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King of Cashmere Lucien Pellat-Finet Dead

MILAN — Lucien Pellat-Finet has died at age 78 in an accidental drowning in Trancoso, Brazil. His niece Camille Dauchez confirmed the news.

Born in Nice, the designer created a cult Parisian brand that was known for putting a subversive spin on luxurious and brightly colored cashmere sweaters, so much so that he was dubbed “king of cashmere.” His company celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, but Pellat-Finet left the brand following its acquisition in 2019 by Thierry Gillier, the founder of contemporary rock-chic brand Zadig & Voltaire. At the time the loss-making label had been under court administration after entering bankruptcy proceedings.

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“He was a troublemaker, a pioneer, a creative talent, influencing the world of fashion and contributing to the history of fashion,” Gillier said Tuesday.

Last September, the company appointed designer and consultant Dryce Lahssan, best known for his Lahssan line of trench coats, as creative director of collections and image. He became the first creative director since the departure of Pellat-Finet, who founded the label in 1994.

“Brazil was his happy place, he had a beautiful house there,” Lahssan told WWD. “I never met him, but I have met so many of his friends and am always surprised by how much love there is for him and for his designs. Nobody ever parts from them — they are like Alaïas to keep forever.”

Lahssan touted Pellat-Finet’s brand “built on transgression. He used cashmere but then added hemp leaves, skulls, peace signs on such a precious fabric, triggering tension and shock but at the same time attraction to his designs. He broke the mold and created a new way to do fashion. There would be no Balenciaga with Demna or Loewe with Jonathan Anderson without him. He was friends with Andy Warhol and understood Pop and collaborated with [Jean-Michel] Basquiat and Keith Haring, combining creativity with transgression.”

Lucien Pellat Finet Fall 2017 Ready-to-Wear Collection
Lucien Pellat-Finet Fall 2017

In 1969, Pellat-Finet was discovered by Pierre Cardin and began to model in Paris and Milan. In 1975 he began styling for Thierry Mugler, and in 1979 he met Philippe Guibourgé, “the love of his life,” said Lahssan; Guibourgé was Chanel’s ready-to-wear designer and died in 1986. He also styled for Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent at Chanel, added Lahssan.

In the 1980s, Pellat-Finet began designing La Porte Bleue’s costume jewelry. In 1994, he began his namesake line of sweaters and Barneys New York’s Gene Pressman was the first retailer to carry it.

In 1998, Pellat-Finet left the house of Balmain 10 months after he was brought in to design a Balmain sweater collection.

By 2018 the brand had three boutiques and six corners in top department stores in Japan and in the 2002 to 2019 period he collaborated with artist Takashi Murakami.

In 2011, Pellat-Finet hired Brazilian architect Bia Bettencourt to design his home in Trancoso.

Marking the brand’s 10th anniversary in 2004, Pellat-Finet opened a store in Manhattan’s West Village that, with an eclectic sampling of art and freshly painted walls coordinating with new collections, was reflective of the Paris-based designer’s colorful style. Earlier that year, at the Basel Art Fair, Pellat-Finet was so taken by Brooklyn artist Jin Meyerson’s work that he tracked him down during his next visit to New York and commissioned him to do a mural for the store.

Among tie-dyed cashmere sweaters, bikinis imprinted with hemp leaves and crewneck tops with a peace sign motif, there were skull-shaped belts and long-sleeve T-shirts, retailing at $415, with such inscriptions as “Crazy Lucien His Prices Are Insane.”

In 2021, Gillier introduced a new brand identity, developed by Lolita Jacobs and Jean-Baptiste Talbourdet-Napoleone, that stripped out the founder’s first name.

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