ANDRÉ COURRÈGES OR THE FUTURISM IN FASHION

 

Lubomir Stoykov

АНДРЕ КУРЕЖAndre Courreges has long ago turned into symbol and in emblem of the new, of the daring and youth style, of the futurism in fashion. Very often his name stays side by side to this one of Mary Quant as discoverers and inventors of the mini style. They call him Le Corbusier of the fashion. But who is Andre Courreges and is it so big his contribution to the world design in ХХ century? Is it deep the stamp of his ten-year apprenticeship to the great Cristobal Balenciaga? How the French designer gets to the idea of the mini fashion? What makes him to stake so much on the man elements in the woman’s cloth and to pay so serious attention to the trousers? In what expresses his understanding for “the cosmic era” in the fashion?...

Andre Courregeswas born at 9th of March 1923 in Pau, France. In the center of his occupations and skills interweave his education in construction engineering and fashion design, as his realization as a war pilot during the Second World War. In his life and creative road reflect his hobbies in geometry and architecture, as his specific passion to the innovations, to the technologic progress, in particular – the achievements in the cosmos. All this in combination with his interior disposition to the newest, progressive and ultrafashionable in the art and design and the dozens of years of successful creative realization approve him like one f the most interesting fashion futurists and representatives of the new type constructivism in fashion. But how passes by dates the professional life, respectively the designer realization of Andre Courreges? From 1945 (and according to some sources – from 1949) to 1961 he works like an assistant in the fashion house of Cristobal Balenciaga in Paris. In 1961 togetehr with his future wife they create their own fashion house for haute couture. Later he sells it to “L’Oreal”. Together with the mini style he imposes also the trapezoidal shapes in the design of the dresses, as also the А-shaped silhouette. In his works he is strongly influenced from the works of the pop and op-art, as from the epoque cosmic achievements in the 60s. In 1967 he renews his own activity, opening the line “Prototype”. In the beginning of 70s he opens his own boutiques, where he sells at first clothes, and later different accessories. His premiere perfume he launches in 1970, and he starts to create for the first time and to sell man clothing in 1973. After tops and declines in his business, in 1983 he sells his property to the Japanese company “Itokin”. In the middle of the 90s together with his apprentice Jean Charles de Castelbajac create common collections (1).

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THE TEN YEARS TO BALENCIAGA

helps him at least for two things. First of all, to help him perfectly to cut and to sew, second, to find his future professional and life partner – his wife Coqueline Barriere. As an assistant to the famous Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga, Andre Courreges masters the most important from the technique of his teacher: to create in original way, unelaborated and bravely. From Balenciaga he learns the precise attitude to the cut (according to the Spanish creator the good stylist has to be an architect regarding the cut and a sculptor regarding the shape) and the reforming beginning towards everything that is already created in the area of the fashion. The professional attitude to the materials, the penetration in their quality and tradition, and together with this – the search of new, more effective materials is also characteristic for the professional handwriting of the two of them – of the teacher and of the apprentice. But maybe the fact that mostly influences Courreges from the style of Balencaga is the spirit of the freedom in the choice of creative decision: his body and movements need bigger independence and comfort, and this leads after itself the principles of the functionality and of the expedience, that gradually become leading for the father of the mini-fashion. It can be said that Cristobal Balenciaga forms at Andre Courreges an aspiration as to bigger practicality and freedom of the shape and to experiment, as to the search of harmony between the classics and the modernity, between the most beautiful from the past ad the most attractive and useful from the present.

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THE MINI STYLE OF ANDRE COURREGES

Rather amusing, than serious are the disputes who first discovers the mini fashion – Andre Courreges or Mary Quant. The crosstalks between them are enough eloquent. Courreges says: “I invented the mini. Mary Quant just commercializes the idea.”, and Quant hits back, answering back with the words: “Nor I, neither Courreges invented the idea – the girls in the streets made it.” (2) Surely one more profound analysis will show that the beginnings of this style exists in the collection of other fashion houses and designers still before the two of them (officially considered) inventors of the daring and ultra short fashion to remember of it. The new radical at his nature manner of clothing is a result of the change in the thinking and in the behavior, of the whole value system and culture of the newest generations. This type appearance undoubtedly is related to the street, to the dynamic way of life and to the coming sexual revolution. The biggest merit of Mary Quant and Andre Courreges is that the both of them at the same time or almost at the same time give conceptuality to the “short” and transform it in long-term trend of clothing, following and imitation. In 1961 Courreges shows his first collection with mini skirts. In them and later in his others works shows well his sense of the clear an clean construction, the geometrical shape and something that is especially important – his constant aspiration to free the body, to give it opportunity to “breath”, to dance and to sport. In the daybreak of the mini fashion there is a big resistance against her “corrupting” role. Against it declare not only puritans and defenders of the strict moral, but even famous designers like Coco Chanel for example. Referring the proposed from Courreges mini skirts, she declares furiously:”Man seeks to destroy the woman, to destroy her shape, striving for changing her in little girl”. In return comes the cold-blooded and perceptive remark of Andre Courreges:”I made women younger with twenty years without the using of a scalpel” (3).

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With what kind of materials serves Andre Courreges? The elementary answer of this question could read: with expensive – for his collection haute couture, and with cheap – for the store clothes, destined for clients with lower incomes. The attentive look to the materials, used form the designer – futurist, however shows that he appreciates highly the muslin, the tweed, the cotton lace, the gabardine, the soft and two-face wool (for his more classic works) and he shows piety to the new materials like leather, vinyl, rubber, plastic. The fashion futurism of Courreges appears especially strongly in the aggressively sharpened shapes of his design. The inevitable components of this type creative include big extravagant sun glasses, attractive boots, breast pockets, unusual plates, big sewing and effect plastic zippers. The preferred from the French vanguard designer colors are white, black, beige, silver, blue, partially – green and yellow, as the intensive versions of the pink and the orange. The checked materials have privileged territory in his art. As a whole his models detach energy, vitality, sport and dynamic spirit and of course sex-appeal. And although from some of them exhales coldness and some creative or maybe even academic pedantry, their innovatory shape attracts the eye and storm the fantasy.

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THE TROUSERS

In woman’s toilet are showed as one of the biggest achievements of Andre Courreges. His combinations of tunics with trousers with or ultra short skirts have really innovative character. Here's what is written for him and for the most distinctive features of his style Carolin Fox: ”Still people argue if Courreges is the real inventor of the mini skirt. However it is a matter of fact that namely he for the first time combines trousers with tunic type de rigueur for every season, and also that namely he broke the taboo and allowed to the woman to wear trousers. Courreges imposed the extended silhouette, the clean cut and the right construction of the cloth, underlining them the more and more in the fashion-shows, for those he takes weel shaped like muscles, tall and weak models. Courreges expresses his love and his aptitude to the right and simple constructions, using the typical military stripes, similar to these from 1965, as also imposing attributes like overalls, necklines in the shape of locks, pockets-patches etc. The specific bordering and edgings underline more the clear line of his clothes. Used by him sewing in many cases is in contrast a color, as: orange over white, purposely reinforcing the effect of the separate detail.” (4). It is clear the direction with which Andre Courreges changes the woman of the second half of XX century: her activity and modernity in the appearance come in maximal degree from the skillful combination of man and woman components in the clothing, as from the gradually domination of the masculine style (especially through the trousers and through the flat-heeled shoes). The designer denies the wearing of stiletto shoes and in return offers shoes without or almost without heels, as also comfortable, reminding of the children’s, flat boots or light shoes with thin soles, combined with short or three-four socks.

THE COSMIC ERA

With right Courreges is showed as one of the creators of the cosmic style in the fashion design. Like other his colleagues, for example Pierre Cardin or Paco Rabanne, he is strongly influenced by the cosmic breaks of the humanity, by the heroisms of the Russian cosmonauts and the American astronauts. Besides the synthetic materials and the unusual, futuristic shapes, his design is characterized with simplicity, cleanness and strong doze revolutionary spirit of the image. This expressiveness magnetizes the youth imagination and inspires with its braveness and unordinary. For models of his cosmic collection “The moon girl” (1964) Courreges choose tall, weak, long-thigh girls that will harmonize in maximum to the design of the future. What contains this collection and how the media welcome this fashion reforming activity? Answer of these questions we find in the commentary and the description of Valerie Steel concerning his collection “Cosmic era” or “The moon girl” in 1964: “...It includes white trousers and mini skirts, combined with rubber boots and other accessories from the cosmic era. “The message of Courreges is clear: brave clothes, well balanced with scientific precision, to be achieved a new staggering mathematical beauty” – is written in one British magazine. “This is a kind for those it couldn’t be dream on before of the launching of the first satellite.” The high technologies – from the vinyl, the elastic material to the zipper connected with the progress and the happy future. “Button up the zipper, jump in the pop and it’s ready! – advices the American “Vogue” in 1965. “Without crotchets, ties… all is jingling and whispering, ready to fly” (5). In one amazing way the French fashion futurist leaves behind his time and decades earlier forebodes the fashion of the minimalism and of the color metallic – as to the clothes, as to the automobiles, the furniture, the exterior of the buildings etc. The dominating silver color in his cosmic works makes impression to everyone. Even the famous father of the pop-art Andy Warhol says about the style of Andre Courreges from his cosmic period the following: ”The clothes of Courreges are so nice. Everybody has to look like this, dressed in silver. The silver grades in everything. I thing that during the day the suits have to be wearing with more make-up”(6). The models of Andre Courreges, of a great cosmic spirit attest that in the design can be interpreted substandard (in this case – influenced by the new technologies) shapes, materials and colors. “The cosmic era” in the fashion shows that right to live has as the original and unordinary constructive decisions, as the comfortable, functional and practice clothing. In the following decades this style isn’t kept completely, but some of its elements continue till today to be applied in the way of clothing and of the forming of the appearance. This is the case with the hi-tech design that today enjoys a success.

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THE PERFUMES

The aroma liquids, crated by the French vanguard stylist remember so much to his aesthetics and philosophy of the appearance. They definitely are remembering with one special sharpness invoke associations with the futurism of Courreges. Freshness, magnetism, sensuality and energy are among the leading key words in the characteristic of his perfumes. Here are the short chronology of the most important fragrance brands, launched by Andre Courreges in the frames of about thirty years:
1970 Empreinte (W)
1974 Eau de Courreges (W)
1977 Courreges pour homme
1979 Amerique (W)
1983 In blue (W)
1993 Sweet (W)
1995 Niagara (за мъже)
1996 Generation (W)
1997 2020

* * *

The works Andre Courreges evokes admiration and respect with some things. From one side, he together with Mary Quant and others vanguard disposed designers, helps for the rejuvenation of the fashion, listening closely the advices of the street and of their real youth style of existance. From the other, showing as a bright minimalist and constructivist, Courreges enriches the world fashion design with his reformative spirit, giving it complement expressivity and extravagance, i.e. difference. From third side, the French fashion futurist contributes very much to the landing of the haute couture, for its accessibility and for the considering with the pretensions of the ordinary people, especially of the youth – pretensions for more comfortable and functional fashion. All this privileges Andre Courreges as one of the most interesting and significant fashion creators in ХХ century.

Notes:
(1) In the article are used the following sources: Ermilova, D.U. История домов моды, “Academia”.Moskow, 2003; O’Hara, J. Encyclopedia of fashion. “Library 48 “, S., 1995; The Fashion Business. Theory, Practice, Image. Edited by Nicola White and Ian Griffiths. “Berg”.Oxford, New York, 2000; Fashion Designers – Vogue - Internet ; Encyclopedie.Editions - De grote Mode Nathan. Paris, France,1989; Martin,R.The St.James Fashion Encyclopedia:A Survey of Style from 1945 to the Present.Visible Ink Press. Detroit,1997, pp.85-87; McDowell, C. Fashion today. Phaidon Press Limited. London, 2000; O`Hara,G.The Encyclopaedia of Fashion.From 1840 to the 1980s.Thames and Hudson. London,1986; Seeling, Ch. Fashion. The century of the designer 1900 – 1999. Konёmann,2000,Cologne ; Stegemeyer, A. Who`s Who in Fashion. Third edition. Capital Cities Media, Inc. Fairchild Publications, New York, 1996 etc.
(2) The Fashion Business. Theory, Practice, Image. Edited by Nicola White and Ian Griffiths. “Berg”.Oxford, New York, 2000, p.10.
(3) Seeling, Ch. Fashion. The century of the designer 1900 – 1999. Konёmann,2000,Cologne, p.368.
(4) Martin,R.The St.James Fashion Encyclopedia:A Survey of Style from 1945 to the Present.Visible Ink Press.Detroit,1997, p. 87
(5) The Fashion Business. Theory, Practice, Image. Edited by Nicola White and Ian Griffiths. “Berg”.Oxford, New York, 2000, p.11.
(6) Andre Courreges - "Le Corbusier of Fashion".In: Fashion Designers – Vogue – Internet.

Photos:

1. Andre Courreges
Photo: © Encyclopedie.Editions - De grote Mode Nathan. Paris, France,1989;
2. Model of Andre Courreges, 1964
Photo: © Ермилова, Д.Ю. История домов моды, “Академия”.Москва, 2003;
3. Sketch of Andre Courreges, 1965
Източник: © Thiel, E. Kunstler und Mode. Vom Modeschopfer zum Modegestalter. Henschenverlag, Berlin, 1979.
4. . Futuristic model of Andre Courreges – ardent representative of the design generation from the “cosmic era”, 1965
Photo: © O`Hara,G.The Encyclopaedia of Fashion.From 1840 to the 1980s.Thames and Hudson.London,1986;
5. Image of Andre Courreges, 1965
Photo: © Peter Knapp / McDowell, C. Fashion today. Phaidon Press Limited. London, 2000
6. Model of Brash, of a great artistic merit of Andre Courreges, 1966
Photo: © Loschek, I. Mode im 20. Jahrhundert. Munchen,1990
7. Woman suit of Andre Courreges in black-white checks, influenced from the op-art, 60s
Photo: © Connikie, Y. Fashions of a decade. The 1960s. Facts On File. New York, 1997
8. Influence of the style “Cosmos”, short girl socks and wigs in models of Andre Courreges from the 60s
Photo: © Connikie, Y. Fashions of a decade. The 1960s. Facts On File. New York, 1997
9. Model mini fashion of Andre Courreges, 1967
Photo: © Peter Knapp / McDowell, C. Fashion today. Phaidon Press Limited. London, 2000
10. Model of Andre Courreges from white woolen gabardine and socks to the knees, 1968
Photo: © Ewing,E.History of 20th Century Fashion.Third Edition.Revised and updated by Alice Mackrell. London,1992;
11. and 12. Models of Andre Courreges, 1968
Photo: © Jean-Loup Sieff, Vogue, 1968
13. of Andre Courreges – slip – short, collection spring-summer 1968
Photo: © Robes du soir ( 1850 – 1990 ). Palais Galliera. Musee de la Mode et du Costume. Paris, 1990
14. Model of Andre Courreges, 1969
Photo: © Robes du soir ( 1850 – 1990 ). Palais Galliera. Musee de la Mode et du Costume. Paris, 1990
15. Model of Andre Courreges, collection pret-a-porter, spring-summer 1988
Photo: © Encyclopedie.Editions - De grote Mode Nathan. Paris, France,1989;

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