• Tebep

FRENCH FASHION AND PARISIAN STYLE


France is woven into the very fabric of fashion. As well as having major influence on the trends that hit runways worldwide, it’s shaped the language we use to describe them. Collections are couture, prêt-à-porter and resort — styles are à la mode, en vogue and avant-garde.

Haute Couture is French for high sewing or high dressmaking. Its is in a category in an of itself. It consist of strictly regulated industry standards and craftsmanship to create "made to measure" clothes for a private client. The majority of the creation is sewn by hand. Regulated by the French Department of Industry, specific rules and standards must be adhered to. Only a small few have the privilege of qualifying to be worthy enough to be considered a Haute Couture house. Members are selected by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in France.

Paris lies at the heart of France’s fashion obsession. It is of course home to the prestigious Paris Fashion Week, as well as headquarters of top fashion houses. It’s one of the go-to destinations for clothes shopping, and an incredibly inspiring location for any artist or designer.

THE HISTORY OF FRENCH FASHION

King Louis XIV, who reigned from 1643 to 1715, is often credited with French fashion’s rise to prominence. He believed extravagance was key to the country’s economic health and the monarchy’s prestige. After all, fashion allowed him to exhibit his wealth and power — surely it could do the same for the whole of France? He supported the luxury goods industries with infrastructure and subsidies, lessening dependence on imports so France could develop a unique fashion identity. He also introduced dressing etiquettes that strengthened the link between style and societal status. The hedonistic King became a Baroque fashion icon across Europe, and put France on the cultural map. Throughout the reign of Louis XV and Louis XVI, the extravagance continued. Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI’s wife, was admired as a fashion icon in her early years, but as the debts piled up public opinion soured. And so the monarchy’s taste for luxury eventually backfired, catalysing the French Revolution (1789–1799). France turned against fashion for its opulence and association with the aristocracy. Many of the low-class revolutionaries in France became known as the sans-culottes (without knee-breeches) at this time, because they shunned this fashion accessory associated with the bourgeoisie, instead dressing in more modest and simple attire. However, in the later stages of the Revolution came the Incroyables and Merveilleuses, who wore revealing and eccentric costumes.

France’s reputation for haute couture enjoyed a resurgence in the early 20th century, when couturier houses sprouted up, fashion magazines such as Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire hit newsstands, and fashion designers like Christian Dior achieved worldwide acclaim.

FRENCH FASHION DESIGNERS

LOUIS VUITTON

Alone and on foot, in search of a better life, Louis Vuitton (1821–1892) left Anchay for Paris at the age of 13. Upon his arrival over two years later, in 1837, he became an apprentice at Monsieur Marechal’s box-making and packing workshop.

In 1853, he was appointed personal box maker and packer to Eugenie de Montijo, Empress of France and Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife. It was here he built relationships with high-class clientele, and began to earn himself a name as a specialist in luxury goods.

Vuitton debuted square trunks, which we now recognise as vintage suitcases, in 1858. They were stackable and durable — unlike the dome-topped trunks available at the time. They instantly became a must-have travel accessory.

The Louis Vuitton brand is renowned for its luxury luggage to this day, but has expanded into other markets since its founder’s death. Its first prêt-à-porter collection was revealed in 1997 under the artistic directorship of American designer Marc Jacobs, who also went on to launch the brand’s first jewellery line in 2001.

COCO CHANEL

Much to the delight of many women across France, Coco Chanel (1883–1971) was responsible for making feminine fashion a more casual and comfortable affair. Huge skirts and corsets were out; jersey suits and dresses were in. Chanel’s sporty designs complemented women’s wartime lifestyles, as they entered the workforce and required more practical ensembles.

Many of Chanel’s designs were inspired by her maritime experiences. She is often credited with popularising the Breton striped top — something that immediately springs to mind when we think of French fashion. Chanel is also thought to have coined ‘little black dress’ after creating a simple design that catered to restrained budgets during the Great Depression.