SINCE 1841


ESMOD’s First 176 Years

ESMOD’s story began in 1841 during the reign of French monarch Louis Philippe I when Alexis Lavigne opened the world’s first school of fashion design at 4 rue Fontaine in Paris’ 9th district, the neighborhood that is still home to ESMOD Paris to this day.

In addition to being the inventor of the measuring tape and the three-dimensional dressmaker’s mannequin, Lavigne is also notable for having published the first educational books for tailors and couturiers. Before this introduction of a scientific, systematic training method, tailors and couturiers received training solely through apprenticeships.

When Napoleon III became emperor of France, Lavigne was appointed as tailor for his wife, the Empress Eugenie.

Lavigne’s daughter, Alice Guerre-Lavigne, carried his mission of excellence in fashion design training into the 20th century. The school was recognized for its contributions to fashion and culture, earning medals in France and around Europe.

Alice was succeeded, in turn, by her daughter, Berthe Lecomte-Guerre and grandson, Jean Lecomte-Guerre. Under Jean’s direction in the 1970s, ESMOD added courses in prêt-a-porter design and production to its traditional haute-couture training.


In the decades since, ESMOD has continued to evolve in response to the needs of the ever-changing fashion industry, producing creative, innovative professionals and world-renowned designers such as Thierry Mugler, Eric Bergère, and Franck Sorbier.

In 1984, ESMOD alum Satoru Nino founded ESMOD Tokyo, the school’s first branch outside of France. ESMOD Tokyo became the first of many international schools, as other graduates and fashion industry veterans opened branches around the world, expanding our international network to include 21 schools in 14 countries. Each school reflects the unique culture of its host country, providing rich and varied sources of inspiration within the network.


Each year, representatives from all 21 schools gather to celebrate the success of our students, to discuss the progress we have made, and to work collaboratively on continuing to grow and innovate.

Our shared philosophy is enriched by the diversity of each school’s experiences and firsthand knowledge of the fashion industry in its own particular corner of the globe, allowing us to provide the highest quality of training to our students around the world.