Jean Dessès (6 August 1904 – 2 August 1970), was a world leading fashion designer in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. His designs reflected the influences of his travels, specializing in creating draped evening gowns in chiffon and mousseline, based on early Greek and Egyptian robes.
Born Jean Dimitre Verginie in Alexandria, Egypt, to Greek parents, he originally set out to study law, but, in 1925, he abandoned his legal studies and began working for Maison Jane, a Parisian couture house where, in 1937, he opened his own couture salon. After World War II, he traveled extensively throughout the world. His work was influenced by his travels, creating draped evening gowns in chiffon, embroidered dresses, sheath dresses with tight jackets and flowing skirts. His fashion was very popular with European royalty and movie stars. Among his clientele were the Queen and royal princesses of Greece, the Duchess of Windsor, Madame Jean (Lilia) Ralli, the first Mrs. Aristotle Onassis and society hostess Elsa Maxwell. In 1962, he designed the wedding gown worn by Princess Sophia of Greece (later Queen Sofia of Spain) for her marriage to the future King Juan Carlos of Spain. Valentino worked with Desses for several years in the 1950s and gained much hands-on experience, as did Guy Laroche who in the 1950s was Desses’ assistant.
In 1963, at age 60, he retired to Greece because of poor health, where he ran a small boutique which he had opened eight years earlier. He died in Athens in 1970. In the 1990s, his fashion designs saw a revival with the interest in vintage dresses. Naomi Campbell wore a vintage boned bodice and ruched silk Desses gown in May 1999 at a Christie’s party. Later, in 2001, Renée Zellweger wore a lemon yellow strapless 1950s Desses gown to the Academy Awards. Similarly, Jennifer Lopez wore a vintage moss green Desses gown, made with 50 yards of chiffon, to the 2006 Academy Awards.
His collections were hailed by the press as being very original. Time and again the showstoppers were his intricate flowing chiffon evening dresses. For these he used ombre fabrics, a favourite effect. His fur coats were shaded light to dark. He tried to dethrone the colour black, by use of soft hazy colours in dresses that involved much plaiting and twisting, as one or more fabrics were joined with ribbons or bands of mink. Often scarves trailed from neck to floor, and rippled, like his uneven hems. In 1945, Desses participated in the fashion doll exhibition held in Paris called “Theatre de la Mode” held by the Chambre of Couture in the Louvre Museum. Approximately 172 dolls dressed by 40 couturiers were shown. This exhibition subsequently went on tour all over Europe and the USA. In 1949 Desses began producing ready-to-wear lines for the US market. In the 90’s, with the surge of interest in vintage dresses, the gowns of Desses have been in great demand.
The fashion designer Jean Desses produced perfume two are significant “Kalispera & Celine”
He died in 1970 at the age of 66.