Cristobal Balenciaga. Pierre Balmain. Gabrielle Chanel.
Back in the day, these fashion deities had a contemporary who could have also ended up a household name: Jacques Fath. Sadly, an early death from leukemia closed the shutters on his house, lauded for its daring and dynamic designs.
Fifty-six years after Fath’s death, French conglomerate Alliance Designers Group--owned by Alain Dumenil--has bought the label and installed none other than Dumenil’s daughter, Laurence Dumenil, as the line's creative director. Sure, we know what you're thinking--and naturally we thought the same. But as she tells Fashionista, Ms. Dumenil's not worried about the whispers regarding the nepotism that so obviously took place. Instead, she's focused squarely on bringing the line back to its former glory. Check out our exclusive Q&A with her and view our gallery of the brand’s 2011 accessories collection.
Fashionista: What is your overall vision for this brand? Laurence Dumenil: In the next five years we are looking to be established in the market not only with handbags-- we're looking to do a womenswear or a shoe line. That’s in the future. Handbags are a great way to transition into the actual identity of the brand.
With French luxury brands like Hermes, Chanel and Dior firmly established, do you think Fath has a chance? I think it has a place. We are not using the same approach as other luxury French brands. Jacques Fath during his time was very well known but he was also avant guarde. He was using a completely different approach.
Is there one particular brand you are in competition with? I would say our direct competitor would be Balenciaga, because they used quiet a similar strategy to approach the market. They started off with accessories and renewed their brand identity (then expanded into apparel and shoes).
Who is the woman you are designing for? She would be between 25 and 40. She’s focused on her image. She wants a bag to make a statement--to consolidate her style.
What attracted you to this position? I've always been interested in working with leather. I’ve always been interested in the construction.
What’s your favorite thing about the job? Well one thing I really enjoy is looking through the archives. Everyday we see something new. It was so influential--especially in America. He was photographed by Irving Penn and he collaborated on a lot of films.
Are you ever offended by those who might say you were given the job versus earning it? I don’t take into consideration people who think that. I chose to be a designer when I was 18. I was already studying fashion and I was already doing internships with Liberty of London and working on the side with English designers. I was already on that path before he actually bought the company.
Were you particularly fond of Fath prior to taking on this new role? I used him as my final year project for my B.A at the London College of Fashion. The resources we have in our archives are bottomless.
What has the reception been like in Paris? Basically, we are focusing on the U.S market as an entry market--so we haven’t really been working on the French part. It’s not the major market.
Finally, when people think of Fath today--what should they think of? A lot of people don’t know much about his history. Fath was a very eccentric person who worked closely with silverscreen stars and made the wedding dress fo Rita Hayworth. He held costume parties that were very lavish and used colors extravagantly. These are the aspects of his personality we hope to bring forward and want people to remember.
Jacques Fath pieces are meticulously handcrafted in a family owned factory in the city of Angers, France. They retail from $690 to $2,000, and will be available for purchase exclusively at Gregory’s Las Vegas, Houston, and Dallas as well as Satine in Los Angeles and Hirshleifers in Manhasset. Click through to see the Spring 2011 collection.