The following is an obit from The Guardian, and the brother Ted Lapidus was incredible by all means. However, the things that are important about him in 2009 are not mentioned. His clothes are for the people — in Satwa and Tehran his safari suits live on.
Ted Lapidus, who has died aged 79, had made a reliable living and significant production changes in the clothing business for around 20 years before he designed the imagery that marks his deserved place in the fashion encyclopedias: Twiggy in a tie and boy’s shirt, Brigitte Bardot in a laced-up safari jacket, Jane Fonda in his high-end jeans and not a lot else.
He was born to the garment trade, as Edmond Lapidus, son of a Russian tailor, a refugee in Paris. He wanted to go into medicine, but clothing construction was a much more achievable aim financially; he made the extraordinary move of studying for a while in a technical school in postwar Japan, where traditional craft technique was forced into collaboration with urgent reindustrialisation and American machinery. This gave him a novel understanding of the potential of an interchange between high and low, bespoke and quality mass-production clothes. He was talented enough to join the leading house of Dior in 1949, just as it began its early experiments with the licensed production of accessories.
By the age of 21 he had his own label; by 28, in 1957, both a small select salon in Paris, and (with the backing of the singer Charles Aznavour) a much more radical enterprise, a men’s ready-to-wear boutique called Tedd – like the first intimations of Carnaby Street that were opening in London, only rather classier in textiles and finish. His muse was an original choice too – not the soignée, mature models of the new look era, nor the pony-tailed jeunes in their paper nylon petticoats and ballet flatties, but the chanteuse Annabel Buffet, who looked like a Shakespeare heroine in convincing disguise as a boy. Fashion had been emphatically re-gendered after the second world war, and Lapidus’s taste for androgyny was a fresh approach, at least outside the left bank.
His initial show for serious couture in 1963 depended on his boy/girl mixes, and his eye for the beginnings of street fashion in London: reviews for the show’s “unisex” clothes – the first time the word was popularised – decided they were outrageous. What was even more shocking within the stuffy structure of French fashion was the immediate deal he made with La Belle Jardinière for the mass reproduction of better than adequate copies of his show pieces to sell at affordable prices in its 250 budget shops. Nobody had done that before, and it was so revolutionary that there was a move to revoke his newly granted membership of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.
By the mid-1960s outrage was the daily vocabulary of fashion, and Lapidus spoke it fluently – silver paper shirts, Russian great coats, denim (he regarded this, along with cotton gabardine twill, as a fabric in want only of proper tailoring, which was an original idea much copied by everybody since) – but with a correct grammar of cut and fit: “My clothes make anyone look 10lb slimmer and 10 years younger.”
Unlike the other wild men of the era – Paco Rabanne, André Courrèges – Lapidus tried to keep away from plastic: he found it unsympathetic and unsexy for clothing. The Beatles wore Lapidus, so did several French presidential wives, and his bespoke was de rigueur for French singers (Françoise Hardy), film directors and stars (Roger Vadim, Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo), from the nouvelle vague to mid-period Jean-Luc Godard. Along with Yves Saint Laurent, whose own safari suits would have been much less practical on the veldt, Lapidus helped create, in the 1970s, the new fashion business structure – couture, ready-to-wear boutiques (stand-alone or within department stores) in rich cities round the globe, and licensed mass-production.
He was so assured about mass production that in 1969 he made a deal with the Israeli government to become design supremo of the country’s clothing industry, including women’s uniforms. Israel had at that time a substantial ready-to-wear export industry, and for some years all of its output, and half of its profits, was labelled Lapidus.
As with many names not garnered in and financially developed during the 1980s by the recently established luxury conglomerates, Lapidus slipped in ranking as the company was sold on successively; franchises and licences came to be more for perfume and minor accessories – watch, pen and sunglasses; the ritual decline. Lapidus’s son Olivier became artistic director of the company, with a first collection in 1989; father and son quarrelled hard enough, especially over watches, to resort to the law, but were at last reconciled.
Lapidus then retired to the preferred locale of his life, the Riviera; between 1963 and 1975, most movie people on informal public display at Cannes had worn Lapidus. He died of respiratory failure after suffering from leukaemia. He was married twice; three sons and a daughter survive him.