Emmanuelle Khanh passed away on February 17, 2017, at age 79. That same day, I had conducted a video interview with the fashion scholar Alexis Romano, an expert on Khanh and the French ready-to-wear industry. Alexis and I discussed Khanh’s importance to fashion, and her inclusion in the Paris Refashioned exhibition and book. We were both devastated to learn of the death of this vibrant, outspoken, and talented woman.

Khanh began her career in the fashion world by modeling for Balenciaga, an experience that soured her opinion of the esteemed world of couture. “Balenciaga treated us like chairs and I think the fact that he couldn’t care less about us women reflects on the way he created dresses,” Khanh recalled. She launched her own line of ready-to-wear fashion after quitting Balenciaga in 1960, and soon became a fashion star in her own right.
Emmanuelle Khanh for ID dress
Her regular inclusion in Elle magazine was perhaps to be expected, given its emphasis on fashion-forward ready-to-wear, but she was also a darling of Queen (then the trendiest fashion magazine in Britain), American Vogue, and Mademoiselle. The yellow-and-white dress that I selected as the “poster girl” for the Paris Refashioned exhibition dates to 1966. It was featured in Mademoiselle and was donated by one of the magazine’s editors. I use it as a way to introduce visitors to the newfound status of French ready-to-wear during this era.

Khanh’s clothing style during the 1960s featured a masterful blend of hard-edged geometry and softly curving lines that was manifestly her own. Her personal appearance was also distinctive, and already included the oversize glasses that she would popularize and market to millions of consumers (we can thank Emmanuelle Khanh for making good vision look chic). She was a true individual – a savvy designer and businesswoman who helped to shape the fashion industry as we know it today.

Emmanuelle Khanh for ID dress
Gift of Sandy Horvitz
Emmanuelle Khanh bag
Circa 1966
Gift of Mrs. Myrna Davis
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.

Emmanuelle Khanh bag

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