Wednesday, July 15

Madeleine Vionnet (1876 - 1975)

working on the 80cm wood model
the logo

I would prefer not to write you about her, but to invite all of you to visit the great exhibition called “Madeleine Vionnet: puriste de mode” hosted by Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. As I know that you live all over the world, I can not do this. So, I will write a little bit, to share with you some important things that this lady have made during her life dedicated to beauty.


First of all, it is the first big exhibition in Paris dedicated to MV. Even if she donated at the end of her career, a big number of dresses, sketches, patterns and photos, it is only today that the public have the chance to see, a part of them, thanks to this exhibition. In fact, she has made a visionary gesture, considering that now every single brand is taking care of its historical archives.

M. Vionnet is at the beginning of a lot of things that now are normal in fashion, from the creative or from the organizational point of view. She used the bias cut in the building of a dress and inspired by the French architect Le Corbusier she was in a permanent search for the simple, fluid dress that can stay on a body of the woman without the help of a corset or other artificial objects.

She is the first one who understood that the copy of the models is a danger for the fashion houses and she started to fight again anyone who had the courage to copy one of her creations. Every single dress she created had the brand name on the “etiquette” and her fingerprint.

More than this, her factory build in the backyard of the building that hosted her office, the fitting rooms and the beautiful launch design in an Greek antiquity design that hosted the shows, had a canteen, a nursery and a small surgeon. That was really revolutionary at a time when none cared about the social problems of the workers.

Looking at her dresses I was amazed by their beauty and distinction, everything is made with a sense of details, feminity and care for the body. In fact, much of them are so modern and in line with what we wear now, that I could put on any dress from there at any cocktail or evening event from our days. Many says that the fact that she always created her dresses on her 80cm wood model, gave her a detachment from the body of a live model and helped her to build the clothes taking in consideration only the textiles, the cut and their place on the body.

Not surprisingly one of her best friend is Balenciaga who dresses her. Her fashion house is closed at the beginning of the World War II and remained that way long time ago. I’ve always asked myself why she is not as famous as Chanel and I think the answer lies in her way of life that was more “peaceful” than her competitors Chanel, Paul Poiret, Elsa Schiaparelli. Then in the fact that the company was closed before the war and never knew success as before. We still hear about Chanel because she came back after the war and re-started the business, because her perfume still continued to exist during the World War, but, most of all, because behind her she had the support of a business family who is capable to continue to do business no matter what is happening in the world. Then, we don not have to forget: perfume was already a huge success. In the end, the choice of Lagerfeld and everything he has done to bring the brand in the modern days, was definitely a factor of success.

Regardind Vionnet, the choice of Sophia Kokosalaki was not bad: she is greek and everybody knows that Vionnet was influenced by the antichity greek style, then both of them are a drape masters. But Kokosalaki was unable to concentrate 100% on her work at Vionnet when her brand was bought by Diesel, so she left or was forced to live…I don’t know exactly.

What need an old brand with a great history to come back in the modern days: a very talented designer who knows perfectly the history of this house and understands his “inheritance” and a very special manager who knows the same things and communicates perfectly with the designer.

I would love to see a Vionnet show in the next years in Paris, maybe the crises have made some place for it.

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