A Homage to French Fashion

Bonjour! France has always been the world center for fashion and luxury since the reign of Louis XIV whose opulent lifestyle is renowned worldwide. This continued with his grandson, Louis XVI until his execution in 1793…and then we all know about the fashion of his notorious wife, Marie Antoinette (thanks, Kirsten Dunst)! Since it is Paris’ week to shine as they host Fashion Week in the “City of Lights,” we thought we would pay homage to the ten most brilliant French fashion houses who changed the face of the industry and made France one of the most stylish countries in the world… Vous-êtes prêt? (Are you ready?)

Balenciaga – Although founded by the Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga, the brand had its first runway presentation in Paris in 1937 after the designer moved there due to the Spanish Civil War. His most famous design was the square coat and many of his other designs were just as linear and were, therefore, favored by those who didn’t have an hourglass shape. His biggest contribution to fashion were his simple designs that could make any woman look beautiful. Spain absolutely deserves credit for Balenciaga, but he became a success story with the help of France. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/bale/hd_bale.htm

Balmain – founded by Pierre Balmain in 1945, the brand sought to mark the end of the war with a return to opulence and glamour. His client list ranged from aristocrats to queens and princess. Now, his brand has changed from an opulent couture collection to a more edgy ready-to-wear collection with strong lines, bright patterns and leather. (Balmain.com)

Chanel – founded by the legendary Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in 1913. This brand sought to step away from the rigid fashion of the time, which barely allowed women to move, to a more wearable wardrobe of lightweight fabrics that allowed women to have more freedom and mobility. She made womenswear practical and suitable for women’s growing role in society. Chanel’s current collection still emphasizes what the original line did all those years ago and who could forget that Coco Chanel invented the most important part of any woman’s wardrobe: the little black dress! http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/chnl/hd_chnl.htm

Chloé– founded in 1952 by Jacques Lenoir and Gaby Aghion, Chloé is the epitome of ladylike glamour. The brand wanted their clothes to be a part of the new modernity that was coming about in the 1950’s and their clothes needed to be feminine, fluid and elegant to meet the standards of this new wave of modernism. No easy feat – but Chloé never fails to impress! http://www.fashionencyclopedia.com/Ch-Da/Chlo.html

Christian Dior – founded by Christian Dior in 1946, his brand has been credited with restoring Paris as the fashion capital of the world after World War II. Originally, each of his collections had a theme that would be reflected in his designs. So, the theme “Tulip” would emphasize flowery prints. The theme “Carolle” or “figure 8” would emphasize a curvy body with a cinched in waist. Although he only designed his own brand for ten years due to his death, he left an enduring legacy in world fashion. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dior/hd_dior.htm

Hermès – founded by Thierry Hermès in 1837, the brand, believe it or not, was originally selling bridles and harnesses to noblemen. Not quite what we think of when we hear Hermès today! Later on, Thierry’s grandson created the Hermès handbag when his wife complained about not finding any bags to her taste – and voila! – the Hermès we know and love was born! Hermès contribution? Did we mention the “Birkin” bag? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herm%C3%A8s#History

Jean-Paul Gaultier – A more recent French fashion export, Gaultier set up his own brand in 1976 after wanting to create a brand based on the London street scene rather than the typical French couture. His style is different to almost all other designers and he takes great pride in redefining fashion. His most famous works are his iconic corset he made for Madonna in the 80’s and a skirt for men which redefined masculine fashion. http://www.fragrancex.com/tierjean.html

Lanvin – founded by Jeanne Lanvin, the story of this iconic brand is so sweet! Jeanne adored her daughter, Marguerite, and designed clothes for her. Her friends requested copies of her daughter’s clothes and soon after Lanvin began designing clothes for women and men too. Lanvin’s contribution is that she viewed fashion as a lifestyle that was meant to include decoration, perfume, clothes, etc. Fun fact: She never sketched her designs; she only gave verbal instructions to her staff. http://www.stylesequel.com/designers/lanvin/biography

Louis Vuitton – founded by its namesake in 1854, it was originally a luggage brand only which was there to serve wealthy Parisians. After Louis’ death, his son expanded the brand to include handbags and in order to stop counterfeiting, the LV monogram was born! Nowadays, the Louis Vuitton monogram has become synonymous with luxury and class. The brand now includes clothing, but at a recent fall fashion show, the brand went back to its roots with a train station theme to show off their luggage collection. http://voices.yahoo.com/louis-vuitton-history-behind-purse-53285.html

Yves Saint-Laurent – founded in 1961 by Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé. This brand created the tuxedo suit for women which redefined female style. YSL also popularized ready-to-wear instead of couture to make fashion more available to the masses. We have Yves Saint-Laurent to thank for one of our favorite pieces to wear – the blazer, which before him, was an item of men’s clothing only. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yves_Saint_Laurent_ (brand)

France has contributed to the world of fashion immensely and continues to with its relatively new designers such as Christian Louboutin and Jean Paul Gaultier and its up-and-coming fashion superstars. Donc, merci, La France, pour votre contribution du monde de la mode! So, thank you, France, for your contribution to the world of fashion!

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