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Pauline Trigère had a reputation for being difficult

Pauline Trigère had a reputation for being difficult, she embraced this perception, once told an assistant ''There is room for only one prima donna around here, and that's me.'' Someone once described her sense of humor as Rabelaisian; which is such a great word. Trigère was once approached by a lady who said to her,''Oh, Miss Trigère, I have a dress of yours that I've worn for 25 years.'' Apparently, the designer glared, said ''Just what am I to do with that piece of information?'' Born in 1908 to Russian-Jewish parents in Paris, tailoring was the family business. She learned to sew as a child, but wanted to become a surgeon. Dad discouraged this, “He said he didn’t want me playing with cadavers.” The family left Europe before WWII, headed for Chile, but New York captured Trigère’s heart, and they settled in Manhattan where she and her husband opened a tailoring business. The husband left in 1942, which is about when Trigère opened her eponymous label. Trigère wore only her own designs. She draped her pieces, was an impeccable tailor, and could design a gown with no obvious seams. During shows, Trigère would stand on stage to describe each piece as it was modeled, in stark contrast to other designers. She sometimes used prints designed by Tzaims Luskus. Her clients included Lena Horne, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis and “That Woman.” In 1961 she became one of the first American designers to hire an African American model, Beverly Valdes. By the 1980’s she was selling more than $6M annually. She won all the awards for her work, too many to list. She was the first American designer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her business, and continued to work until she closed her house in 1994. Trigère never discussed her age until her 90th birthday, when she “announced that her age on the invitation had been printed upside down.” Sometime around this birthday she told friends she had left instructions that she wanted to be cremated wearing her trademark, bright red lipstick. When asked why this mattered, Trigère said “I’ll know.” She died at home of natural causes in 2002, at 93. ''People always say to me, 'Aren't you French?' and I say, 'No, I am American,’ I found in this country everything I wanted. This country made me Pauline Trigère.''

Uwe Westphal comment

The Trigere family must have left Paris due to the intense anti Jewish resentment within the Paris Haute Couture elite. This is a chapter that needs more attention and historical research. For Berlin’s Jewish fashion firms and what happened to them, see my book: "Fashion Metropolis Berlin 1836-1939." Uwe Westphal

ICYMI: The Fashion Constellate Label Archive is the most comprehensive archive of fashion labels online, and it is free to use. Find it on the "Research" page of our website.

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