Born: Millau, France, 5 October 1936. Education: Studied fashion design at Cours Bazot School. Career: Assistant to Marc Bohan, assistant designer, Guy Laroche, 1960-61; designer, Jacques Heim, 1961-63; designer, Dior, 1963; designer, Paul Bon, 1964-69; opened ready-to-wear firm, Bernard Perris Nouvelle Couture, 1969; opened New York shop, 1986; opened two Paris shops, 1988; introduced bridge line, 1989; business closed briefly, reopened, 1992; hired by Jean-Louis Scherrer as head designer, 1994 (later replaced by Stephane Rolland). Exhibitions: Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, 1988; Musée de la Mode, Marseille, 1994. Awards: Best Fashion Designer, Houston, Texas, 1988; Best Fashion Designer, Tokyo, 1988; Silver Slipper award, Houston, 1995. Address: 5 rue de Magdebourg, 75116 Paris, France.
"International Ethnic is the Big News from Paris," in WWD, 19 March 1990.
"Bernard Perris Liquidates Two Main Holding Companies," in WWD, 12 July 1991.
"Perris to Reopen with New Partners," in WWD, 13 October 1992.
Godfrey, Deeny, "House of Scherrer Names Perris Couture, Ready-to-Wear Designer," in WWD, 7 September 1994.
Griffin, Linda Gillian, "Not the Retiring Type, Perris Goes Back to the Drawing Board," in the Houston Chronicle, 25 May 1995.
Additional articles in Vogue, L'Officiel, Elle, Figaro, Madame, Town & Country, Harper's Bazaar, as well as Joyce and Mode x Mode (both Japan).
What has been mainly distinctive of my work…is an atmosphere of high standard elegance with a glance to independence of mind and fun toward "les ideés reçues." I have been many times called the most "couturier" of the "createurs," probably because my line was more a nouvelle couture than a deluxe RTW. As everyone, I have a double personality and am reflecting the influence of the "austerité" and "grandeur" of a Balenciaga, as well as the "glamour," "sexy touch," and "joie de vivre" of a Jacques Fath.
It has been said that the women's ready-to-wear designs by Parisian Bernard Perris embody the philosophy "more is more." From the moment he opened his own Paris showroom in 1969, Perris favored dramatic, almost theatrical fare, incorporating luxurious fabrics, intricate construction, and extravagant trim into his creations. He was even accused of cramming enough ideas for a dozen dresses into one garment, loading his designs with high voltage, eye-popping details.
As a young boy in the south of France, Perris was strongly influenced by the women's fashions he saw in his mother's ready-to-wear clothing boutique. At age 16, he ventured to Paris, where he eventually was hired as a couture assistant for Guy Laroche. He then went on to design debutante and wedding dresses under the Jacques Heim and Paul Bon labels, where he learned ready-to-wear techniques. After a short stay at Dior, Perris opened his own house and showed his first collection of Nouvelle Couture, a collection based on techniques that allowed him the creative freedom of haute couture but whose prices were accessible to more women.
The designer's fortunes rose and fell precipitously, causing him to suffer bouts of nervous exhaustion and from about 1971-77 he remained out of the fashion spotlight. But as the interest in ethnic revivals and the "hippy look" waned and a renewed taste for glamorous dressing arose toward the end of the 1970s, Perris again emerged, promoting his special brand of opulent ready-to-wear deluxe. His fur-trimmed and embroidered velvets, gathered capes and evening gowns, tiered and ruffled cocktail dresses, and appliqued resort wear garnered a newly appreciative audience, and he opened his own Paris boutique in 1985.
Perris became particularly popular in America, appealing as he did to the big-spending, flashy customer who wanted to be seen in his bold yet high-quality clothing, and he established a Madison Avenue shop in New York. He did not shrink from personally promoting his clothes in the U.S., presenting trunk shows for wealthy buyers from Beverly Hills to Las Vegas and often appearing at in-store events and charity dinners.
Chosen in 1985 by the "Best" committee as one of the 10 most elegant men in the world, Perris created clothing for a high-profile, international clientéle, including several film stars. He designed all the women's costumes for the 1986 film Max, My Love, in which actress Charlotte Rampling wore 10 different Bernard Perris ensembles. Clothing from the 1980s stressed strong lines, saturated color, and a kind of dazzling, urban chic—these were powerful clothes made for grand entrances, completely in step with the period's emphasis on wealth and conspicuous consumption.
Later styles found the designer embracing less show-stopping ideas without sacrificing his essential devotion to luxury or glamor, as in his wool daytime suits trimmed with sheared beaver, drapey silk georgette lounging ensembles, cashmere separates, and extravagant accessories. He remained true to his reputation for fabulous eveningwear, however, as seen in his sumptuous 1988 all black-white-and-red collection featuring swaths of fur, rustling silks, and liberal lace trim.
His acceptance into the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-á-Porter des Couturiers and des Créateurs de Mode finally validated Bernard Perris' long and fruitful, if uneven, career. In early 1994, he closed his business to regroup after a business partner's retirement, but his absence from the fashion world did not last long. In August of 1994, Perris was appointed as the couture and haute couture designer for the Paris house of Jean-Louis Scherrer. While in the position, Perris received critical praise and expanded his reputation for designing elegant and sumptuous clothing. The Scherrer house was bought by François Barthes in 1997 and Stephane Rolland took over designing in 1998.
updated by Megan Stacy