A Tale of Two Drecolls
In 1925 American Vogue attempted to shed light on the rather puzzling and mysterious history of the House of Drecoll (or should we say ‘houses’) and asked who the man behind the shop sign “Ch. Drecoll” on 4, Place de l’Opéra was: “The inquiring discovered that there was no Drecoll connected with the Maison Drecoll of Paris, nor had there ever been.” What Vogue said to be “a unique instance in the haute couture” was in fact the result of the actions of German Baron Christoph Drecoll, who was the founding father of the court dressmaking house Drecoll in Vienna. His widely unknown biography, published in 1933 in Berlin, narrates the story of his rise in Viennese court circles and how he sold his fashion house along with his name in 1895 to retreat from couture.
Left to Right: Baron Christoph Drecoll in fancy dress, 1925; example labels of the two different Drecoll houses (top: c.1925, bottom c.1890) a most recent auction example of a ‘Ch Drecoll’ piece, 1920s, (sold June 2016 for £850 hammer price)
The terms of the sale contract Baron Drecoll had signed in Vienna years before prohibited the use of the Drecoll name for a dressmaking business in Paris. However after his purchasers and successors founded the English corporation Ch. Drecoll Ltd. and opened a Parisian house under the same name in 1902 or 1903, he decided to re-enter the fashion industry by opening a house named Christof Drecoll in early 1907 at 6, Rue de la Paix. But poor management and loss of his established name forced him to close down the Parisian workshop the same year. Later he opened a fashion house in New York (233, 9th Av.) and in Berlin. Meanwhile, Ch. Drecoll Ltd. continued to be a successful couture business on Place de l’Opéra, until it moved to 130 Av. des Champs Elysées in 1923. Even though there was no existing relation to the German-born Drecoll, the house of Ch. Drecoll was not spared the anti-German campaigns during the Great War. In 1915 Ch. Drecoll Ltd. sued the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture for running a campaign against the house due to an alleged German connection, when in truth it was owned by the Swiss-Belgian couple Wagner, parents of future couturier Maggy Rouff.
Until today, the case of Drecoll is the cause of continuous confusion among fashion historians and has led to incorrect attributions, not taking into account that after 1907, two maisons Drecoll operated simultaneously in four different capitals of fashion. While labels from Christoph Drecoll’s own house read “Drecoll Wien” or “Drecoll Berlin” (we’ve never seen a New York label), the rival house labeled their garments “Ch. Drecoll Vienne/Paris”, and later “Drecoll-Beer” and “Maisons Agnès-Drecoll”, when they merged with other couture houses to survive the Great Depression.
by Waleria Dorogova
Pictured below, left to right: House of Drecoll evening dress, c.1890 (The Metropolitain Museum of Art) labelled ‘Drecoll Wien’; purple walking suit by the ‘second’ Drecoll, c.1911-14, labelled ‘Ch Drecoll, Vienna & Paris’; later variations of the Drecoll (c.1929) and Agnes-Drecoll label (c.1940 after merger).
Sources: Journal du Droit International, (44)1917, p. 235-237. Robert Forest Wilson, The House of Drecoll, in: Vogue (New York), 15.11.1925, p. 33-36, 154. Dorothea Ziegler, Der Mann der die Frauen anzug. Der Lebensroman des Modekönigs Drecoll [The Man who Dressed Women. The Life of Fashion King Drecoll], Berlin: Paul Neff 1933.