Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Creator of the Hervé Léger Bandage Dress

Hervé L. Leroux, then known as Hervé Léger, during a fashion show in Paris in 1995.CreditGerard Julien/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Hervé L. Leroux, who created the figure-hugging Hervé Léger “bandage dresses” once beloved by celebrities and the jet set, and who became a fashion cautionary tale after he lost the rights to the name Léger, died on Wednesday in Paris. He was 60.
The Fédération de la Haute Couture, the French fashion industry body, which confirmed his death on Friday, said the cause was a ruptured aneurysm.
Internationally known thanks to the success of his first label, Hervé Léger, Mr. Leroux (the name he assumed after losing the rights to Léger) helped create one of the defining styles of the 1990s in the form of the bandage dress. It was formed from dozens of elasticated bandage-style strips of knitted cloth, creating a body-sculpting, skintight silhouette.
At the peak of his popularity, Mr. Léger’s designs were worn by stars and celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Victoria Beckham and Melania Trump.
Kim Kardashian, left, in a Hervé Léger dress at the unveiling of her wax figure in 2010 at Madame Tussauds in New York.CreditStephen Lovekin/Getty Images
On her blog, Ms. Kardashian wrote of the bandage dress in 2016: “I would literally save up all my paychecks and go and wait, and stalk the girls that worked at Hervé and just get all the new colors.”
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Mr. Leroux was born Hervé Peugnet on May 30, 1957, in Bapaume, in northern France. He studied sculpture and art history at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris before dropping out to become a hairstylist and milliner.
In 1981 he met Karl Lagerfeld, who encouraged him to pursue fashion design. He changed his surname for the first time after Mr. Lagerfeld advised him that Peugnet would be too difficult for Americans, the target market, to pronounce. He suggested Léger, liking the allusion to lightness, for which the French word is légèreté.
Mr. Leroux, now working under the name Léger, worked alongside Mr. Lagerfeld at Fendi and later at Chanel and freelanced at Lanvin and Diane von Furstenberg before introducing his own boutique, Hervé Léger, in 1984. A fashion line with the new name soon followed, and then came the inception of the bandage dress.
“The story of the dress is a very simple one,” Mr. Leroux said. “Before I started making clothes, I was a hairdresser, then a hat maker. One day in a factory I found some bands that were headed for the garbage. They gave me the idea of taking those bands and putting them next to one another as one does making a hat.”
Creations by Mr. Leroux on display at his spring 2013 couture collection presentation in Paris.CreditFrançois Guillot/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Coinciding with the ascendance of Azzedine Alaïa, the so-called King of Cling, Mr. Leroux’s bandage dress received considerable acclaim. It was designed to encase a figure and enhance it in the most flattering of ways. While sales never reached blockbuster levels, the dress’s aesthetic impact would be seen in the work of rivals on runways and on the clothes racks of mass-market retailers.
“Mr. Léger proved why Paris is the center of fashion creativity,” Carrie Donovan wrote in The New York Times Magazine after a show in 1991, using the surname he went by at the time. “His collection was original, well thought out, knowledgeably executed and about as incendiary as style can be these days.”
His designs also proved alluring to investors keen to expand the company across product lines and geographical borders. In 1998, Mr. Leroux’s business was acquired by the Los Angeles-based group BCBG Max Azria. It was the first time an American company had acquired a French designer-couturier.
But he quickly fell out with the new owners, and in 1999 he lost control of the Léger name, which was retained by Mr. Azria, who called the new collection “Hervé Léger by Max Azria.”
In 2000, Mr. Léger founded his own independently financed fashion house, Herve L. Leroux, adopting a new surname that had again been suggested by his old friend and mentor Mr. Lagerfeld.
Hilary Swank in a Hervé Léger creation at the 2005 Academy Awards, where she won the best actress Oscar.CreditVince Bucci/Getty Images
As Mr. Leroux recalled in an interview with Style.com in 2006, “He told me, ‘Call yourself Leroux because your hair is red — not as red as it was, because you are older — but, anyway, it works, and everyone will know who you are.’”
In the last chapter of his career, Mr. Leroux’s clientele remained loyal to his feminine jersey dresses and his chic approach to contemporary cocktail attire. As creative director of the Paris house Guy LaRoche from 2004 to 2006, he dressed Hilary Swank for the 2005 Academy Awards ceremony in a memorable backless midnight-blue jersey gown, which was seen by millions of television viewers when she strode to the stage to accept the best actress award for her performance in the movie “Million Dollar Baby.”
Mr. Leroux showed a new collection in 2013 as a guest on the Paris couture calendar after a 12-year hiatus from the catwalk. But he never again achieved the recognition or fame he found under his previous name, underscoring the creative and commercial struggles that can ensue when a designer’s name is no longer the designer’s.
He is survived by his sister, Jocelyne, who was a partner in the Leroux business.
After the news of his death broke, many of those who loved his designs shared tributes on Instagram.
The entertainer Dita Von Teese wrote: “We’ve lost one of the fashion greats. I loved Hervé for his wit, his candor, his sublime elegance and of course, his talent, which came from authentic obsession, with no care for the commerciality of fashion.”
And Cindy Crawford, posting a picture of herself standing next to Mr. Leroux in one of his scarlet red creations, wrote, “Remembering the man who created the bandage dress, which held you in all the right places.”
Correction: October 10, 2017 
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the movie for which Hilary Swank won an Academy Award in 2005. It was “Million Dollar Baby,” not “Boys Don’t Cry” (for which she was honored in 2000).

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