Hervé Léger

Emily M. Orr

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA040

Hervé Léger was born in Bapaume, Pas de Calais, France in 1957. He attended the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris until 1975. After working as a hairdresser, he designed hats for the Parisian boutique Venus et Neptune and the London-based fashion label Pablo & Delia. The Italian knitwear designer Tan Guidecelli then hired Léger for his millinery skills and also trained him in pattern making and dressmaking between 1977 and 1980. Léger’s luck turned when Karl Lagerfeld, following their meeting at a dinner party, hired him as an assistant at Fendi in Rome. While at Fendi, he learned how to construct fur coats in felt bands, thus an early experiment with a striped silhouette.

When Lagerfeld moved to Chanel in 1983, Léger followed and for two years was his assistant on the couture and ready-to-wear collections. Léger then designed couture for Cadette in Milan and worked as an assistant for Diane von Furstenberg. In 1984, he opened his first boutique on Rue de Pélican in Paris, selling dresses and hats. While starting up his own line, he continued to freelance and produced a fur collection for Chloé in 1987 as well as couture at Lanvin, accessories for Daniel Swarovski, and ready-to wear clothing for Charles Jourdan.

In 1989, Léger’s signature body-molding dress evolved from his discovery of discarded stretch viscose bands, meant for foundation garments, in the garbage bin at a clothing factory. For the finale of his show at the Angelina Tea Salon in Paris in the early 1990s, Léger sent out a sleek V-neck dress sculpted from these bands. By 1992 the so-called bandage dresses were selling successfully at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, and Galeries Lafayette and were popular with high-profile clients. Each dress was hand-stitched and took between sixteen hours and a week to complete.

In 1992, Léger partnered with G. H. Mumm (subsidiary of Seagram), which financed his expansion into ready-to-wear and his move to the fashionable address of 21 Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré. In 1998, Seagram sold its stake in the label to the BCBG Max Azria group, leaving the designer with only 5 percent ownership. By April 1999, Leger disassociated himself from the partnership due to budget cuts and differences of opinion. In 2007, Max Azria relaunched the Hervé Léger label and made the archive accessible.

In 2000 the designer changed his name to Hervé L. Leroux and opened a small atelier with his sister Jocelyne and two seamstresses in Paris. He has left his bandage dress behind and instead offers dresses of soft drapery and pleating. Leroux also assumed the role of chief designer at Guy Laroche between 2004 and 2006. In January 2013 the Chamber of Haute Couture invited him to be a guest member and during Paris Fashion Week he presented twelve pieces in his showroom.

Hervé Léger, Spring/Summer 1998 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Benbow-Pfalzgraf Taryn, and Richard Martin , eds. Contemporary Fashion . 2nd edn. Detroit : St. James Press, 2002.

Find in Library Blanks Tim. ““View: Hervé’s Legacy: Following the Band”.” Vogue , 1 April 2007: 210, 215–216 .

Find in Library Carter Charla. ““Vogue’s View: Hervé Léger”.” Vogue , 1 March 1992: 152, 168 .