#MyHistory: Jay Jaxon
This is my third year (I think) of doing the #MyHistory series on my blogs and Jay Jaxon is a name that I consistently run into when unearthing designers of color who have been ignored by the fashion history books. I finally felt comfortable with putting together a post on Jay Jaxon this year because it seemed like more info was finally available to the public about this dynamic designer’s career.
Born August 30, 1941 in Queens, New York , Jay Jaxon kind of stumbled into his destiny of fashion. Jaxon was a NYU law student when his girlfriend needed the ultimate favor. A dress she’d sewn to wear for a night on the town was not working out and she needed Jaxon’s assistance to tailor the dress. Altering that dress shifted Jaxon’s journey to fashion.
With new purpose, Jaxon developed a six dress collection and pitched it to major retailers like Bonwit Teller and Henri Bendel. The line was purchased and produced for $19,000, giving Jaxon the opportunity to move to Paris and hit the ground running, working with Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior.
Jean Louis Scherrer was a French design house struggling to stay relevant in the mid-60’s. His work included “...luxurious dresses and rich embellishments were symbolic of a fruitful period of French fashion in the 1960s”. The fashion house was producing ready to wear and couture lines, with an exclusive licensing partnership with Bergdorf Goodman.
With training from the French couture greats under his belt, Jay Jaxon was appointed to head designer of the Scherrer House in 1965. This honor also came with the trailblazing caveat of being “The 1st American to be honored with the job of designer for a French couture house…” Along with that, at the age of 24 was the first black couturier (Patrick Kelly was the first American to be admitted to the Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode). Let’s remember, regardless of race, Jay Jaxon will always be the first American to achieve this. It is documented that Jaxon would have preferred for people to be impressed by the fact he was the only American to make it happen rather than receive notoriety for the achievement because of his race.
His discontent with the industry focusing more on the fact that he was black as opposed to the integrity of his work, led Jaxon to come back to the States to design on 7th Ave, create for celebrity clients like Diahann Carroll, and go into costuming. He is credited as costume designer for Motown 25, Ally McBeal, American Dreams and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
There is so much more to learn from Jay Jaxon’s story, a story that truly deserves to be told. I don’t understand how you can make such groundbreaking fashion history yet be excluded from the history books and classes. MA Fashion Studies, Parsons Paris student Rachel Fenderson made Jay Jaxon the subject of her thesis “Jay Jaxon: A Biographical Study and Media Discourse Analysis Reinstating a Designer into Fashion History” Rachel’s project sounds absolutely amazing, check out her progress on her Instagram https://www.instagram.com/rachelext