Green damask dress by Jacques Fath for Les Couturiers Associes., c. 1950-1954
It is often implied that Pierre Cardin was the father of French Confections (the early term for ready-to-wear or prêt-à-porter.) This idea comes from when Cardin was expelled from the Chambre Syndicale in 1959 for launching a prêt-à-porter collection for the Printemps department store in Paris. Although he was reinstated, what Cardin had done was contrary to the rules set by the Chambre Syndicale. However, it was not what he had done but rather how he did it that was the problem.
Since the 1910s fashion designers had been selling their designs to foreign manufacturers for creating ready-to-wear clothes. During the depressed economy of the 1930s, when individual clients were scarce, couture houses relied upon foreign manufacturers licensing designs for making ready-to-wear copies. As long as the couturiers didn’t sully their reputations by making the clothes themselves — It was okay to supply meat to the butcher, but you couldn’t make the sausage.
Jean Desses matchbox suit jacket, c. 1954
While Christian Dior may have been a brilliant designer, he was an even better businessman. He took every opportunity available, while adhering to the rules of the Chambre Syndicale, to directly profit from government subsidies, licensing agreements, accessory and boutique lines, and especially subsidiary ‘semi-couture’ (high end ready-to-wear) collections, like the ‘Christian Dior New York’ line he founded in 1948.
Seeing the success of Dior’s ventures, other designers looked for similar arrangements. Jacques Fath directly entered the American ready-to-wear market in 1948 designing a line for Joseph Halpert, a 7th avenue manufacturer in New York. Jacques Fath was also a member of Les Couturiers Associés, founded in 1950 by Jacques Fath, Robert Piguet, Jean-Marc Paquin, Marie-Louise Carven, and Jean Dessès. This association was an attempt at the creation of a prêt-à-porter indusry by leading French designers. A report in Adelaide Australia’s The Mail from April 28, 1951 advertises that 35 models from Fath, Piguet, Paquin, Carven, and Dessès would soon be reproduced in Australia by Myers (An Australian manufacturing company). The association seems to have only survived until 1954, probably due in part to the deaths of Piguet and Fath, as well as the imminent decline of the House of Paquin.