Paul Poiret opened his house in 1903 and dramatically loosened the wasp-waist silhouette with his directoire dresses in 1906. By the time of WWD‘s launch, he was already renowned in fashion and considered daringly modern; he was the first designer the paper regarded as a star. In 1911, Poiret established both the decorative arts school Ecole Martine, which churned out furniture and fabrics, and a fragrance named Rosine, both were named after his daughters. He thus worked the lifestyle angle long before most others, Coco Chanel included. By 1920, he had his own perfume factory on 37 Boulevard Verdun, which “was turning out 200,000 bottles a month, destined for Paris and New York,” the paper reported. He also knew the value of a good party; his beyond-extravagant traveling Le Mille et Deuxieme Nuit ball would, decades later, draw comparisons to Yves Saint Laurent’s glitzy Opium bash.
But Poiret fell as quickly as he rose. In his obituary on May 4, 1944, WWD reported that the designer, who had lived for years in obscurity, was either working in a department store, “on the dole in England” or living in a madhouse at the time of his death. “It is not important, at this time, to recount his misfortunes, his extravagances, his grotesque and astounding follies, his mistakes, in business or his dissipations,” continued WWD. “Many men of his time had all of his faults; few of them had his rich dower of gifts.”
This story first appeared in the November 1, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.