Jeanne Paquin was born Jeanne Marie Charlotte Beckers in 1869, to a physician father. She was one of five children. When she was a young teenager, she trained at a dressmaker on Boulevard Haussman, where she quickly rose through the ranks to become in charge of the atelier. Even early on, she displayed an eye for fashion, being a talented dressmaker, as well as having good management skills. In 1891, she married Isidore Rene Jacob, who owned a couture house called Paquin Lalanne et cie – originally a menswear shop.
Jeanne’s entrepreneurial skillset would be revealed when she started to work with her husband on the now renamed couture house Paquin. While Isidore was in charge of business operations, and Jeanne focused on designing and creating clothes, she had a vision for the business too. Shortly after becoming part of the business, together with her husband, they opened their first boutique under the name Paquin, rebranded and renamed, next to the already famed House of Worth, on Rue de la Paix. Jeanne focused on pastel colors initially, and eventually introduced black as a color in her haute couture collections. This was unusual for the time because black was only worn during mourning. Just like Worth, and other fashion entrepreneurs of that age, she also knew the importance of using celebrities in order to gain publicity and grow the popularity of her business. She was the first couturier to send models dressed in her apparel to public events such as operas and horse races for publicity. She also collaborated with illustrators and architects, as well as working with the theatre, at a time when other fashion entrepreneurs did not yet do so. She had an entrepreneurial instinct, and the New York Times described her in 1913 as “the most commercial artist alive.” Jeanne also was revolutionary in the way she internationalized her business. Paris was indeed a cosmopolitan city, but she recognized the importance of expanding and growing her business abroad. She opened boutiques in London (which employed the young Madeline Vionnet at one point), New York, Buenos Aires, and Madrid.
The House Paquin on Rue de la Paix, Paris. Photo source: Agence Rol.
Key Success Factors:
Jeanne Paquin was known for her modern and innovative style. Alongside Charles Worth, she is considered to be one of the pioneers of the modern fashion business. She was a visionary in the way she conducted and ran her business. On one occasion, she took her clothes on an exhibition tour around the world, charging money for visitors to just view them. She collaborated with and was a member of the couture institutions in Paris and recognized the importance of fashion media, securing exclusive deals to provide leading fashion magazines with her illustrations.
Illustration of Jeanne Paquin creation in the New York Herald in 1896.
Photo source: The New York Heral