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Military Mode Master Ted Lapidus Dead At 79

Godfrey Deeny
December 31st, 2008 @ 00:47 AM - Loughbrickland

Ted Lapdius, the fashion designer who did more than any other to connect military looks with la mode, has died on the French Riviera at the age of 79.

Though he had been absent from the Parisian scene for the past two decades, Lapidus was once a highly influential designer, whose ability to meld street style with French couture once made him a revolutionary figure in the hothouse 1960s.

Ironically, at a moment when the Woodstock generation devoted itself to Flowerpower and pacifism, Lapidus injected military symbols into his collections. Elements like gold buttons, piping, epaulettes and four-button jackets were key parts of the Lapidus style, which won a huge European following when the designer began using mass production methods to make his prices accessible to the average consumer.

Nicknamed “the designer of the streets,” Lapidus ignited lots of attention by dressing such hipster luminaries as Brigitte Bardot, Francoise Hardy and Twiggy - becoming the first designer to get the leggy icon to wear a suit and tie.

Born in 1929 as Edmond Lapidus, the son of an immigrant Russian tailor, Ted had suffered from leukaemia for several years and died of pulmonary complications on Monday at a hospital in Cannes. His parting marks a second great loss to French fashion, coming six months after the death of Yves Saint Laurent in June.

Reacting to his death, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said Lapidus had “democratised French elegance and classicism” by making mass fashion available to ordinary men and women.

After an apprenticeship with Christian Dior, Lapidus launched his house in 1957 on rue Marbeuf, though his career only really took off at his debut runway show in 1963 when the crowds were so huge they backed out on to the Paris sidewalks.

“Ted was the first designer of the nouvelle vague. The whole world knew him,” Lapidus’ sister, Rose Torrente-Mett, told Agence France-Presse.

The second designer – after Pierre Cardin - to launch a men’s wear collection, Ted was also an early mover into designer perfumes, creating a partnership with L’Oreal in 1970. However, like many a designer he eventually ceded control to his later perfume partner, savvy entrepreneur Jacques Konckier, who ended up owning the whole business by 1995.

Though exuberant in company, Ted could be prickly, famously suing his own son, Olivier Lapdius to successfully prevent him using the family name. As a result, Olivier was forced to spend a half decade in Japan plying his designer trade, before eventually being reconciled with his father.

Ted Lapidus’ funeral service will be held this Friday in continental Europe’s most famous cemetery, Père Lachaise, the eastern Paris resting place of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf.

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