Classics of French Fashion: Where Are They Now?

by VelvetMagazineME

Classics of French Fashion: Where Are They Now?

French Fashion

French Fashion


You are zipping between runway shows in Paris during Fashion Week, speeding along in a car so close to the Seine you are practically treading water. You’ve just passed the Tour Eiffel; glimmering in the distance is Notre- Dame. And suddenly you find yourself wondering: Whatever happened to those fashion labels that are, if not as eternal as the city’s architectural wonders, still entwined in the public imagination when you think about classic Parisian fashion?

If the light of these Gallic “heritage” brands doesn’t gleam as brightly now as it did 30, 40, even 50 years ago, do they still exert an influence on today’s collections? Do any of the characteristics that once made them so powerful still pack a sartorial punch? And not least—do they still offer anything you might actually want to buy?

To investigate this question—and also take advantage of the Parisian pre-spring weather—we slipped out between catwalk shows and explored a few of these fine old firms. Our first stop was Maud Frizon, a name once synonymous with the coolest footwear of the 1970s and 1980s—towering confections of satin and lizard, canvas and crocodile. Alas, it appears the company has devolved into pretty much a showcase for ballet flats, and despite the fact that there is a polka-dot pair that (no doubt accidentally) echoes the spots so prevalent on the fall 2011 runways, the offerings are hardly evocative of the firm’s former glory days. (Attention, corporate revivers of brands—doesn’t someone out there want to snap this one up?)

Our next stop, Pierre Cardin, is still a fairly perky business—the company maintains a gallery space a few blocks from the main shop on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré—and the double-faced wool mini-dresses in neon-bright hues, which the firm has been cranking out for the last half century, continue to exude their original sexy-ingenue appeal. In addition to such mod signifiers as patent bull’s-eyes and cutouts, a few examples feature color-blocked patterns, a trend seen on recent runways from Jason Wu to Céline to Haider Ackermann to Raf Simons.

If the spirit of Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton is giggling at Cardin, it fairly roars at Courrèges, a spectacular all-white emporium straight out of The Jetsons that even boasts its own café. With all the synthetics being explored on current catwalks (Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, et al), is it any wonder that the brand’s iconic airline bags—available in orange, acid green, and turquoise plastic patent and decorated with their own version of double Cs—look as fresh as ever?

Our last stop was Jean Charles de Castelbajac, a house famous for plopping cartoon characters on its offerings. And indeed, the big bad wolf and the piggies he torments are emblazoned on everything from jackets to sweatshirts (they’re actually quite fetching printed on a silky summer frock). But there are also some wolf-less, pig-less items here informed by a quirky Surrealism—notably the photo-printed skirt and a sweater sporting trompe l’oeil lapels, buttons, and pockets–that have us wondering: Could the notoriously secretive Martin Margiela have made a pilgrimage to this shop back in the day?

Ref: Vogue

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Regards, Velvet Magazine