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Madeleine Vionnet

by Tamara Warren in Style on 12 August 2009

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Paying tribute to iconic French designer Madeleine Vionnet—almost as famous for such phrases as "Death to copyists!" as she was for her exquisite innovations—the upcoming book and current exhibition in Paris tells a story of intense dedication and true mastery. The couturier, responsible for such fashion heirs as Valentino and Chanel herself, reshaped the fashion world, instilling new life into the garment industry with her bias cut, cowl neck, halter-top and handkerchief dress, creating original silhouettes and a progressive style for women of the early 20th century and inventing the still-modern concept of sensual French dressing.

Exploring Vionnet's legacy, the new biography features extensive imagery of the designer's elegant and meticulously-tailored creations, as well as text detailing her pioneering philosophies. A feminist before the term existed, Vionnet was known both for her liberal acts—such as offering her seamstress maternity leave or presenting models with bare legs—as well as for her outstanding work.

In an imaginary interview, exhibition curator and book editor Pamela Golbin presents her well-studied subject in her own terms, examining the way the conceptual and highly technical designer, heavily influenced by artists of her day, was prolific—putting forth 600 designs a year, a considerable amount for today's standards.

Golbin explores Vionnet's use of the bias cut to provide movement and balance, while showing off a woman's true figure and natural curves. Equally following the parallel principles of form and function, she drew from classic art, Greek pottery, anatomy and architecture for inspiration.

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Golbin's informative essays add context to the beautiful photos, made up of both archival and new images by Patrick Gries. The inclusion of author Andre Beucler’s unpublished 1930 biography, shedding insight onto the Parisian fashion house’s daily functions, makes the book a must-have.

Available 8 September 2009, preorder "Madeleine Vionnet" now from available from Amazon.)

Madeleine Vionnet: Puriste de la Mode
Through 31 January 2010
Les Arts Décoratifs
107 rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris map
tel. +44 01 44 55 57 50

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