Saturday, September 8, 2018

Helen of Troy

Greek mythology has always played a part in the time of inspiration; the world of cinema and the world of sculpture and painting are some of the examples where the gods of Olympus were the protagonists (those muscular torsos, right?). But do not forget that fashion is an art too, and if there is a designer who reflected this Greek world, then we would say Germaine Émilie Krebs (does not it familiar to you?), better known as Madame Grès (1903-1993), or also Alix Barton, name that she used in her beginnings when she began her work as a designer in 1933 in the always Paris (now you know who I'm talking about). Well, let's go to the topic!

Madame Grès (1903-1993). Photo by Eve Arnold (1977).

Madame Grès working on a design.
Photo by Boris Lipnitzk (1935).
You do not need to think much and realize that this french was in love with the Greek world and her original creations reflect it. Her initial designs earned her the first prize of haute couture at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1937 (a splendid takeoff for her career, no doubt), and from there she created her brand. Her true vocation was sculpture, but she replaced the stone with silk and taffeta, creating totally timeless works that take your breath away. Madame Grès did not follow the guidelines of the conventional fashion. Her creative world was completely different, her designs were complex, despite they looked simple, without seams (and those colors!). The drapes and the asymmetrical shapes were the hallmark of her spectacular dresses in search of perfection (and she found it!) in her refined and sensual lines; she achieved the elegant movement of her creations thanks to her well-known pleating formed by flat folds every 3 cm. Her inspiration was not only taken from ancient Greece, also the Japanese kimonos and the traditional clothes of North Africa were part of her repertoire. All of it made her be praised by her colleagues, since no one missed the skill of her hands with which she worked the fabrics (as a singular note we have to say she did not know how to ... sew!), skill dictated by a wonderful mind. And there from her atelier at number 83 of the Rue Faubourg-Saint Honoré, our protagonist conquered haute couture.

Silk evening dress (1958).
Photo courtesy by MET.

Along with our beloved Coco Chanel, Madame Grès was considered one of the most important designers of the postwar period. But while Chanel liked to advertise herself, the other preferred discretion and she hardly gave interviews. Here I leave a quote that sums up her great work in the world of fashion: "Because only perfection will make a garment live from one season to the next one". Thanks for everything, Alix.

See you next week, vintage lovers!

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