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What's Old Is New - Third Installment

    A while back I wrote about Cristobal Balenciaga and how the label sat fairly dormant for quite some time after the great designers’ passing, but came back strong in the 21st century, thanks to Nicolas Ghesquiere. Then, I posted about Pierre Balmain and the struggle the brand had after the designer died in 1982. Finally, in 2005, Christophe Decarnin rescued the brand. To complete the trilogy, I wanted to add Jean Dessés to the group although nobody has revived the label, it is making headlines again today.

    Kristin Davis in Jean Dessés
    Photo: Getty Images

    Hopefully, most of you read my recent post about the Sex in the City 2 premiere in NYC on Monday evening. Kristin Davis (aka Charlotte) wore a marvelous, pink chiffon dress by the late Jean Dessés. I thought she looked flawless, although I would like to have seen some larger earrings since she kept her neck bare. Wendy Brandes’ Cleopatra earrings would have been PERFECT -- Kim Cattrall wears these amazing 18K yellow gold and diamond, 4 ½” dangles in the film.

    click here to see Wendy's post about her fabulous earrings

    Anyway, back to Jean. I knew that I had some information on the great designer somewhere at home so I pulled out my old book, Couture by Caroline Rennolds Milbank. There he was in the glossary hiding below the “Three Jacques” as I refer to them (or Trois Jacques); Jacques Heim, Jacques Fath and Jacques Griffe. Good grief! Jean, Jacques and Pierre. Is there anything else to name a French designer? Yes, of course there’s Yves, Hubert, Gabrielle, Christian… Somehow, this all reminds me of a scene in one of my all-time favorite slapstick films, Top Secret! Watch as Val Kilmer is introduced to the French Resistance...

    This is hilarious!  And Val was so cute back then...

    So, back to Mr. Dessés! Sorry, I am easily side tracked. You know my motto, “I’d have an obsessive personality if I didn’t get bored so quickly.” Jean Dessés is actually of Greek descent (born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1904). He moved to Paris to study law, but found a passion for design instead. Dessés started sketching dresses in his notebooks during class (like another great designer, Geoffrey Beene) and by 1925, he started selling his drawings.

    Dessés black crepe dress, 1952
    Photo: courtesy of Roger-Viollet from the book, Couture

    Dessés worked as a designer from 1925 – 1937 at the Maison Jane in Paris and upon leaving, he opened his own house. Mr. Dessés worked in chiffon quite frequently and he fancied ombré fabrics. His elegant gowns were draped, twisted, gathered works of art often showcasing uneven hems. The designer was also fond of kimono sleeves, asymmetry and architectural manipulation.

    the great designer in 1960
    Photo: Willy Maywald from the book, Couture

    In 1963, Dessés closed his business and retired to Greece where he ran the boutique he had opened there in 1955. He died in 1970. Occasionally, his pieces can be found in select vintage shops, one of them being Decades, where Ms. Davis apparently picked up her perfect pink frock.