Jean Dessès

Born: Alexandria, Egypt, 1904
Died:  Athens, Greece, 1970

Born to Greek parents, Jean Dessès was educated in Egypt before moving to Paris to study law. Destined to enter the Diplomatic Corp, he decided to change his profession and started designing in 1925. Working in Paris, Dessès designed for Mme. Jane until 1937. He then opened his own fashion house at Avenue Georges V.

Dessès created a soft, feminine style that seemed dashing and unafraid. He designed by draping fabrics directly onto a dummy and his clothes became hugely popular attracting rich and discerning clients.

In 1948 Dessès travelled to America and signed an agreement with two businesses to manufacture his clothes. His American collection began to be sold in the U.S directly through wholesalers. That same year he moved his business to the Hotel Eiffel.

In 1949 he released ‘Jean Dessès Diffusion’. The more accessible line was seen as the beginning of French haute couture’s involvement in mass production.  Also in that year Dessès hired Guy Laroche as his design assistant. The following year Valentino Garavani was employed as an apprentice.

In 1951 Dessès’ designs were chosen by HRH Princess Margaret, giving the label Royal cachet.

Laroche left Jean Dessès in 1957 to launch his own house. Garavani also left to become Laroche’s assistant.

In 1960 Dessès closed his business and moved to Greece. He continued as a freelance designer most notably designing Princess Sophia of Greece’s wedding gown in 1962 for her marriage to future King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Dessès died in 1970. After his death his designs lost their popularity until the 1990s when his clothes saw a revival with Naomi Campbell and Renee Zellweger wearing them.

Jean Dessès took inspiration from his Greek and Egyptian roots. He had a fascination with drapery and classical form and was a master of draped chiffon and muslin evening dresses. Rather than setting trends, Dessès interpreted them, combining his technical skills with a sculptural aesthetic.

Jean Dessès Biography

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Written by Saxony Dudbridge

Saxony Dudbridge was one of the first contributors to the Catwalk Yourself project, Saxony studies International Fashion Marketing and she is responsible for our great History and Designers Biographies sections.

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