Jacques Esterel established his couture house, Jacques Esterel, in 1953. The first years were especially successful as Esterel contributed to a playful fashion spirit, illustrated by the "Vichy" bridal gown which he designed for French actress Brigitte Bardot.
Esterel's unfortunate and sudden death in 1974 did not signal the end of the house of Esterel. His widow and daughter strove to continue his spirit of fashion adventure, overseeing Creations Jacques Esterel. Throughout the 1980s the company was involved in several highly-publicized lawsuits in regard to trademark infringement against Yves Saint Laurent (for a design Esterel called the Petit Marquis and YSL called the Toreador) and also over the disputed purchase of the venerable house of Madame Alix Grés. The trademark suit, originally dismissed from criminal court, was refiled in civil court and resolved in favor of the Esterels in 1985. Yves Saint Laurent, roundly considered the most respected house in Paris haute couture, was fined $11,000 and required to pay a $1,100 fine for every suit made from the plagarized Petit Marquis design. Because of the messy legal wranglings, Creations Jacques Esterel was dropped from the Fashion Creators Union and banned from showing collections as a grand couturier in Paris for several years.
His designs were often extremely fanciful—and often ridiculed by the fashion press. It was as if couture for Esterel was more about exploring his own sense of whimsical creativity rather than about designing clothes.