Daniel Hechter

Paula Alaszkiewicz

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA233

Daniel Hechter is a French designer popularly credited with the invention of ready-to-wear fashion. While this claim is debatable, he has had sweeping successes across markets, continents, and design departments.

Hechter was born in Paris on 30 July 1938, to a family of ready-made clothing manufacturers. Hechter graduated from a trade school in 1956, after which he began work as a shopkeeper in a fashion house. During this time, Jacques Esterel and Louis Féraud began selling his designs. In 1957, Brigitte Bardot wore one of his designs onscreen in Une Parisienne, foreshadowing his future success. Hechter served in the French military from 1958 to 1960. Upon his return, he was hired by Zyga Pianko to design for the label Pierre d’Alby. After completing six collections for Pianko, Hechter founded his eponymous company alongside his friend Armand Orustein.

Initially, the Daniel Hechter label offered women’s wear pieces to suit the cultural climate and trends of the 1960s. France had recovered from the devastation of the war while the women’s and students’ movements had a significant influence on society. Hechter saw his typical client as a new breed of woman, one who was upwardly mobile, young, independent, and emancipated. In terms of design, Hechter offered ease and casual elegance through sporty separates and pantsuits. The accessibility of his product was of prime concern and Hechter was dedicated to providing the highest quality at the lowest possible price.

In 1965, Hechter introduced a children’s line, signaling the first of many expansions to come. Four years later, a menswear line was launched. The men’s collection shared in the relaxed attitude of the women’s collection. By the mid-1970s, the company had grown to include activewear, home furnishings, and an accessories line. This growth continued into the 1980s with the introduction of a furniture collection and a men’s fragrance. A second fragrance was added in 1996, only two years after the development of DH 621, a subsidiary line. Eyewear and undergarments can also be found in Hechter’s portfolio.

Hechter’s attention to activewear is reflective of a great passion for sport. In 1972 he cofounded Paris Saint-Germain Football Club, and was responsible for their crest and jersey design. Following decades of hosting parties in celebration of the French Open tennis tournament, Hechter was invited to design the uniforms for the umpires. Hechter supplied garments for the 1998 France national soccer team, who went to on to win that year’s World Cup.

The Daniel Hechter Group has acquired global licensing agreements and is an internationally recognized brand. In 1998, the company was purchased by Miltenberger Otto Aulbach GmbH, a German licensee firm. In the early twenty-first century, the business is run from Germany; the design studio, however, remains in Paris. While Hechter’s role as the inventor of ready-to-wear is difficult to prove, there is no doubt that he has provided a highly successful and innovative model for the development of an international lifestyle brand, one that has been faithfully followed by designers ever since.

Daniel Hechter, Fall/Winter 1991. Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Daniel Hechter. Web site. “History,” n.d. http://www.daniel-hechter.com/en/History/?force_sid=62690ab1c44d125c29c48cc0c7de9f33 (accessed 7 September 2015).

Find in Library Hechter Daniel. Daniel par Hechter: Mode, politique, PSG et autres coups de gueule . Paris : Pygmalion, 2013.

Find in Library McNeil Peter. “Fashion Designers.” In the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion , Volume 8, West Europe. Berg Fashion Library, 2010. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/BEWDF/EDch8028

Find in Library Waddell Gavin. How Fashion Works: Couture, Ready-to-Wear, and Mass Production . Oxford : Blackwell, 2004.