Posts in the André Courrèges category

Balenciaga evening gownThere are a number of reasons I decided to conclude Paris Refashioned in 1968. One was a consideration of aesthetics: by this time, the hard-edged geometry of earlier designs was giving way to softer, more eclectic styles influenced by the hippie movement. Even more important, however, were changes to the fashion industry itself. Cristóbal Balenciaga, the reigning leader of Paris couture, closed his house in 1968, lamenting that it had become impossible to design true couture.

Although he was clearly frustrated, Balenciaga’s work from the 1960s is exceptional. A dress from The Museum at FIT, created just before Balenciaga’s retirement, provides an example of the canted hemline he refined over the course of the 1960s. When the wearer moved, the dress would swing to create a perfectly conical shape. When she stood still, the fabric fell into soft vertical folds. A video from the same period offers a glimpse of the designer’s stunning work in motion.

Balenciaga evening gown
Gift of Mrs. Ephraim London, Mrs. Rowland Mindlin, and Mrs. Walter Eytan in Memory of Mrs. M. Lincoln Schuster

Many other designers – including Pierre Cardin, André Courrèges, Yves Saint Laurent, and Emanuel Ungaro, among others – had not abandoned couture, yet they understood that ready-to-wear was the future of fashion. Each of these designers had launched ready-to-wear labels by 1968, and it was largely those offerings that allowed their businesses to thrive. While couture collections continue to fascinate lovers of fashion, the current number of couture clients worldwide is estimated at less than 2,000. High-end ready-to-wear labels – based in Paris and abroad – dominate fashion, and prove that the changes to the industry highlighted in Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 continue to resonate.

Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.
Emanuel Ungaro coatEmanuel Ungaro worked for Cristóbal Balenciaga and André Courrèges before starting his own label in 1965. Women’s Wear Daily was first to report on the new couture house, later providing the designer’s contact information to French and British journalists. The newspaper emphatically stated that although Ungaro was designing couture, he was certain to “defy labels,” and speculated that he would be “the force to cement the weaker forces tearing Paris apart.”

Some of Ungaro’s most compelling creations were made in collaboration with textile designer Sonia Knapp. Although Knapp was an established textile designer, she had never made couture fabrics prior to working with Ungaro. She quickly rose to the challenge, and her colorful, fluid designs – which often conveyed her interest in Abstract Expressionism – were said to “wake Ungaro up.”

Emanuel Ungaro coat-detail
The soft lines of the fabric Knapp designed for this coat echo its curved lapels and rounded patch pockets, while simultaneously contrasting the coat’s hard-edged, A-line silhouette. The garment’s immaculate construction – best exemplified by the perfectly-matched fabric – demonstrates that there remained a place for couture craftsmanship within 1960s fashion. Yet Ungaro also understood the increasing importance of ready-to-wear: in 1967, he launched a readymade line called “Emanuel Ungaro Parallèle.” The label’s offerings allowed Ungaro to design in a relaxed and lighthearted matter.

Emanuel Ungaro coat
(Fabric by Sonia Knapp)
Gift of Rodman A. Heeren
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.
André Courrèges hat

Courrèges’s designs for accessories were as significant as his garments. The importance of accessories can be traced to his traditional couture training, and specifically to his work under Cristóbal Balenciaga. The unusual, sculptural silhouettes that Balenciaga perfected were enhanced by hats designed to complement and enliven each garment. Courrèges crafted his own hats to similar effect.

The Museum at FIT is fortunate to have a collection of early Courrèges hats worn by fashion arbiter. One example, dating to 1962, is relatively conservative in spite of its use of bright violet leather. It features a shallow brim and a narrow band that ends in a slightly abstracted bow at the center back; its only unusual feature is a crown that slopes slightly upward toward the back of the head.
André Courrèges hat
Donated in memory of Isabel Eberstadt
by her family

André Courrèges hat

Dating to one year later, a hat made from white leather hints at some of the couturier’s more eccentric styles to come. A visor-style brim, accented with a center front bow, is attached to a large, rounded crown that bubbles up and over the head. This style was shown with a simple shift dress in a 1963 issue of L’Officiel. The caption described the dress as made from white jersey, cinched by a suede brown belt, “exquisitely elegant in its sobriety.”
André Courrèges hat
Donated in memory of Isabel Eberstadt
by her family

In 1964, Courrèges introduced his “Space Age” styles, which firmly placed him among the most forward-thinking of couturiers. While white, sculptural hats were integral to the head-to-toe look, Courrèges’s shiny white boots became one of his most popular and enduring designs. Made with a peep toe and cut-outs around the shin, the boots were fastened up the center back with Velcro. Relatively new to the commercial market, Velcro was also being used by NASA to anchor items inside its spaceships. It is clear that Courrèges directly connected his design to developments in space travel.

André Courrèges boots

André Courrèges boots
Gift of Ruth Sublette
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.
Yves Saint Laurent pea coatThe links between fashion and celebrity culture during the 1960s are most often associated with London, with stars such as the Beatles and Twiggy becoming international sensations. Yet there was a vibrant and influential youth culture in France as well. Film stars including Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve became fashion icons, as did singers such as Françoise Hardy and Sylvie Vartan.

Brigitte Bardot’s impact on fashion was firmly established in 1959, when she married fellow actor Jacques Charrier in a full-skirted, pink gingham gown by Jacques Estérel. While the look of the dress itself was not innovative, the use of humble cotton fabric for a bridal gown flouted tradition. Only one month after her wedding, the New York Times reported, “You can’t buy a yard of checkered gingham in Paris, not even enough for kitchen curtains, since Brigitte picked the fabric for her wedding dress.”

Catherine Deneuve’s 1960s style was defined by her relationship with Yves Saint Laurent. She wore the designer’s clothing on- and off-screen, such as his original “le smoking” suit and a gown from his renowned “Pop Art” collection. She also owned some of Saint Laurent’s more subdued styles, including a navy wool pea coat with brass buttons from 1966. The Museum at FIT’s collection houses an example of this same design.
Françoise Hardy and Sylvie Vartan were associated with a musical genre known as yé-yé, which took its name from English-language songs that included the words “yeah, yeah, yeah” – most famously, the Beatles song “She Loves You.”

Yves Saint Laurent pea coat
Gift of Doris Strakosch

Paris Refashioned Installation View

Similar to the way the term “mod” in England and the United States, yé-yé became used as a term to describe various aspects of French youth culture. Particular clothing styles were identified as yé-yé fashion, including trench coats, striped t-shirts, and flat, Mary Jane-style shoes. Two trench coats included in the Paris Refashioned exhibition – one from Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, the other from André Courrèges’s ready-to-wear line, Couture Future – were selected to represent an aspect of the yé-yé style.

Left: trench coat by Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, circa 1967
Right: trench coat by Couture Future (André Courrèges), circa 1968
Photo by Eileen Costa. © 2017 The Museum at FIT
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.