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Courrèges, André

house balenciaga couture wear

B. March 9, 1923

Birthplace: Pau, Pyrénées Atlantiques, France

Award: Couture Award, London, 1964

André Courrèges was studying architecture at the Ecole des Pont et Chaussées when he realized his true calling was fashion. In 1945 Courrèges moved to Paris to study the art of fashion from master couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga. After years of refining his techniques under the guidance of Balenciaga, Courrèges left Balenciaga in 1961 to open his own house. The first line from the new House of Courrèges echoed Balenciaga: classic, tailored silhouettes in wool and tweed. By the mid-1960s, however, Courrèges had revolutionized haute couture by showing miniskirts, see-through dresses, and cosmonaut suits paired with vinyl boots.

Courrèges’s designs, based on geometric forms, reflected his early architectural training. The tailoring skills he developed under Balenciaga were applied to details such as hip yokes, welt seams, patch pockets, and top stitching to create simple, functional clothing which complemented the new, modern 1960s woman. Courrèges’s collections were in complete contrast to the corseted and padded variations on the “New Look,” which had continued into the 1960s. The Courrèges woman worn flat-heeled boots, not stiletto heels; trousers with tunics, not strapless dresses with full skirts and crinolines; and helmets, not pillbox hats with veiling. Courrèges’s new feminine ideal was based on men’s clothing. He believed men’s clothing was practical and logical and could provide women with a functional wardrobe. In 1965, after his first couture collection, Courrèges sold his house to L’Oreal. After two years, he purchased his house back from L’Oreal, returned to designing, and launched his Prototype couture line in 1967 and his Couture Future ready-to-wear line in 1969.

The 1970s were a period of both expansion and decline for Courrèges. In the early 1970s, Courrèges launched a line of men’s ready-to-wear and designed uniforms for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and flight attendant uniforms. He also developed several fragrances, including Empreinte, Courrèges Homme, Eau de Courrèges, Courrèges Blue, Sweet Courrèges, and Generation Courrèges. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Courrèges also signed several licensing agreements for lines of leather goods, scarves, ties, shoes, hosiery, lingerie, gloves, sunglasses, watches, home linens, towels, children’s wear, active sportswear, and table wear. However, the once innovative designer who had captured the essence of the 1960s space-age movement did not embrace the new ethnic styles popularized by the 1970s hippie movement, and his prominence as a fashion leader diminished. Courrèges retired in 1993 to pursue painting and sculpting and installed Jean-Charles de Castelbajac as designer for the House of Courrèges.

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