Playing catch up from SS16 Fashion Week? Start here.
The early 60s were a golden time among the designers of France — Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin and Cristóbal Balenciaga were into the thick of their respective heydays, creating clothes to accommodate their conceptions of the modern woman. In 1961, André Courrèges bubbled to the surface with his own house, taking the concept of this modern woman and turning her into the future woman.
There’s something satisfying about the way Courrèges shared his purview: shiny a-line mini skirts, and cropped matching jackets; the original mod dress; triple strap low-heel Mary Janes rendered in stark patent leather and geometric cut outs that read ballsy — some of the most naked clothes of the time — and yet still tasteful. There were lamp shade hats and garments that looked like they’d been made from industrial materials used to render the foundations of metropolitan edifices. It was groundbreaking, really, until it wasn’t. As is typically the case with rampant success, his collections became the subject of multifarious hard cases of copy cat syndrome — and with that level of imitation almost always comes a sense of dilution. This is arguably what makes someone like Nicolas Ghesquière or Phoebe Philo or Marc Jacobs so well versed in their trade — no two collections ever look like each other.
But Courrèges held a Spring 16 fashion show and it was great. On the runway were plenty of body suits — winter’s answer to bathing suits. There were those familiar structural and vaguely architectural jackets, set on contrasting color palettes loud enough to grab your attention without annoying you.Vogue Runway’s Nicole Phelps called this “Courrèges 101.” New for them may have been the loot of slip dresses and jeans — no doubt two such compromises to wield today’s shopper.
On the streets, you saw inklings of a return. Teen Vogue’s Marina Larroude was spotted in a brown patent-leather jacket and friend-of-Man Repeller, Aziza Azim, recently instagrammed a photo of herself wearing a light pink jacket with a red skirt. I bought a blue version because I liked it so much.
The question is, will Courrèges under its new establishment (heralded by LVMH prize finalists, Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant) be able to make the splashy sound it did when the house first aired? Does it need to? Back then, Courrèges clothes changed the way we consider fashion. The way we consider the women who wear fashion. His prolific vision was so distinctive, so vastly replicated, that when you consider the clothes of Courrèges today, at least as determined by the runway of last month, you wonder why it looks so familiar. Can art imitate itself? Does that question even make sense? The clothes, the house, the intention — it all feels relevant. That’s what a trend will do. But as with any other, it’s when the hype subsides that true staying power is determined.
Let’s see what happens.
Feature photograph by Willy Rizzo, 1966
Feature collage by Elizabeth Tamkin