Everybody knows that fashion started in Paris. Think about all the famous kings and queens that gave the trends, think about Marie Antoinette, about Coco Chanel, about Yves Saint Laurent, these are the French Icons that have shaped fashion to the form it exists today. They were the innovators of French fashion, and now, many years after their death, designers get inspiration from their past collections. They have brought different, yet very challenging ideas of beauty and fashion in a time when not many ideas were accepted. They were revolutionaries and slowly, the world started to be less outraged of what they were doing and to actually wear their creations. Even though the newest visionaries have moved to London, Paris remains in fashion history, continuing to showcase tradition every year at Paris Fashion Week. In this article, as I did in the previous one about the Brits, I will discuss about some of the most iconic fashion designers in France.
I chose Chanel to be first, as it is my favourite, it is the one I aspire to work for and own pieces from, ever since I have first heard about it. She was an innovator in fashion, with introducing pants for women, in a time when they were only wearing skirts and bringing sleek, simple, functional and perfectly tailored designs in a time when everything had to be overly embellished. She changed fashion with her ideas and Karl Lagerfeld is continuing the tradition, reinventing Chanel with every season and every catwalk presentation. Worn by famous figures such as Jackie Kennedy and Diana Vreeland, one can notice Chanel designs from kilometres away.
YVES SAINT LAURENT
Yves Saint Laurent was yet another innovator in the French fashion scene with the introduction of the tuxedo suit for women, as well as his then controversial use of non-White models. He is also known and acclaimed for propelling the rise of couture and for making ready-to-wear prominent. He was a very respectable gentleman, who started by working for Dior and then he launched his eponymous brand. Even after his death, the fashion house always creates some sort of a stir with the designs, the catwalks and most recently with the name, as the new creative director- Hedi Slimane- changed it from Yves Saint Laurent to only Saint Laurent, generating a whole “campaign” called “Ain’t Laurent without Yves”.
Christian Dior is the epitome of elegance and perfection. He is the founder of one of the top French fashion houses, bearing his name and he is most famous for having his first collection cornered as “New Look”, by Carmel Snow, the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar. When he designed, he completely went for it, creating clothes that no longer cared about conserving the fabric, as they had to during World War II. He became famous as a master of shapes and silhouettes, introducing various shapes and forms of the everyday and evening dresses. His “New Look” represented a revolution in the French fashion scene and a reestablishment of Paris as the main fashion capital after World War II.
Who does not know Givenchy after the wonderful and extremely famous outfits worn by Audrey Hepburn in many of her films? Another master of elegance and modernity that gave him a special name in the French fashion landscape. He was the first high-end fashion designer to create a luxury ready-to-wear collection, that was entitled “Givenchy Université”. In the Seventies, he was even chosen to design all the interiors of Hilton Hotels worldwide, and even a car, Ford Mark. He was another visionary, a true innovator and brought something completely new to the fashion world, revolutionizing the ready-to-wear cosmos and continuously expanding his horizons.
Known for never receiving formal training as a designer, he was hired by Pierre Cardin to be his assistant, as the latter was impressed with his sketches. He is famous for being “l’enfant terrible” of French fashion with his designes, usually street wear based and inspired form popular culture. Even his Haute Couture collections are somehow playful and odd designs, that keep a distinguished elegance that not many can achieve. His creativity seduced many fashion editors and later launched his career, his most famous moment being Madonna’s cone bra for her 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour. He is unconventional, fun and very artistic, and sometimes, during Fashion Week, when he is not showing, you can see him on the street, looking for inspiration for his next collections. Besides, if you go at him and ask him questions, he is very eager to stay and talk to you and this is what makes him special.
Who has never heard of Hermés? If you haven’t, shame on you, because this fashion house here is probably the biggest family owned manufacturer of leather goods. They are probably most famous for the Birkin Bag, named after Jane Birkin, Serge Gainsbourg’s lover. What you might not know is that the company exists since 1837, and was first a harness workshop, dedicated to noblemen, which slowly evolved into what we know today as Hermés, one of the few, if not the only luxury store in the world that never has sales. Trust me, it is the brand you would like to own, as it has a certain way of guaranteeing full attention of all the fashionistas on the street. Besides, as not many people can afford a real one, the cheapest Birkin being priced around 4,800£, you gain a certain status by owning one.
Red soles and more than wonderful shoes, are probably the concepts around the whole Louboutin world. He mostly ignored his academic studies, he was expelled several times from school and he ran away from home at the age of 12. He even says about his designs that he wanted to create “something that broke rules and made women feel confident and empowered.” His designs are defying the rules of height and send this idea of somehow affordable luxury that not many brands show. He has brought stilettos back in fashion, so we definitely have to thank him for that and who else can qualify for an aspirational designer, better than him? We are so many that aspire to one day own those shoes, that at one point we might have a boom of buyers.
Stay tuned for next week’s batch of Italian Designers!
Feature image: unsplash.com