The Most Influential Designers of the Century

Topics: Haute couture, Chanel, Coco Chanel Pages: 7 (2227 words) Published: November 30, 2012
Paul Poiret (1879 - 1944) is best known for liberating women from corsets. Lacking certain technical dressmaking skills Poiret made draping the focal point of his designs. He was interested in simple shapes that freed the body and being inspired by Fauvism, Japanese culture and the Ballet Russes mostly used exotic colours. He was the king of Oriental Era in 1910's and a natural businessman. He expanded limits of what fashion meant at the time and brought some serious innovations to the industry. Kimono coat, "hobble" skirt, "lampshade" tunics, "harem" pantaloons are all signature outfits of Paul Poiret. Along with other designers like Mariano Fortuny, Paul Poiret helped to establish what we now call a Classical style and of course, he is one of those designers who define Exoticism. While researching this revolutionary designer I came up with idea of three types of women he designed for: 1) Goddess-like woman in rich colored, empire waisted, beautifully draped dress; 2) Exotic, seductive, slave-like woman in turban and harem pantaloons/hobble skirt. 3) Rich, extravagant Eastern/Japanese woman in fur, velvet, etc. lush fabrics.

Gabrielle Coco Chanel (1883 - 1971) is rightfully called a queen of 20's. She was (and still is) one of the most influential designers of all time. The style that Chanel promoted is considered classic today, not to mention timeless wardrobe essentials as little black dress or Chanel suit. Channel started off by shortening hemlines so that women who now had to work in factories (post WWI) would feel more comfortable. Using unconventional fabrics (at the time) like jersey and tweed she adapted menswear to women needs and actually transformed what a modern woman means. Her woman was independent and strong. She lowered the waistline to upper hips level thus creating an androgynous/boyish silhouette - La Garconne. Combining elegance and practicality she used simple materials to create accessories: for the first time in history daring to mix pearls with glass beads and inventing "poor chic". On the contrary to Poiret, Coco Chanel was an experienced seamstress and paid great attention to details. Later in her career, she stopped using sewing machines and started making every garment by hand. She was also known for her signature embroidery which was carried out by Russian house Kitmir exclusively for her. For me, Chanel stands for timeless elegance. She is inspirational image of independence and innovation. Nowadays, Karl Lagerfeld is a head of design in house of Chanel. Here are my three favorite looks this season (from prêt-a-porter A/W 2012):

Madeleine Vionnet (1876 - 1975) was the first designer to adapt her "haute couture" designs to high street and by doing so she transformed commercial fashion industry. Vionnet combined modern business practices with innovation in dressmaking. She is also praised for taking garment construction to the highest level - adopting and perfecting the bias-cut (many people say she invented the bias cut but in her biography Vionnet clearly states that is not true), making dresses with one seam and showing off outstanding cutting skills in each garment. Vionnet promoted style which I would describe as Grecian aesthetics minimized and polished to form clean, sleek, ageless idea of beauty. In 1925 British Vogue, articulating Vionnet's appeal, declared her 'perhaps the greatest geometrician among all French couturiers'. Her ideas survived and are continued with great success in the house of Vionnet. Here are some of my favorite looks this season:

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973), Italian designer and the greatest rival of Chanel was a very influential figure in 30's fashion. Fascinated by Surrealism, she formed one of the most iconic partnerships between Art and Fashion while working with world-renowned artist Salvador Dali. (I must mention though, that she collaborated with many other artists of the time). Unfortunately, she didn't adapt to changes after...
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