Marcel Rochas: Designing French Glamour
For a change of pace, this review will start with a multiple choice question:
Marcel Rochas: Designing French Glamour by Sophie Rochas is a) an homage, b) a love letter, c) a eulogy, d) all of the above, e) none of the above.
The correct response would be d) all of the above. Ms. Rochas, who happens to be the daughter of Marcel Rochas, has written an amazingly thorough and incisive telling of this great designer’s abbreviated life.
The timing of the release cannot be more fortuitous. At present, there are too many pioneers of fashion whose histories have been forgotten due to their brands being reimagined by new designers and under corporate ownership with no regard to the original DNA.
Marcel Rochas was without question ground breaking as well as an innovator on many levels. Ms. Rochas offers an almost encyclopedic accounting of her father’s professional and personal lives.
Books of this genre can either be very tedious or wildly engrossing and it must be said that Marcel Rochas: Designing French Glamour falls much closer in line with the latter. Not only are the photographs proof of the designer’s prowess, but the text is equally compelling and informative. There are many morsels of information about this great designer that most will never have been aware of such as Monsieur Rochas was married three times and was considered quite a ladies’ man.
This is the kind of fashion book that needs to be included in a fashion library as it reminds us what these brands and designers accomplished when fashion was in its nascent state and when haute couture was the rule rather than the exception. It is hard to fathom that at this time in the fashion continuum there were 350,000 people working in the couture fashion area and an additional 150,000 in related activities such as gantiers and embroiderers. Facts such as this are what make for a fashion reading experience.
“While I love all things new, conversely I hate eccentricity, the twin sister of bad taste. . . .” Marcel Rochas
Ms. Rochas’ monograph provides visual evidence of the changing tastes and trends of fashion as well as the designer’s prescience, his esthetic as well as his body of work. Here was an amazing business man who survived wartime and flourished with a thriving international couture business, salons, and multiple perfumes, cologne brands, as well as many other brand extensions. When the reader puts all of this into context, it is staggering given Monsieur Rochas passed away 60 years ago at age 53. Again the reader must frame this scenario in terms of when it all occurred as well as the circumstances of the designer’s success.
If there is anything negative to be said, it is the section concerning the wartime era which seems to be a boiler plate scenario for books dealing with fashion of that time. If the reader is very well read, he or she might find this information highly repetitive or yawn inducing. If the reader is less familiar with designers of that era, then he or she will be educated to the facts that pertained to designers of that specific time frame. Ms. Rochas surely might have withheld some of this data as history seems to get in the way and possibly overtake the true topic of the book.
In the end, this is a highly recommended read for all who are attracted to fashion and its history. Ms. Rochas delivers a gift of history to those of us who never seem to get enough background on the topic of fashion and the designers who made it great.