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Obit: Bernard Perris, French Designer

Bernard Perris, the French designer known for producing ready-to-wear with a couture flourish, has died of cancer.

PARIS — Bernard Perris, the French designer known for producing ready-to-wear with a couture flourish, has died of cancer at the age of 73.

This story first appeared in the August 10, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Perris had retired from fashion since leaving his post as artistic director of Jean-Louis Scherrer in 1997, devoting himself to the upkeep of the spectacular garden at his property in Eygalières in the Provence region of France.

Growing up, Perris was strongly influenced by his mother Emma, an impeccably groomed figure who owned a clothing boutique in his native Millau. His elegant style, honed by stints at Guy Laroche, Jacques Heim and Christian Dior, was popular with celebrities including Faye Dunaway, Joan Collins and Diana Ross, but his most stalwart supporter was Baroness Inès Reille, who was his muse and unofficial brand ambassador for 25 years.

“I was the kind of woman he liked: pulled-back hair, very thin with a long neck,” Reille said. “He became a very close friend and someone I appreciated immensely, because he was always very thoughtful and kind. That’s why he had a lot of friends, because he was very genuine. In that sense, he stood out a little in the world of fashion.”

Nicole Fischelis, group vice president and fashion director at Macy’s Inc., worked for Saks Fifth Avenue at the time. She recalled Perris as a jovial, cultivated man with a knack for tailoring and a strong feel for fabrics.

“We used to do a lot of trunk shows with him. He had a very elegant clientele,” she said. “His clients were often his friends, so he had a very good sense of their lifestyle and their needs.”

Maryline Bellieud Vigouroux, president of the Institut Mode Méditerranée, staged an exhibition at the Museum of Fashion in Marseille in 2001 featuring some 60 outfits designed by Perris and donated by Reille. “His style was like an illustration by [René] Gruau,” she said. “It was all about bold strokes and a very strict silhouette.”

Perris launched his label in 1969 with his longtime life and business partner Jean Lacourrège. At the height of its commercial success, the brand had 25 stores — including a unit on Madison Avenue in New York — and was available in 1,250 points of sale worldwide.

Perris left the house he founded in 1994, when the brand name was sold to Japanese group Coronet.

A ceremony is scheduled to be held for family and close friends in Eygalières on Sept. 4. Perris is survived by his mother and brother.