Ted Lapidus: Fashion designer who brought haute couture to the high street

There is often a huge discrepancy between the mediacoverage and attendant publicity generated by fashion shows and the visibility of the couturiers' designs on the street. Ted Lapidus aimed to bridge that gap and make haute couture more affordable,believing that, "with the right workforce, there is no reason why a factory-made garment should not be aswell-produced as one coming out of a fashion house."

He put that principle into operation and dressed stars like Françoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot, Johnny Hallyday and Alain Delon in his trademark safari or "saharienne" suits. He popularised the unisex look through arange of ready-to-wear clothes available in his own boutiques, allowed Lapidus designs to be made and sold under licence in the department store La Belle Jardinière and created the Tex range for the Carrefour supermarket chain.

Lapidus proved influential outside France, too, and was the first designer to persuade Twiggy to wear a suit and tie rather than a mini-skirt. John Lennon was another admirer and in 1969 he asked Lapidus to design a white leather bag to house a set of 14 erotic lithographs he had made. Known as "Bag One", the limited edition of 300 bags incorporated zips, handles and a lock, as well as Lennon's signature in black, and was hand-stitched in Italy and later autographed by the Beatle. An exhibition of the lithographs at the London Art Gallery in January 1970 attracted the attention of the Vice Squad, though their attempt to prosecute Lennon for obscenity failed. "Bag One" originally sold for £550 and has become extremely collectable. In the Seventies, Lapidus diversified into perfumes and accessories; in the Eighties he began attracting outside investors to his company and eventually sold it.

Born Edmond Lapidus in Paris, he was the son of a Russian immigrant tailor. During the Second World War, the family moved south and he was educated at lycées in Marseillesand Annecy. He intended to study medicine in the French capital but switched careers and worked for Pierre Cardin for a few months at the end of the Forties. Lapidus struck out on his own in 1951 though he struggled to make a name for himself as he tried to follow in the footsteps of Cardin and André Courrèges.

He spent some time at the Tokyo Technical School and decided to adapt the manufacturing principles he saw in operation in Japan to the world of fashion. His first collection caused a sensation, with crowds spilling out of the salon on to the pavement, and in 1963 he confirmed his status as one of the stars of the nouvelle vague of French fashion when he became a member of the highly exclusive Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.

In 1957, Lapidus had opened his first boutique in Paris with the financial backing of his friend, the singer Charles Aznavour. By the mid-Seventies he had a chain of over 35 Lapidus stores, including one in London's Bond Street, and had set up a partnership with L'Oréal to launch Parfums Ted Lapidus, one of many successful ventures – which also included pens, sunglasses and watches – which have kept the Lapidus name and brand visible over the years.

Lapidus put a militaristic spin on the unisex look and persuaded men and women to wear what looked like huge army officers' great coats, with shiny gold or brass buttons, piping and épaulettes. His sandy-coloured "saharienne" suits and blazers, meanwhile, freed men and women from the trappings of convention and gave them a certain freedom of movement. For a while, in the late Sixties and early Seventies, at the height of the "Peace and Love" and women's liberation movements, his unisex designs became ubiquitous and inspired dozens of imitations. Lapidus also created uniforms for the Israeli women's army and China Airlines. He brought denim material, traditionally associated with the French working classes, into the world of fashion, and boasted: "My clothes make anyone look 10 pounds slimmer and 10 years younger."

His sister, Rose Torrente-Mett, who is also a fashion designer, felt Lapidus would have been even more successful if he had met someone like Pierre Bergé, whose business acumen proved crucial in the career of Yves Saint Laurent. After selling his business, Lapidus was involved in a dispute with his son Olivier over the rights to use the family name. "Your name is not a name but a brand," Lapidus senior told his son, who resorted to using the names Olivier L, Olivier Verdier, Olivier Robert or Olivier Montagut for his designs. They eventually made up and Olivier ran the company when his father retired to the French Riviera in the mid-Nineties. In his spare time, Lapidus wrote poetry and completed a 700 page-long manuscript he intended to publish, as if to justify his status as "the poet of French couture".

Pierre Perrone

Edmond Lapidus, fashion designer: born Paris 23 June 1929; twice married (three sons, one daughter); died Cannes 29 December 2008.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup