Although many believed she was connected to the influential European banking dynasty, Klara Rotschild made a name in the world of fashion without the help of any famous ancestors. Urban legend has it, when a new customer popped by her boutique and asked whether she was related to the Rothschilds, she would nonchalantly reply: “Nope, just call me the queen of fashion”. The brave fashion icon, who survived the war, years of Jewish persecution and the hardships of Communism, is considered Hungary’s Coco Chanel.
Klara Rotschild would often say jokingly that she first saw the day of light on a sewing table on a late February day in 1903, referring to her father Abraham Rothschild, a tailor, and mother Regina Spirer, a seamstress. Little Klara learned the tricks of the trade in her father’s prestigious store in downtown Budapest which was frequented by the country’s aristocrats. Following her parents’ divorce, she often accompanied his father on work trips to the capital of fashion, Paris, where she developed a keen eye for class and timeless elegance.
She married rather late at age 28, compared to women in her era. Even though her husband was a wealthy textile merchant, it’s the generous sum she received from the court and the press after a high-profile sexual assault case that helped her open her first salon.
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Klara’s career was quickly shooting up and her salon, offering the finest and most sophisticated garments, labeled with ‘CR’, of the Communist era, became more and more popular among both local and international clientele. Running a salon in the Soviet Bloc was quite an achievement, however, Klara Rotschield couldn’t enjoy this privilege for long as all private businesses had to be nationalised as part of state order in ‘52. She not only styled the Communist elite but also such high-profile customers as Louis Joseph Cartier’s wife Jacqueline and Egyptian king Farouk’s mother and sisters. When a foreign delegation visited Hungary, the leaders of the regime often took them to Klara’s salon. Legend has it, that her beloved poodle called Vogi (after Vogue) was a gift from former Yugoslavian president Tito’s wife.
The Hungarian fashion designers’ salon thrived during two authoritarian regimes and she forged an astonishing career in fashion, in an era when few people succeeded unless bowing down to Communist leadership. Despite her outstanding achievements, Klara Rotschild’s private life was characterised by more sorrowful events than happy moments.
After her mother’s death, she attempted suicide, but this was by far not the end of all the horrors she had to live through. The war and the Jewish persecution robbed her of almost all her loved ones, including her adored father and her husband. No wonder, she buried herself in endless work, which later rewarded her with extraordinary fame.
Behind closed doors, Klara Rotschild’s days consisted of incessant suffering. At age of 74, Eastern Europe’s best-known fashion designer took her own life allegedly driven by the immense pain of an infected tooth, jumping off the kitchen window of her seventh-floor apartment. After her death, her salon was still running for a couple of years, but Clara Rotschild was not the same anymore without Klara.
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what a sad story