During the sixties and seventies Esterel took popular street style including the mod look, and translated it into haute couture designs. Having already worked with cross gender dressing, Esterel pushed this idea through his 1970 “Unisex” collection which presented clothes accessible for both genders.
Four years later Jacques Esterel died. His house continued operating under the direction of his wife and daughter and with the backing of Jean-Baptiste Doumeng. Together, they strove to keep Esterel’s spirit alive; however, Doumeng renamed the company Benoit Bartherotte. The name was later reverted.
After several publicised law suits, regarding plagiarised designs, the Fashion Creator Union dropped the company and banned Jacques Esterel from showing in Paris for several years. This resulted in the label losing interest.
As a designer Jacques Esterel saw no creative boundaries. Known for his outrageous styles and accessories, he had moulded together showman and couturier. He liked to refer to himself as a “Parisian craftsman of dresses and songs” which he showed through his youthful, theatrical spirit.
Jacques Esterel Biography