THE LEGENDARY COUTURIERE PAULINE TRIGÈRE DEFINED HER MARKETING PROBLEM IN ONE SENTENCE:
“GEORGES, PEOPLE THEENK I AM DEAD!”
The inimitable Pauline Trigère, a forthright, unpretentious, aristocratic lady, with her strong face and impervious Gallic accent, was dead right--and to define her predicament so candidly was a revealing clue to her honesty and courage. During the ’50s and ’60s, Trigère was properly regarded as a great talent, one of the first of the fashionistas. By 1988, the elegant lady was of a certain age, and her longevity problem was compounded by an intramural industry vendetta: The most influential trade paper in the fashion world is Women’s Wear Daily, headed by the dynast John Fairchild, who had been known to banish any mention in WWD of anyone who had offended or slighted the Fairchild power.
According to Pauline, Fairchild’s displeasure concerned her son criticizing the banishment of Geoffrey Beene. At one time or another, Fairchild had also blacklisted Hubert de Givenchy, Giorgio Armani and Bill Blass. They all kept their mouths shut and took it on the chin. John Fairchild, the self-styled dictator of the fashion world, had set me up to make Pauline Trigère the Joan of Arc of Seventh Avenue!
To deal with the Fairchild banishment head-on, I showed Madame Trigère A Dear John letter to John Fairchild from Pauline Trigère in her signature red-ink handwriting, surrounded by her tortoiseshell shades, her fountain pen and her well-known turtle jewelry. After being warned by Geoffrey Beene and all her pals in the business that my ad would be her ruination, she said “Screw it, Georges, run it!”
A few days before the ad ran in Fashions of the Times (a New York Times magazine section), the Times’ alert marketing columnist spotted the ad in a preview copy, and blew the lid off our counterattack with the lead piece on the front page of the Times business section, and zee shit hit zee fan!
Pauline Trigère instantly became the heroine of the fashion world as congratulatory letters and phone calls were received from around the world with ongoing stories on TV, newspapers and full-scale magazine pieces for over a year. The great lady batted her Gallic eyelashes while disarming the Establishment, her customers flocked back to her, and she became more revered than ever for shaming the arrogant bullyboy of the fashion world.