Jean Patou

Born: Normandy, France, 1887
Died:Paris, France, 1936

Jean Patou opened a small fashion house named Parry at the outset of the First World War. His first major showing scheduled for 1914 had to be cancelled and subsequently Patou closed the business. Serving in the Army for fours years, Patou re-opened as a couturier in 1919 under his own name.

Patou’s designs exhibited a simple elegance that looked like they should be worn by real women, not just mannequins. The style was a success with private clients and Patou began dressing the most chic ladies in Paris.

In 1921 tennis player Suzanna Lenglen was seen at Wimbledon in a design by Patou. Dressed in a pleated skirt cut to the knee and a straight white sleeveless cardigan, the simple look was described as ‘la garconne’ and began to take over  fashion in the twenties.

With his brother-in-law, Patou created the fragrance division of his company in 1923. This marked the beginning of the house being known for its modern and successful approach to fragrances.

By 1924, alongside Chanel and Lanvin, Patou had established himself as a fashion leader. Starting from the point that fashion should not dictate the wearer but reflect their mind, his clothes began to show the wearer’s personality. The same year Patou began to create the concept of ‘sportswear’ and employed his initials as a monogrammed designer label, the first couturier to do so.

In 1925 Patou bought six American models to Paris. The models stood alongside his mannequins in a showing aimed to attract American buyers. Patou was known for this type of showmanship throughout his career.

Also in 1925, on advice from his brother-in-law, Patou opened a shop called ‘Coin des Sports’. The new store featured separate backdrops and areas for each sport creating an entire new concept for boutiques.

In 1929 Patou reinvented his ‘la garconne’ style. He returned the lowered waistlines of the twenties to their normal position while lengthening the skirts, dropping them to the ground.

After his death in 1936 Patou’s brother-in-law took over the business. This was followed by a series of resident designers carrying on the House’s tradition including Marc BohanKarl Lagerfeld, Michel Goma and Christian Lacroix.

As famous and successful as Chanel, he invented the concept of sportswear and classic clothing items. But, following his death, he has been overshadowed by his former contemporaries.  With a legacy of modern design and influential fragrances, Patou was a creative genius with a unique vision that helped mould and develop his fashion house.

Jean Patou 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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