Born: Near Carcassonne, France, in 1917. Education: Apprenticed with local tailor at age 16, later with the dressmaker Mirra, in Toulouse. Military Service: Completed required military service, 1936; served in World War II and was imprisoned for 18 months. Career: Employed at the house of Vionnet, 1936-39; opened own salon in rue Gaillon, 1941; with backing from Robert Perrier, opened Jacques Griffe Evaluation, in rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 1947; contributed styles to Vogue Patterns, 1950-68. Fragrances: Enthusiasme, Griffonnage, and Mistigri. Retired in 1968. Exhibitions: Elégance and Création: 1945-1977, Musée de la Mode et du Costume, Palais Galliera, Paris, 1977. Collections: Fashion Institute of Technology, New York; Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Musée de la Mode et du Costume, Palais Galliera, Paris.
Perkins, Alice K., Paris Couturiers and Milliners, New York, 1949.
Bertin, Célia, Haute Couture, Paris, 1956; as Paris á la Mode, New York & London, 1956.
Pickens, Mary Brooks, and Dora Loues Miller, Dressmakers of France, New York, 1956.
Delpierre, Madeleine, Elegance and Creation: 1945-77 (exhibition catalogue), Paris, 1977.
Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, Couture: The Great Designers, New York, 1985.
Martin, Richard, "Zeitgeist Becomes Form," in Artforum, March 1997.***
One of the few designers capable of taking an idea from concept to realization, Jacques Griffe sketched, draped, cut, and sewed. He was taught sewing and encouraged towards haute couture by his mother, who placed him with the local tailor. Although he found the work tedious, he later recognized it as the foundation for perfecting his craft. His skills were expanded when he learned dressmaking at the house of Mirra, and he came to Paris with the proficiency needed for haute couture. His placement at the house of Vionnet exposed him to unique ways of cutting, and the belief that draping cloth would relate to and enhance the female body. He would adapt this philosophy for his own creativity. Temporarily delayed by World War II, during which time he served his country and was taken prisoner, he was prepared to open his own house at war's end.
Vionnet gave him one of her dolls as encouragement solely to drape new models. Since he was equally able to sketch, he did both. Unlike his mentor, he was more of a colorist. He chose conservative colors— grey, brown, black, and checks in alpaca, wool jersey, crêpe, and broadcloth for suits and coats. Seen in them is the hand of a creative tailor—he was the first to introduce the boxy jacket, tunic, and cone-shaped coat of the 1950s. Aesthetically pleasing lines were imposed by his cut onto darts and seams used for fitting between the waist and shoulders. Decorative curved welt seams ending in an arrow were often used.
His day and afternoon dresses were softer than his suits. Sleeves were often kimono cut; bodices often blouson. Asymmetrical clothing ended in drapes, scarves, or bows at neck or hips. Pleating was used for insets of sunburst panels or for entire dresses. Polka dots were his favorite print. Evening dresses were also soft, supple, and feminine. Colors were pink, mauve, apricot, chartreuse, yellow, bright blue, navy, or black in chiffon, lamé, moiré, faille, satin, tulle, lace, taffeta, velvet, or brocade. High-waisted or camisole bodices had halter, strapless, or shepherdess necklines. Gowns were sheaths, or had extremely elaborate full skirts, floor or ballet length that ended in harem or flounced hems. Skirt decorations were either shirred, bands graduated in size, repeated swirled ruffles, or petal-like panels of pleating.
Griffe retired in 1968, and though his skill as a designer was second to none, he has, unfortunately, been largely fogotten in the 21st century.
updated by Sydonie Benét