Monday, July 30, 2012
He was born John Pico Harberger on March 14, 1906 in Munich, Germany, traveling to the US in 1919. He apprenticed as a dressmaker with his Mother, Madame Laurel but shortly formed a partnership with Frederick Hirst which became John-Frederics in 1929. He started his own label, Mr. John, Inc., in 1948 which lasted until 1970.
He created a multitude of styles, romantic picture hats, subdued cloches, turbans, berets and snoods, always relying on the shape and style for effect. He often added close fitting face veils or a single rhinestone as the only embellishment. He designed for movies and movie stars alike including Gone With The Wind. Vivien Leigh wore his bonnet design in the movie. His work was featured on the cover of Vogue magazine during the 1940s and 1950s. Some of his more famous clients were the Duchess of Windsor, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Gloria Swanson, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Lauren Bacall. Even Marilyn Monroe wore one of his creations in Gentlemen Prefer Blonds. At the same time he was able to craft styles for the ordinary woman, being the most popular milliner of the period.
At his peak he employed 150 people and produced 16,000 hats per year. His labels include not only the Mr. John but John-Frederics, Fredoras, Charmers, Sweet Young Things and Mr. Fred.
In 1957 during an interview with Good Housekeeping he said “My business is strictly an individual business. When I go, there will be no more Mr John. I have only one worry: when I do go, should I reach heaven, what will I do? I know I cannot improve on the halo.
Awards: Coty American Fashion Critics Award, 1943; Neiman March Award, 1950; Millinery Institute of America Award, 1956.
Hats pictured are available from Alley Cats Vintage on Ruby Lane.