Childhood & Early Life
Jean Patou was born on 19 August 1880, in Normandy, France, to Jeanne Grison and Charles Patou. His father was a tanner.
He had a sister named Madeleine, who later married his business partner, Raymond Barbas.
He initially worked with his uncle who sold furs. In 1910, he moved with him to Paris with a dream to become a couturier.
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In 1912, Jean Patou started a salon that dealt with dressmaking and tailoring under the name ‘Mason Parry.’ The following year, he sold his entire collection to a New York City buyer and solidified the base for his future popularity in the United States.
The outbreak of World War I impacted his budding career as a fashion designer. He then went on to serve in the army during the war. After serving for four years, he re-opened his saloon in 1919 under his own name.
During the 1920s, Jean Patou earned recognition for designing the tennis skirt and knitted swimwear for women. He eliminated the flapper look of women’s sportswear and launched a new style with a knee-length cut skirt and a sleeveless top.
His famous look was first exhibited by tennis player Suzanna Lenglen in 1921. The look earned the name ‘la garconne’ and was an instant success, eventually taking over the 1920s fashion.
Patou was also the first fashion designer to promote the cardigan. During this time, he created the famous "designer tie" that left a legacy for future fashion brands and designers, including Paul Smith and Timothy Everest.
By 1922, he had familiarized a few sportswear styles. These styles appealed to his fashionable clientele who wished for a sporty look for their everyday outfits. That year, the fashion designer also introduced his label ‘JP’ on his collection.
In 1924, he expanded his fashion house by opening new branches to sell sportswear and accessories. That year, Jean Patou earned further recognition for his sweaters featuring cubist-style colored blocks.
In 1925, he opened ‘le coin des sports’, a sportswear boutique that specialized in clothes for a variety of sports, including tennis, fishing, riding, and golf. Also the same year, the renowned designer started a fragrance line by launching three women’s perfumes through his partnership with his brother-in-law, Raymond Barbas. Created by Henri Alméras, these fruity-floral fragrances were launched under the named Adieu Sagesse, Que sais-je? and Amour Amour.
Jean Patou later developed the first ever sun tan lotion, Huile de Chaldée. By the winter of 1928, he had reinvented his ‘la garconne’ style. This new style included skirts that were slightly fuller and were of ground-length.
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He soon came up with a new fragrance called Moment Suprême which was launched in 1929. The gowns he designed in the late 1920s were a little high at the front and touched the floor on three sides. The designer also invented a new color called ‘dark dahlia’ that became a stunning replacement for black.
Patou’s designs failed to impress during the 1930s. It was only his sportswear line that continued to make a mark.
During this period, the designer came up with an ensemble with a navy-blue jersey cardigan and a scarf in blue tussore, white, and red. The ensemble earned appreciation from ‘Vogue’ that singled it out as a perfect summer outfit for a number of activities like tennis and boating.
Jean Patou launched several new perfumes during the 1930s, including Cocktail, Le Sien, Divine Folie, Vacances, and Invitation.
His collection of perfumes also included ‘Joy’, which required 336 roses and 10,600 jasmine flowers to produce an ounce of perfume. Created by Henri Alméras, it is currently regarded as the world's second best-selling perfume after Chanel No. 5.
In 1935, Jean Patou designed dinner suits as a semi-formal wear ensemble and gave them unique features like a fantail. The following year, he showcased his final collection.
Following Jean Patou’s untimely death in 1936, Raymond Barbas became the chairman of his fashion house. The house later worked with several renowned designers, including Marc Bohan, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Christian Lacroix.
In 1987, the House of Patou presented its last fashion collection and closed after Lacroix left to start his own fashion business.
Following the closure of the House of Patou, the firm continued producing perfumes under the Jean Patou brand. It also made many fragrances for the famous French brand Lacoste.
From 1967 to 1999, Jean Kerléo served as the house perfumer who created all fragrances for the company, including Sublime, Patou Pour Homme, and 1000. In 1984, he also launched ‘Ma Collection’ that consisted of twelve of Patou's perfumes from 1925-64.
After Kerléo’s departure, Jean-Michel Duriez joined as the house perfumer. His production included Enjoy, Sira des Indes, and Un Amour de Patou.
In 2001, Patou’s family-owned business was purchased by Procter & Gamble’s division P&G Prestige Beauté.
It was later bought by a UK-based firm called Designer Parfums Ltd. Currently, only five out of the company’s 35 original fragrances remain in production. These are Joy, 1000, Sublime, Enjoy, and Sira des Indes.