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.
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.
Gift of Sandy Horvitz
Gift of Mrs. Myrna Davis
- By The Museum at FIT
- In Exhibition Curator
- On 10 Feb | '2017
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968, on view at The Museum at FIT through April 15, 2017, features work from these designers and many more. Although my past research on the fashions of the yé-yé girls was important to this project, the exhibition takes a larger perspective, emphasizing the shift within the 1960s fashion industry from the unassailable dominance of the haute couture to the newfound influence of ready-to-wear.
This blog runs concurrently with the exhibition, and will provide information on specific objects, press, and other exhibition-related media that will familiarize you with this especially dynamic, eleven-year period in French fashion.
–Colleen Hill, curator of costume and accessories at The Museum at FIT