Louis Féraud, placing colour at the heart of fashion
Vintage Pre-Loved Designers Series: Unsung Designers of the 20th Century
1/ Louis Féraud
Louis Féraud was a baker until he was 20 years old, a specialist in colour through his passion for painting, and when success came knocking after the famous Brigitte Bardot wore one of his dresses, he left everything behind to sail around the world. Are you familiar with the sunny, cheerful fashion of this designer?
Féraud is the second designer to be showcased in our series of articles on “pre-loved designers”, unsung figures of the 20th century who nevertheless shaped the fashion of their time (read our article on Jacques Heim). Vintage fashion is not only about breathing new life into exceptional pieces that have languished in closets, it is also a way to keep the history of fashion alive by bringing forgotten designers back into the spotlight.
Let's discover the story of Louis Féraud, the designer who placed colour at the heart of fashion.
A path not destined for fashion
“The serious side of my job as a fashion designer is to never come across as someone who knows, since in fashion, knowledge is yet to come.” Louis Féraud
Louis Féraud had never considered becoming a couturier. He was born in 1921 near Arles. He was self-taught, and family pressure pushed him to become a baker, which he continued until the age of 20. He then became an electrician, followed by a lifeguard position and finally manager of a sports store in Cannes.
It is in this city, in 1950, that he opened a fashion boutique with his wife, Zizi, as a showcase for their creations. She knew how to draw, and he had a perfect mastery of colour, thanks to his passion for painting. Zizi was at the initiative of his destiny as a designer, he described her as his “school of couture”. It was also in Cannes that they met an engineer from the Arts et Métiers school, Jacques Esterel. Together, they became partners under the name Louis Féraud.
From the south of France to the capital
In 1955, Louis Féraud presented his first collection, and the small Cannes boutique quickly became successful. Real fame came in the 1960s when he dressed the famous actress Brigitte Bardot, or “BB”. She bought a white cotton piqué dress with a neckline decorated with guipure lace. She was photographed wearing the dress, and in one week, 500 dresses were sold. Louis Féraud went on to dress BB in about twenty of her films.
The designer did not expect this rapid success. To meet this growing demand, and after a world tour by boat, he moved to the capital, 88 Faubourg Saint-Honore, next to Pierre Cardin, in a small apartment overlooking the Élysée Palace where he set up his store and his painting studio. Louis Féraud was one of the first to create a ready-to-wear fashion store (in Cannes and then in Paris), and transformed haute couture by offering new alternatives to buyers.
Louis Féraud, working with Jacques Estérel at the time, had his first success: gingham dresses and bright flowers on a black background. The pair were at the peak of modernity.
The French capital was seduced, he dressed the Parisian elite, as well as other movie stars, Mireille Darc, Liz Taylor, Ingrid Bergman and Kim Novak, allowing him an international reputation.
1/ Poster for the film “Come Dance with Me” starring Brigitte Bardot, 1959
2/ Brigitte Bardot wearing the famous gingham dress created by Jacques Esterel, 1959, Photo Eyedea/Keystone
3/ Jacques Esterel and Catherine Deneuve during a fitting, 1960, Photo Agence Roger Viollet
4/ Louis Féraud, Bergère afternoon dress in printed cotton canvas, 1955-1957, Palais Galliera
Expansion and diversification
His partner, Jacques Esterel, left the company and founded his own company in the late 1960s.
In 1958, Louis Féraud presented his first haute couture collection and joined the likes of Dior, Balenciaga, Lanvin and Givenchy. Inspired by his haute couture line, two years later he launched his ready-to-wear line in association with the German group Fink (hence the inscription “Made in Germany” on many of Féraud's pieces). He joined the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture in 1962.
The Féraud house contributed to the fame of many designers. It was first Daniel Hechter who worked alongside Louis Féraud. Then in 1962, he hired Jean-Louis Scherrer, before meeting Per Spook, both of whom had previously worked for Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. Per Spook stayed with Féraud for fifteen years.
That same year, his ready-to-wear collections were launched in New York on 5th Avenue at Saks and then in 32 cities across the USA. In England, Louis Féraud made his debut at Harrod's and Fortnum & Mason.
1/ Louis Féraud, August 1958 Paris,Getty Images
2/ Louis Féraud F/W 1963-64. Macha Méril.
3/ Louis Féraud, 1966
1/ Louis Féraud, 1969
2/ Louis Féraud and Per Spook
3/ Louis Féraud, ELLE France, September 1975, Dick Balarian
1/ Louis Féraud, VOGUE, 1972
2/ Louis Féraud, 1970’s
Recognition and a return to his roots
In 1978, Louis Féraud was awarded his first “dé d’or” prize for his work in haute couture, followed by a second in 1984. The designer was also crowned Prince of the Art of Living in 1991 and four years later received the Legion of Honour.
That same year, in 1995, after 40 years, Louis Féraud decided to leave fashion and gave the reins to his daughter, Kiki. He devoted his last years, until 1999, to his lifelong love of painting.
Louis Féraud was, in fact, as much a fashion designer as a painter. He continued to paint throughout his life. His paintings, including landscapes and nude women, were exhibited in Paris, notably at the Grand Palais in 1988, and in New York. His artworks, as well as his clothing collections, were characterized by a dreamlike and cheerful universe that was unique to him, with colourful geometric patterns and black and white graphics. Much like in the south of France, we find flowers, colourful shapes and a lot of light. Some of his paintings have been printed on silk scarves. Throughout his career, his emphasis on colour in couture was reflected in his collections.
1/ Louis Féraud, Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1990 Collection - Fashion show model
2/ Louis Féraud Haute Couture show, Fall/Winter 1985/86 collection in Paris in July 1985, France.
3/ Louis Féraud 1980's
4/ Louis Féraud fashion show
The renaissance of a great designer through a vintage revival
After the death of the designer, the house passed from hand to hand without revival, mourning the loss of the jovial soul of its creator. The Dutch group Secon acquired Féraud in 1997 before selling it to the German group Escada in 2001. The artistic direction was entrusted to Belgian Jean-Paul Knott. The brand was recovered in 2005 by Alain Duménil, via his group Alliance Designers (Jean-Louis Scherrer, Jacques Fath, Emmanuelle Khanh, Stephane Kélian). In 2011, Paris Group International (PGI), bought the assets of the Parisian label Louis Féraud.
As his label slowly faded away, the name Louis Féraud lost notoriety among the general public. However, his reputation is now growing among vintage enthusiasts, and his pieces are increasingly sought after on the second hand market. This is why we wanted to bring back the story of his life.
Our mission at Lysis is to democratize access to knowledge of fashion history, so that we can all recognize what a beautiful piece is and know how to identify great designers. Louis Féraud is one of them!
“For me, fashion is a conflict between elegance and chic, elegance being the way of submission, and chic being the way of arrogance”, said fashion designer Louis Féraud. Rediscover this artist and his colourful, bright work at Lysis, through his iconic vintage pieces.
Discover here our article on the history of Jacques Heim, the first in our series on the unsung designers of the 20th century.
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