Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Jacques Tiffeau - Fashion Rebel

Isn't this suit from 1966 gorgeous? The lines, the drape of the sleeve, the double cuff, the tie at the waist. To me, it is perfect in every way. Of oyster color wool with a brown leather sash, what makes it interesting is that is is worn over a youthful bright fuschia turtleneck sweater. But then, Tiffeau was known for doing things differently. He was the avant-garde designer of the mid-1960's.

Jacques Tiffeau was the first American designer to raise hemlines to mini length, following the lead of Quant and Courreges, a full two years before the rest of America designers. He was the first to use black models and the first to use pop music at his fashion shows. He was also openly gay at a time when it was not socially acceptable to do so. He was a rebel. Brash and crude, he made many an enemy on Seventh Avenue, but he was also friends with some very important people, who delighted in his antics.

Tiffeau was born in France and grew up on a farm in the Loire Valley during the German occupation. About 1950, he was introduced to Christian Dior and became his lover while learning the trade. Tiffeau moved to New York in 1952 where he went to work as a pattern maker for Monte Sano & Pruzan, a coat and suit house. In 1958, he and Beverly Busch formed Tiffeau-Busch, a label that became very popular for it's spirited and youthful looks. Tiffeau won two Coty awards in 1960 and '64. He was one of America's first "celebrity designers".

Tiffeau was an early riser, and would start his day in the design studio at 7am, where he would work diligently with his assistant until 12:30. His work day over, he would then go off to La Grenouille, where he lunched with John Fairchild, publisher of Women's Wear Daily. During these lunches, Tiffeau would often pass along fashion trade gossip to Fairchild, one of the reasons he made so many enemies in the business. Tiffeau's afternoons were spent in outrageous sexual dalliances. He was most often asleep in bed by 8pm.

In 1972, Tiffeau announced to Busch that he wanted out, and Tiffeau-Busch closed. He returned to France, where he went to work for Yves St. Laurent, but left after differences with Pierre Bergé. He then designed for various less important fashion houses before returning to New York to work a short time for Originala. He was fired after a tantrum which involved throwing bolts of fabric out a window. He then approached his friend, Bill Blass, who offered him a position with Blassport. But he betrayed that friendship when, with Blassport's licensee Norman Zeiler, he tried to steal the line to form the label SporTiff. After that fiasco, Tiffeau disappeared from the fashion industry. He died in Paris in 1988 at age 59.

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