Sunday, February 13, 2011

the forgotten, yet notable: part I

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google images

I found this gem during one of my many trips to NW 23rd Avenue this summer. This fashion bible begins with the success of Jeanne Lanvin, the creator of the oldest fashion house in the world, and ends with Stella McCartney, the daughter of Paul and mastermind behind high-end fashion with a green conscience. 

Though several of the designers depicted in this book are practically forgotten, current fashion will forever be indebted to these designers. 

Madeleine Vionnet, a French designer, was the first to blend elegance with comfort. Vionnet eliminated the corset from her softly-draped creations and experimented with cuts that flowed carelessly around the body. 

During my travels through Europe last year, the statues lining the walls of Greek museums were adorned in marble and stone dresses, yet the craftsmanship made them appear as silk flowing freely around the statue's body. The Louvre in Paris also displays this Greek artistry with one of its most famous statues, Nike of Samothrace. Though her dresses were not carved of stone, it is clear that Vionnet found her inspiration in the beauty of Greek culture. In fact, her fashion house displayed frescoes of Greek beauties wearing Vionnet designs.

Though Vionnet was the first to eliminate the corset from her designs, Paul Poiret took the credit for the abolishment of this undergarment. Poiret's most controversial designs were pants for women--which were hardly considered acceptable for women during the early 1900s. He also had a hand in creating t-shirt dresses and "lampshade" tunics. Like Vionnet, Poiret's garments were inspired by culture and art. The Russian Ballets (Ballets Russes) inspired Poiret to create turbans, coats with kimono sleeves, richly decorated tunics and flat slippers.

Poiret spent time traveling Russia and America to promote his label--he had an instinct for marketing. He introduced window displays and gave fashion photography an artistic edge. However, the clientele of his competitors, such as Coco Chanel, forced Poiret into debt. He died in 1944, homeless. 

The world of fashion is cutthroat. Designers come and go, but their designs stay inspirations. Culture and art, as evidenced by Vionnet and Poiret, play the leading role of inspiration. Though Paris was and remains the center of the fashion world, French designers were influenced by various other cultures and art movements of the time. 

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