Lucien Lelong ~ 1889 - 1958
Biography of Lucien Lelong, fashion designer
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Lucien Lelong trained at the Hautes Études de Commerce in Paris. Initially he worked for his father designing his first collection in 1907.
Our Latest rare find June 2012
This beautiful image is from the original House of Lelong and probably during his parents time, it may well have been from Lucien’s very first collection. It was entitled – Robe de apres midi, de Lelong.
The original studio photo is by Felix.
The description for the gown is: A high waisted robe with a white decorated layered fabric panel, falling over a pale blue long skirt. It has a detailed bodice with elbow length lace edged sleeves.
He saw action in the French Army between 1914 to 1917, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his bravery. During the second world war as President of the Chambre Syndicate de La Haut Couture Parisian he was responsible for preventing the relocation of Haute Couture to Berlin, saving thousands of skilled worker’s jobs.
He opened his own fashion Salon in 1918 at the end of world war l. He developed the talents of up and coming Designers, such as Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior and Hubert de Givency. For nearly 30 years the House of Lucien Lelong epitomized Parisian elegance, with a clientele drawn from international society and the arts. He was well known for his beautiful fabrics and understated dresses and evening wear.
Spring Show 23rd February, 1930 – Reported in New York. Quote ” Lucien Lelong is so essentially 1930, that, at first glance, his Spring showing might seem immune from the Greek influence, but it permeates his collection in a very subtle manner. It is present in the proportion of his day clothes, which are divided into three levels like the tunic of the Huntress Diana, though they are made of tweeds and crepes; in the peplums with which he likes to vary his line, in the draped bodices of his afternoon frocks and in the highly natural effect he achieves by his very sophisticated cut”.
“Lelong Features Green”. ~ “Practically all his evening wraps are much draped. Many of them are very short in the front, designed to tie at a high waist-line over a tiny peplum, while the draped back sweeps towards the floor. Evening frocks fall in sculptural folds, very flattering to the figure”. His colours are, as usual, almost miraculous, and the feature colour is NEW LEAF GREEN in all it’s variations, this is the freshest tint imaginable. He also shows many beautiful blues. One, in particular which he calls “FIRMAMENT” is at once dark, bright and intense, like a Paris evening sky. He likes shell pink for Debutantes and of course there are many of the “false but fair” grays, which Lelong first launched some seasons ago, and which have been universally accepted by the Paris Couturiers this Spring.
Lucien Lelong accentuates his evening colours with round ropes of crystal in a more intense shade than the frock. Double necklaces and triple bracelets resemble lovely crystal serpents.
Back to PARIS ~ In the late 1930’s he designed tight waisted full skirted dresses reminiscent of “The New Look” of Dior.
While masterminding the design and presentation of his collections, he expanded the business in clever ways taking a leading role in his profession.
1932 – Lucien Lelong in his perfume advert.
In 1934 The first ready-to-wear range of fashion was introduced. Quote: What does a Couturier do at his own show? “Lucien Lelong always sits on an uncomfortable high stool in the doorway, buzzing a button to give the next mannequin her entrance cue so that the collection never lags, or goes too fast. His buffet afterwards, is one of the nicest apologies in Paris for asking people to work late”.
This quote is written by Bettina Wilson.
A dress fitting drawn by the Artist: Carl Ericksen.
1937 Artist: Christian Berard.
Economic hard times required more customer’s and so this lead to Lucien Lelong launching the label Robes d’Edition. This line of high quality pre manufactured clothing required just one fitting and was far less expensive than his coveted haute couture line. 1937 – These smart dresses are for day wear. Read more ↓
1938 Portrait line drawing.
These two smart styles were worn from 1938 to the early 1940’s – perhaps even longer, because they were so easily wearable and acceptable for any daytime occassion.
Clientele. Lucien Lelong’s second wife Natalie Paley, an exiled Russian Princess fashion model and Hollywood actress, typified the ideal Lelong Client. Others included Colette, Greta Garbo, The Duchess of Windsor and Marlene Dietrich.
1938 – Two gowns and Lucien Lelong’s “Collection” description.
- 6th November 1939 Don’t look down dear!
Not so smooth times for Lucien Lelong
Press Report : Lucien Lelong goes on a trip Via Berlin and returns on the week-end of 29th July, 1940. An eventful set of circumstances with the Germans in world war 2. Reported to the American Press via Berlin. He had been expected back for several weeks, but was delayed by a slight accident resulting in a HEAD INJURY! He has recovered, except for a scar on his forehead, already masked by a healthy coat of tan. (He also visited Biarritz during this trip).
The report goes on to say: M. Lelong’s trip took him only through occupied territory. He stated he was treated with extreme courtesy by the German Authorities everywhere and obtained all necessary safe conducts without difficulty.
(While he was away apparently his Fashion House was raided by the Germans and American Client lists were among their spoils.
Why he went to Berlin is not known). Interviewed in his Paris house this morning. M. Lelong said the Paris Couture Syndicate also was back with all its personnel and functioning normally. He immediately made contact with M. Moreau, President of the Paris Textile Syndicate Chamber. The two syndicates will work in close collaboration. At present they are studying the situation.
Racketeers start fashion garmet copying
(An interesting Report and worth a read)… 1940 – Fashion Syndicate Paris, tries to stop Racketeers. They carry out a drive upon “MODEL RENTERS” Who make Purchases of gowns to COPY. Even Government Aides was enlisted. Lelong says ” important step has been taken to protect Legitimate Business”. Lelong and his aides were hot on the track of these Model Renters and they discovered a vast plot to “bootleg” Paris models on a large scale.
A gigantic Paris Organisation incorporated Elegant Female Agents, who posed as private Clients, bought the latest dresses, hats and furs, ostensibly for their own wardrobes, and supplied them to these “style Racketeers”. Upon investigation more than 300,000 francs worth of orders, placed with various leading Paris Fashion Houses for gowns from the current Summer Collections, have been traced to this source. The orders were annulled, the payments refunded and the deliveries stopped.
“This was the first step in consolidating a new Franco-American couture front” Lucien told the reporter “The model renting racket is equally injurous to both buyers and sellers. The renters will stop at nothing. By hook or, crook they gather together collections of the latest Paris creations and tour America, showing them in every City to any manufacturer, large or small, of dresses, notions or accessories who can pay the price of admission”. Consequently the buyers from important American houses, who spend thousands of dollars every season to procure exclusive couture models, often get back to New York only to find that — thanks to the model renters — copies of the same thing were being turned out by the MILLIONS”. “This was bad enough at any time, but now in wartime, when the leading buyers have risked so much to rally to our support, it is insufferable”.The Government immediately took steps to prevent model renters from getting visas to visit France for these Summer Fashion Openings, but they did not stop there. Thoroughly aroused, Lucien Lelong and his aides turned detective and after much cautious investigation got a line on the “Model Renters MOB”.The Couture war against the model renters is an old story, but it reached an acute stage last mid season when one of the most prominent renters, with more courage than discretion, flew over on the Clipper and announced that she had thousands of dollars to spend on the first wartime Paris models on behalf of certain manufacturers. Lucien Lelong called an emergency meeting of the Paris Couture Syndicate to discuss the affair. It was found that the reputable manufacturers had arranged to buy through the established commissionaires; so all members signed an Agreement not to sell to her.Undiscouraged, she succeeded in persuading some charming American women residents in Paris to order the new models, supposedly to wear themselves, which they immediately handed over to her. The deception was discovered only after some deliveries, including those from Schiaparelli, had already been made. From then on the tale reads like a Detective Movie. The Couture Syndicate went into action in a BIG WAY. French Border Customs Officials Warned. Wireless warned customs officials on every French border not to let the models out of the country; telegrams were sent to captains of outgoing air and ocean liners enlisting their co-operation; aeroplanes were chartered by the fleeing renters and her pursuers. Nevertheless she not only made a successful getaway, but also managed to take a number of her purchases with her.Some of the ramifications of the plot are still to be followed to their probably surprising ends.The most important ones have already been NIPPED IN THE BUD and the couture Sherlocks have every reason to congratulate themselves on their handling of “The Case”. (This practice did continue and it was a good try in stopping the Smuggling out of new designs from France). 1941- A dark blue dresses with matching patterned long coat for elegant evenings at at home.
- Artist: Benigni 1941
1942 – Photo and text reported with interesting content.
1942 – Another design was a gathered section in the front of the dress which was used to give a soft effect mainly used in the front of the style. The original French text reads: – Robe de’apres midi. Simple et elegant en lainage noir. Effect de drape du corsage et a la jupe devant.
1942 – Four special designs from our Journal collection, complete with French text descriptions.
1942 Evening dress sketch. The text description for these four is to the right.
1944 – This beautiful gown is sketched with two small photos, showing Lucien working with the Modelist/Dressmaker, before the final effect of the material and all the other dress design details are decided upon. The size is exactly right and he dreams “ONE DREAMS OF THE MOYEN AGE using rose brocant/brocade and gold”.
The Client wants it differently! The Client also asks for the collection/the other dress in jersey and silk in black. The other Assistant is avidly watching the whole procedure and is probably in training.
The larger image does show up more detail and is easier to see. The gown has a fabulous scooped neck-line and a fitted bodice. The sleeves are rushed narrowing to the cuff. Ending with a magnificent full skirt using lots of patterned or textured material.
1944 -Powder advertisement. His fashion empire included a perfume division. Parfume Lelong, which still exists today.
1944 – Artist: Christian Berard.
1945-6 Lucien Lelong exhibited at the Theatre de la Mode Paris in an Exhibition of small dolls. This picture is when he was choosing designs. Entry update 29 June 2014.
1947 – White double layered full skirted eventing gown. Artist: Rene Gruau.
1952 – A perfume advertisement.
Lucien Lelong was the last in a long line of Couturiers who were Masters of every aspect of haute couture., combining a keen business sense with a refined eye for modern design. One of the greatest talents of the fashion industry of this period.
LATEST BOOK Lucien Lelong published by Thames & Hudson by Jacqueline Demornex, (An Illustrated History).