Does anyone still remember Anny Blatt? Born into a Jewish family in 1910 in Mulhouse – the capital of the French textile industry which was then dominated by imperial Germany – she founded her own haute couture house in Paris, on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, when she was just 23. Her mother, Suzanne Blatt, was the studio director. Together, they made knitted woolen clothing their signature. Both chic and comfortable, their pieces allowed for freedom of movement without ever compromising on style.
In support of female emancipation, Anny Blatt design sportswear for skiers and swimmers. A rare occurence in the haute couture world, even though Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli were the first to pave the way. Her brand embodied “the height of practical clothing for female globetrotters who go from cars to yachts, from the Pullman to the plane, with obligatory stops in the most fashionable resorts,” wrote the Excelsior newspaper in 1934.
Drawing on her extraordinary as a colorist, Anny Blatt set herself apart from Chanel – who limited herself to the classic white, black, and beige – through her daring palette and bold shades. The description of her 1935 summer collection in Paris-Soir says it all: “The lavender blues, flax blues, the palest blue-green hues of vintage turquoise, the sky blues, the leafy greens, bright greens, light greens, and aquas all give an idea of the rich range of tones these ingenious manufacturers create.”
The designer was far from faint-hearted. In 1934, she started regularly visiting New York to sell her clothes, and even considered opening a branch there. She also traveled light. “When I went to America, I would simply pack three similar dresses – one white, one black, one blue,” she said in an interview with Le Monde in 1953. “A leather or bright chiffon belt, or a piece of jewelry, change their appearance, transforming them into morning outfits or cocktail dresses.”
After returning to France, Anny Blatt suffered from the consequences of the Aryanization of industry, which saw Jews systematically dismissed from their jobs. She decided to sell her stake in the company before it became obligatory following a German decree in October 1940 and a subsequent French law on “economic Aryanization” in 1941, introduced by the Vichy government. She only regained control of her business after the Liberation.
At the time, the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne organized a traveling exhibition. Due to shortages in raw materials, the creations were miniature and presented on dolls! Anny Blatt designed a wedding dress, cape, and hat for this scaled-down fashion show. The shoes, gloves, and bags were crafted by Hermès and the jewelry was provided by Van Cleff & Arpels. The exhibition was first showcased in Paris before leaving for New York.
A Secret Thread from America
In 1948, an article about “the triumph of knitwear” reported that Anny Blatt had brought the secret to a new nylon thread back from New York. The journalist claimed that the designer “had the exclusive rights and that she was having more made in Lyon.” This thread, for which she had acquired sole production rights in France, could be used to imitate wool. “The same softness, the same fluffiness, the same warmth. And it’s unbreakable, long-lasting, fast-drying in just 15 minutes, and doesn’t shrink in the wash.”
In its constant search for innovation, the fashion house created a nylon dress in 1950. She christened it “Petite Folie,” seeing it as “the prototype of [her] model for success.” The designer’s innovations also focused on clothing’s modularity – as seen in her reversable jersey cardigan and sweater ensemble, which could be worn identically on both sides – and lightness. She even created an evening gown that weighed just 180 grams!
The Anny B;latt brand was later acquired by the Hervillier group, based in Tourcoing. But her name lived on. The label returned to its heritage of natural fibers and woolen clothing, and found a new ambassador: Anne Sinclair, a famous journalist who hosted the 7 sur 7 political news show every Sunday on TF1. “She’s a sight to be seen, curled up in stunning sweaters loaned by Missoni or Anny Blatt, as she sharpens her interviewer’s knives,” wrote Le Monde in a profile of the television anchor in 1987.
After being bought out by several different companies, the Anny Blatt name disappeared in 2019. But entrepreneur Marion Carrette decided to relaunch the brand the very next year. Reconnecting with the house’s origins, she offers a line of premium, eco-friendly woolen clothing produced exclusively in France with a focus on animal welfare. Taking a step back from fast fashion, the label makes its sweaters to order and their extremely soft pieces can be worn against the skin. It seems we haven’t heard the last of Anny Blatt!
March 1934: Anny Blatt Sets Sail for New York
In 1934, Anny Blatt’s first trip to New York in 1934 caught the attention of the Chicago Tribune and the Daily News, New York, a collaborative publication run by the two American newspapers. Written for soldiers stationed in France in spring 1917, it became the leading daily paper for U.S. expats in Europe. Nicknamed “Europe’s American newspaper” at the time, its “Social World” section, which detailed the comings and goings of celebrities of the day, announced that Anny Blatt had set sail for New York on March 14 aboard the Ile de France. According to the article, the designer was planning to spend a month in the city and would be staying at the Waldorf Astoria hotel.
Article published in the January 2022 issue of France-Amérique. Subscribe to the magazine.