Designer: Jean Patou, 19/08/1880 - 08/03/1936.

Paris Couture House

Director : Raymond Barbas

Second Director: Madeleine Patou

Garment: Dinner jacket

Collection: 1942 winter collection, made from silk, (crepe, satin), wool, metal.

The Krystal Campbell-pretty fashion gift at the NGV was extraordinary. The collections were displayed amongst a variety of renaissance paintings that permanently hang on the walls. The bafflingly beautiful garments presented an array of extravagant fabrics along with colourful ensembles ranging through history. One garment that intrigued me was Jean Patou’s couture Dinner Jacket. It had an elegant and sophisticated look that caught my eye instantly. Patou was a precise, innovative and passionate designer. From a young age he worked withed his uncle who was in the fashion trade business as a fur salesman. This early influence of fashion combined with Patou’s drive to design womens dresses eventually led him to open his own fashion house called Mason Parry, offering a range of luxuries such as Dressmaking, Professional Tailoring and Fur-wear.

In 1914, WWI begun and Patou closed up his fashion house to serve in the War.

He reopened in 1919 and quickly become exceedingly acknowledged for his innovative designs. From 1914-1918 France was in the midst of the atrocities brought on by WW1. The French economy was thereafter ruined, agricultural land was a wreck, and the industrial revolution was changing life in Paris.

Patou’s designs changed the way individuals viewed fashion, bringing in concepts of longer hems and sleeveless dresses. He is still recognised as the inventor of the tennis skirt, and was the first designer to popularise the cardigan. He was particularly well known for his geometric designs.

Throughout the Parisian 1920’s and 30s, Patou, like Chanel, introduced sportswear looks for daytime ensembles. Patou and Chanel were considered rivals, and in modern day Coco Chanel seems to have overshadowed Patou.

Patou didn’t consider himself a physical designer, stating “I wouldn't know how to design. I couldn't even if I wanted to, for I can't draw, and a pair of scissors in my hands becomes a dangerous weapon”.

Each season in his ‘laboratory’ he would provide his designers with lavish silks, antique fabrics and embroidery threads, leaving detailed annotated instructions of the styles and colours he wanted to be created. After each sample garment was made he’d critique and modify until satisfied. Patou was often inspired by well established painters such as Picasso and Braque.

The dinner jacket was one design that broke away from the norm with its sleek black silky manner, this jacket and skirt demonstrated a sophisticated attire worn by a classy lady of the 20th century. With a series of inlaid panels highlighted with two decorative buckles at the waistline.The dinner jacket has influenced modern day designers to create iconic looks for women, this particular design puts emphasis on the ideals of glamour and dinning. Patou was always looking to create stylish yet practical clothing.

After Jean Patou’s death the fashion house was taken over by Raymon Barbas the husband of Patou’s younger sister. Barbas would invite famous designers to collaborate, such as Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix. The couture house advanced to a collaborative modern workplace where designers would strive to conserve and respect the fashion philosophies that Jean Patou put forth whilst simultaneously encouraging innovative and contemporary cutting-edge designs.

Jean Patou once said ‘Certain dressmakers desire to pass for an artist. I have one ambition; that is to have good taste’ .