Jean-Louis Scherrer

Emily M. Orr

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA047

Jean-Louis Scherrer was born in Paris in 1935. He trained as a dancer at the Conservatoire de Danse Classique, Paris. While recuperating from a back injury in 1956, he began to sketch fashion designs. His drawings were shown to Christian Dior—and his career in fashion was underway. In June 1956 he received a diploma from the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and joined Christian Dior’s atelier the following October. He worked under Christian Dior until Dior’s death in 1957 and then under Yves Saint Laurent at Dior until 1959. He also trained under Louis Féraud from 1959 to 1961, and Maggy Rouff.

In 1962 Scherrer opened his own couture house at 182 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. He produced grandiose dresses in luxurious materials with abundant decoration, which often took their inspiration from historical or ethnic themes. One early noteworthy collection (1965) included guinea hen feather coats, hats, and boots. In 1980 the designer received the Gold Thimble award for his “Russe” collection, which featured belted tunics over full skirts with embroidered bodices and fur borders, capes, wide corselet belts, and fur turbans. Then, in 1982, he presented printed taffeta dresses with leg-of-mutton sleeves, capelets, and flowered hats, all referencing nineteenth-century romanticism. Later themed collections included the “Venetian Ball” (1984), “Old Vienna” (1987), and “Indian Summer” (1990).

He opened a new salon at 51 Avenue Montaigne in 1971 and that same year his house earned official haute couture classification. He also formulated boutique and ready-to-wear lines. In Paris, his clothes were worn by members of elite society, most notably Anne-Aymone Giscard d’Estaing, the First Lady of France. His designs also began to attract high-profile American clients, including Jackie Kennedy and Patricia Kennedy Lawford. He garnered publicity with the 1977 commission of a panther-print chiffon dress for Raquel Welch to wear in the film L’animal. His international influence grew when Bergdorf Goodman earned the exclusive rights to reproduce his designs in America at ready-to-wear prices. He also sold a number of perfumes: Jean-Louis Scherrer Paris (1979), Scherrer 2 (1986), and Nuits Indiennes (1994).

In 1990, the majority stake of Scherrer’s label was sold to the Japanese company Seibu Saison and Hermès, leaving Scherrer with little control. By then the couture house had grown to employ 130 people and record annual sales of $25 million, but was operating at a loss of more than 7 million dollars. In 1992, Scherrer was the first French couturier to be evicted from his own fashion house. In 1993, the couture collections came under the direction of Erik Mortensen and by 1997 Stéphane Roland had assumed the role of designer. In 2008, the haute couture and ready-to-wear collections ceased production. In 2009, Scherrer was appointed an officer of the Légion d'Honneur. He passed away in June 2013.

Jean-Louis Scherrer, Spring/Summer 2000 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Baker Duzinkiewicz. “Jean-Louis Scherrer.” In Contemporary Fashion , edited by Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf and Richard Martin , 2nd edn. Detroit : St. James Press, 2002 .

Find in Library McDowell Colin. ““Jean-Louis Scherrer Obituary”.” The Guardian , 21 June 2013 .

Find in Library Savignon Jéromine, and Linda Jarosiewicz. Jean-Louis Scherrer . New York : Assouline, 2007.

Find in Library Watson Linda. Vogue: Twentieth Century Fashion . London : Carlton, 1999.