Pauline Trigère (1908-2002)
Company: Pauline Trigère
In many ways she was America’s Coco Chanel. Pauline Trigère was sophisticated, elegant, and never afraid to speak her mind – a larger-than-life woman who embodied the essence of American haute couture. Husky-voiced and donning her signature dark glasses, Trigère dominated the New York fashion scene for more than 50 years. The daughter of Russian-Jews, Trigère and her husband left her native Paris in 1937, concerned about Adolf Hitler’s growing power and venomous assaults on Jews in Europe. The pair ultimately landed in New York, and Trigère, the daughter of tailors, worked with her husband in a small tailoring business. When he ended the marriage in 1942, she launched the company that would become her fashion empire and became a US citizen. Like Chanel, Trigère created her designs by draping fabric rather than sketching, and her clothes were the favorites of celebrities, as well as ordinary people. She also blazed her own trails: in 1961 in the midst of the civil rights era, Trigère was the first designer to hire an African American model; and she thumbed her nose at accounts that consequently canceled orders. In 1992, she celebrated her 50 years in fashion at a benefit at Lincoln Center and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America – one of many accolades she earned during her career. In 1994, Trigère scaled down her business and in 2000, facing health concerns, she finally retired.
"People always say to me, 'Aren't you French?' and I say, 'No, I am American.' I found in this country everything I wanted. This country made me Pauline Trigère."