Monday, February 15, 2016
With Paris Fashion Week quickly approaching, it seemed fitting to take a step back in time- specifically, the late 1920s- to see how the late couturier, Jean Patou, lived. Although perhaps not as well-remembered today as his rival, Coco Chanel, Patou was one of the leading couturiers of the Twenties. An early advocate of sportswear, Patou gained a following that included some of that decade's most stylish women, including tennis great Suzanne Lenglen and Lady Diana Cooper. A savvy businessman with a nose for marketing, Patou cut quite a dashing figure throughout Paris, earning a reputation as a stylish man-about-town. It was to be expected that the couturier would choose to live in surroundings that were just as chic as the image he projected.
It was during World War I, when serving as a captain in the French army, that Patou met two fellow officers who, according to design historian Stephen Calloway, had a profound influence on the young couturier's burgeoning style. One soldier was Bernard Boutet de Monvel, the artist and aesthete, while the other was architect and decorator Louis Süe, who, after the war, formed a design partnership with André Mare. In post-World-War-I France, Süe et Mare were two of France's most fashionable interior decorators, assembling a coterie of sophisticated clients seeking their sumptuous brand of chic. One of those prominent clients was Patou, who enlisted Süe et Mare to decorate his 16th arrondissement hôtel particulier, which can be seen in these late-1920s photos.
What strikes me about these interiors is the designers' meticulous attention to detail- specifically, the way in which the decorative details worked together to form a seamless, stylish whole. Patou's house was not a random, careless assemblage of fashionable furnishings. Rather, each carefully-considered finish, fabric, and piece of furniture played an important role in creating what was ultimately a smooth-as-silk backdrop for living. And for all of the home's high-style, Art Deco-inspired décor, these interiors strike a cultured note, too. These are civilized rooms, most especially the bar. (Yes, bars can be civilized, something which, unfortunately, few of today's homeowners with at-home bars seem to understand.)
Scattered among these archival photos are images of some of Patou's fashions, further proof that Patou's house was just as modish as the House of Patou.
Image at top: Jean Patou in his study.