Friday, September 25, 2009

Emeric Partos, Furrier Extraordinaire

A big thank you to all of you who took the time to respond to my question about vintage fur yesterday. The overwhelming response was a positive one, so I will feature pictures of vintage furs here on the blog in the future.

emeric partos jaguar fur, 1964Sometimes, the serendipity of finding images and doing research for this blog takes me to unexpected places. That happened today when I came across this image from 1964 of a little outfit designed by Emeric Partos. The outfit consists of a blouse and britches in real jaguar fur with a long red velveteen "fling" to throw over it. Pretty outrageous, right? That led me to find out more about Mr. Partos. He was quite a fascinating man.

Please note: Biographical information about Emeric Partos is copyright of Couture Allure and may not be copied without permission.

Emeric Partos was born in Hungary and moved to Paris in 1939. During WWII, he served in the French army and later became an operative in the underground, where he met couturier Alex Maguy. Partos joined Maguy's house as a coat designer, then joined the House of Dior as Dior's assistant in 1947. It is said that Partos was the one who came up with the idea of using crinoline petticoats to give volume to the yards of fabric in Dior's New Look skirts.

In 1950, Partos was invited to join the house of Maximilian Furs in New York, first as a guest designer, and then permanently. He terminated his contract with Dior and moved to New York.

Jasmine white mink cropped jacket by Partos,
made to order at Bergdorf Goodman, 1955

In 1955, Bergdorf Goodman lured Partos away by offering him free reign as the designer in their custom fur salon. It was here that the name Emeric Partos became synonymous with the finest, most expensive, and most innovative furs in the world.

Alaskan seal slim coat with side buttons by Partos,
made to order at Bergdorf Goodman, 1955

In 1957, Partos was awarded a Coty Award for his fur designs.

Empress Chincilla fur bolero jacket by Partos,
made to order at Bergdorf Goodman, 1958

Emba Autumn Haze mink coat by Partos,
made to order at Bergdorf Goodman, 1960

A showing at the fur salon on the second floor of Bergdorf Goodman was always attended by a Who's Who of high society. Customers such as Babe Paley, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Barbra Streisand could be found perched on little gold chairs watching a very theatrical show featuring Mr. Partos' latest creations with the finest pelts in the world. Not only did he design the furs, but he also designed the clothes and accessories that went with them.

Zebra fur dress by Partos from the late 1960s,
from the collection of the Met Costume Institute

Emeric Partos is credited with such innovations in the fur industry as knitting with strips of fur, dying fur, and using pelts from unusual animals like yak.

In 1974, Partos invented the fur "cover-up", essentially a separate coat made of poplin, gabardine, or silk that was meant to be worn over the fur coat to protect it from rain, sleet, and snow. It evolved into a garment that women wore over their fur coat so as not to look too ostentatious.

Emeric Partos died on December 2, 1975 at the age of 70. He had been with Bergdorf for 20 years.

In 1965, Barbra Streisand filmed a portion of her television special, "My Name is Barbra" in Bergdorf Goodman. The fashion show sequence features Streisand singing "Second Hand Rose" and other songs while modeling several fur outfits by Emeric Partos. Here is the clip of that performance from the show. You may want to skip through the first 3 minutes until you get to the fashion portion. You'll see Barbra wearing a long Somali leopard coat over a black leather dress, a pair of white mink knickers with a black sweater, a velvet print suit lined in Canadian wild mink, and a white broadtail lamb riding habit. The second fur is unidentified, but it looks like either fox or sable to me. All the hats were designed by Bergdorf's custom milliner, Halson (yes, that Halston). Barbra purchased most of the fur outfits after filming the show. Enjoy!