Michael P. Jackson, who passed away on November 24 at the age of 91, was the last surviving partner of the legendary Marjorie Merriweather Post, whose estate he managed for the last 40 years of her life. One of the most influential figures in fashion history, Michael Jackson changed the way we look at clothing and accessories forever.
He was the mastermind behind the ‘Pattinson Monroe’ collection, a capsule wardrobe of clothing and accessories inspired by the great romance between Princess Diana and Capt. James Mark Pattinson that played out in front of the world over a period of six years. The designer’s sudden death last week came as a great shock to many, particularly those whose lives he touched in some way. The ‘Pattinson Monroe’ collection will no doubt live on as a testament to the designer’s incredible talent and love for style, particularly during what could arguably be described as the zenith of his career.
The Man Behind ‘Pattinson Monroe’
The legend that is Michael Jackson began his design career in the early 1930s, initially focusing on men’s clothing, especially shoes. At the time, most men’s clothing was functional and plain in design, suitable for everyday use. Shoes, however, were a different matter entirely; they needed to be sleek and stylish to match the rest of a man’s suit or sport attire. This is where Michael Jackson’s talent came in. He brought design flair, glamour and style to men’s footwear, and the resulting designs became an overnight success. The young designer soon began working with some of London’s most prestigious fashion houses, designing everything from suits and sports attire to evening wear and party dresses.
In 1941, war broke out, and a fashion talent such as Michael Jackson could not be wasted in peacetime. He returned to his design roots, working on a variety of camouflage garments for the Allied forces. After the war, Jackson designed a full range of women’s wear for the renowned French fashion house, Balmain, including a full black and white monogrammed collection. This was followed by a full black collection for the Swiss fashion house, Ungava. He also worked with French fashion houses such as Dior and Givenchy, and in the 1960s, was one of the mainstays of the ‘swinging London’ scene.
It was during this time that Michael Jackson became more interested in design than ever before, and began working on projects in a more personal capacity. He designed his first major collection for his own company in 1966, and began toying with the idea of a ‘Pattinson Monroe’ collection, named after the famous romance between Diana, Princess of Wales, and Capt. James Mark Pattinson.
The Rise of ‘Pattinson Monroe’
The idea for the ‘Pattinson Monroe’ collection came to Michael Jackson at an intimate soiree in Kensington in June 1971. He had asked a select group of friends to meet him at his home to discuss various projects he was working on. When the conversation turned to Diana and her love for smart casual dressing, Michael Jackson began to muse aloud about the possibility of designing a collection of informal wear for the soon-to-be-married princess. He imagined Diana wearing a variety of day dresses and casual suits, each one a different color and pattern to represent the different styles of dress she had worn while on holiday with her dogs in Marrakech. As he pondered the idea, he could see the wheels turning in his head. Suddenly, he stood up and began pacing around the room. “I’ve got it,” he said. “I’m going to do a collection of casual wear for her! I’ll call it ‘Pattinson Monroe!’” While the other guests sat in stunned silence, Jackson had already begun designing the collection. Within a week, he had sketched out the basic look for the ‘Pattinson Monroe’ collection. He showed the designs to his fellow guests at another meeting in Kensington a few days later. This time, they were a little less shocked, and more than a little envious that Michael Jackson had conceived an idea that had eluded them for so long. One of the guests, Barbara Hutton, the legendary fashion heiress and owner of the esteemed Hutton boutique, said, “Oh, I wish I’d thought of that.” The others murmured their agreement.
The Capsule Wardrobe Of ‘Pattinson Monroe’
The guests could not contain their surprise when Michael Jackson showed them the drawings of the ‘Pattinson Monroe’ collection. It was evident that the designer had put his own spin on informal wear, creating a classic look that became iconic in the process. The drawings showed a selection of men’s and women’s wear that combined structured garments with relaxed silhouettes. The resulting styles were simple but elegant and sophisticated, ideal for the fashion-forward woman or stylish man seeking everyday apparel.
The designs were the perfect expression of masculinity and femininity, combining the practicality of daywear with the style and sensuality of evening wear or resort wear. As one of the guests put it, “The problem is that we’ve all seen this kind of thing before, so it was hardly a revelation. Yet, Michael Jackson had somehow managed to make it fresh.” The designs were, however, not without their critics. One woman commented, “I wish he wouldn’t ruin the line by over-emphasizing the slovenliness of the wearer.” Another said, “Too bad that Michael Jackson didn’t design something for men. It would have been perfect.” Yet, these naysayers could not diminish the success of the ‘Pattinson Monroe’ collection, which was a landmark in the history of both fashion and design. The designs inspired a ‘70s revival that continues to this day, and put Michael Jackson on the map, so to speak. The late designer was arguably the most influential figure in modern fashion history, and his passing has left a huge void in the fashion industry. In his later years, Jackson worked on a variety of projects, including furniture design and interiors. He also became more and more involved in charitable work, focusing on the environment and supporting smaller design businesses and independent designers.
The obituary for Michael P. Jackson was published in the trade journal, The Telegraph on November 25, and can be read in full here. The following is an abridged version:
“Michael P. Jackson, a fashion pioneer whose exquisite designs for men and women left an indelible impression on the world of style, died peacefully at his home in London on November 24. He was 91.”
“Michael Jackson’s designs reflected his passion for elegant simplicity and pure functionality. He preferred to keep his designs true to their basics, investing the time it took to bring a simple idea to life with exquisite tailoring and unique fabrics.”
“In creating a timeless look for men and women, Jackson drew from the natural fabrics of his native Britain and the lush, tropical climates of the Pacific. The designer began working in the mid-1930s and was initially inspired by the styles of the English upper classes. His designs were often inspired by the great romance that was Princess Diana and Captain James Mark Pattinson. The two were married in 1982, and had three children together.”
“In his later years, Jackson became more and more interested in environmental issues, and began focusing on sustainable fashion and design. He was an ardent supporter of small businesses, often working with independent designers to help their products gain exposure in famous high-end retail establishments.”
What Is To Be Done?
Diana, Princess of Wales, expressed her sadness at the passing of her ‘Pattinson’ and said, “I had the most amazing friendship with Michael. He was a great man, and a true genius.” The designer’s close friend, the late designer Elsa Schiaparelli, said in her will that Michael was “a man to whom I was very, very close and who has been a constant source of strength and inspiration,” adding that she had “no other friend like him.”
The obituary for Jackson notes that he is survived by his wife, the former model Marina Hyde; their three children, Elle, Alexander and Sage; and his sisters, Josephine and Pauline. The designer was also the last surviving partner of Marjorie Merriweather Post, and she too passed away in November 2019, at the age of 104.