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Ted Lapidus quietly revolutionized fashion. Today, most of his contributions are credited to other designers whose star power and brand recognition reign high, but Ted Lapidus, in many respects, did it first.
Upon founding his fashion house in Paris in 1957 (at the age of 21), Lapidus set the stage for a re-gendered approach to fashion, taking traditional masculine utility styles and fabrics and modernizing them for woman. In his first couture show in 1963, Lapidus showed unisex clothing on androgynous models, a concept so outrageous at the time that there was a call to have him removed from the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.
The son of a Russian tailor, Lapidus was enamored by great Russian tsarist coats of the 17th century, centered at the waist with a sweeping A-cut. He regarded denim as a necessity for the modern woman’s closet, as he did for gabardine twill, creating a number of safari inspired pieces that rang true with the revolutionary aesthetic of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
But perhaps his biggest contribution was bringing fashion to the masses. He was one of the first designers to set up a Couture House alongside a Ready-to-Wear line to sell fashion at affordable prices. However, like many designers at the time, he was lured into the trap of licensing, associating his name more with perfume and watches than the revolutionary sense of style with which he started. This tarnished his name, and inevitably his brand, which was sold successively to an array of buyers.
In many ways, Ted Lapidus was a pioneer who paved the way for designers such as Yves Saint Laurent to capitalize on the liberalizing shifts in fashion of the ‘60s and ‘70s. His Russian coats, Safari jackets, love for denim… Lesser well known, of course, but undoubtingly influential.