29 April 2013

As I mentioned on the earlier posts, twitter, and tumblr, currently I am in a book writing project about haute couture. One chapter of the book will feature many designers in the past, who were grandeur, or simply put steppingstones for their successor, apprentice, and even foes. And this woman is what all this couturier cordon starts.

Marie-Jeanne Bertin (2 July 1747, Abbeville, Picardie, France – 22 September 1813, Épinay-sur-Seine), or as public know as Rose Bertin, was one of the firsts celebrated French fashion designers, and as a milliner and dress maker, she was also the dressmaker for the most renown fashion fanatic in French history, Marie Antoinette. 

Marie Antoinette drawn when she was wearing a dress believed to be designed by Rose Bertin

Below is the only dress  believed to be made by Rose Bertin for Marie Antoinette.

Detail of train: silk, silk embroidery, spangles, glass stones & ribbon. From the collection at the Royal Ontario Museum.

First when she came to Paris, she was an apprentice of a milliner, Mademoiselle Pagelle at the Trait Galant, whom later became her business partner. By 1772 she worked in the exclusive rue Saint-Honore in Paris, where she opened her own shop under the name of the Grand Mogol. She quickly won the patronage of several influential courtiers, such as the duchess of Cartres and Louise Marie Adelaide de Bourbon, who introduced her to the newly crowned queen, Marie Antoinette, in the summer of 1774. In addition to Marie Antoinette, Bertin dressed the queens of Spain, Sweden and Portugal; the Grand-duchess Maria-Fedorovna of Russia; and many European aristocrats. Rose Bertin had mesmerized the Queen ever since, with her lavish creations, including sumptuous hairdos with all embellishments and ribbons and beads attached to sky high constructed powdered hair. In just a short period of time, her career as fashion dressmaker skyrocketed, and rumor had it that the price of a single dress of hers costed twenty times higher than other designers' dress. One dress was mentioned to cost 20.000 livres, or around $84.000, at that time, ends of 16th century. Duhh...

In 1777, Bertin had a staff of 40 employees not including dozens of subcontractors and suppliers. By 1778, Bertin's name had soared and so powerful at court that the press would refer to her as France’s minister de modes, or “Minister of Fashion.” Bertin’s partnership with the queen took a huge role in her success, but it also also destroyed her. As Marie Antoinette’s popularity faded, so did Bertin's. Courtiers were outraged by Bertin’s privileged place in the royal circle, unprecedented by commonalty.

When Marie Antoinette was imprisoned, Bertin moved to London and continued her business for a while, and by the time Bertin returned to Paris, she was out of business and also out of fashion. She died just a few months before the restoration of the monarchy in 1814 at her country retreat in Epinay-sur-Seinve. Like many other big artisans, she died in her downturn.

Signorefandi, does a pioneer, in anything, have to die in misery?