The immensely-talented André Courrèges was one of a French Haute Couture triumvirate (the other members being Paco Rabanne & Pierre Cardin)
whose innovation and individual style helped to define a whole new era of fashion during the 1960’s.He was born in March 1923 in Pau, the Basque region of France. After studying to become a civil engineer (at his father’s request) and working as a pilot in the French Air Force, at the age of 25, he changed his vocation to a career in fashion, which lead him to Paris and a place at the Chambre Syndicale school. Courrèges followed this schooling with a period working for the Jeanne Lafaurie fashion design house before ultimately training under the legendary Spanish couturier Balenciaga from 1950 to 1961.Like Courrèges, Balenciaga was a man way ahead of his time who happened to excell at innovative tailoring; his garments were literally sculpted to his client’s body and it was from him that Courrèges learnt a highly disciplined yet completely revolutionary approach to design which would serve him well and heavily influence/feature in his own, future collections (pun not intended!).In 1961 Courrèges set up his own house on the eve of the great youth revolution or “youthquake” of the 1960s, which would not only radically alter the direction of womenswear , but also, more profoundly, their “perceived” roles in society, forever.Courrèges was a “man of the times”, but more importantly, he was a visionary, who “seized the moment” he found himself in; he used his fascination with the youth movement and his obsession with the headline-grabbing “Space-Race” craze of that period (soon to become a reality – man would land on the Moon in 1969 for the first time!) as his motivation, inspiration and muse, in the process creating his outstanding “Moon Girl” collection of 1964, which (when shown to an incredulous and captivated fashionista crowd ) caused an over-night sensation.At the core of Courrèges’ “Space-Age” collection were high-fashion, geometric-shaped, tailored garments, which were almost architecturally-sculpted, such was the precision in their design, thought and execution. Using a futuristic colour palette of white and silver, complemented by trims in vivid shades of pink, orange, green and navy, he introduced an unsuspecting fashion-press (and subsequently the world!) to the now-legendary “mini” skirt and dress, worn with/under beautifully tailored, double-breasted coats with drop waists, highly-detailed, welt seaming and contrasting trim, along with cutting-edge accessories such as oversized, white, tennis-ball sunglasses, goggles with narrow eye slits and helmet-shaped hats. The dresses were built from geometric shapes such as squares, trapezoids and triangles, forsaking the traditional “flowing” principles of womens fashion; “built” is the key word here – it has been said that Courrèges
built dresses as opposed to designing them.In addition, Courrèges was just as extreme/revolutionary in his choice of/approach to fabrics, constantly using PVC in his work in everything from footwear to eyewear. The designer’s intention was to startle, provoke and change the “status quo”; as he remarked at the time to “Life” magazine: “Women of today are archaic in their appearance, I want to help them coincide with their time”.To say that Courrèges was successful in his intentions is an understatement – his work succeeded to great acclaim and international success; for a short while he became the King Of Paris Fashion, whose mini skirts were shorter than anyone elses and whose style was as sharp as his sheers.From his studio on the Avenue Kléber and his “White Salon”, Courrèges dressed luminaries from the Duchess of Windsor to Jacqueline Kennedy, Lee Radziwill, and Jane Holzer.Probably the most iconic and famous creation to emerge from this era (after the legendary mini-skirt) was the famous “Courrèges “Go-Go” Boot” – originally designed and presented in 1963, it featured a mid-calf length design, with square, peep-hole toes and bows, all fashioned from a beautifully soft kid-leather.In 1965 Courrèges launched his first official couture collection under the “Prototypes” label, which was followed by his deluxe made-to-order custom line “Couture Future” in 1967; in 1971 the “Hyperbole” range was created as a ready-to-wear alternative for the younger market.Today, the Courrèges “Space-Age” look appears to be forever-entwined with sixties legend and an outdated, somewhat naive, child-like idealism; that said, the designer still has the power to influence, inspire and STIMULATE fashion aficionados well into the 21st century and beyond, for it is his SPIRIT, apart from his legend and creativity, which is TIMELESS.
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