Today is the 96th birthday of the fashion designer André Courrèges. He is one of the major innovators of the 60s mod fashion movement, creating the iconic space-age themed clothing. He designed a Honda scooter in the 80s and has truly one of the best personal collection of eyewear I have seen. He passed away earlier this year at the impressive age of 92. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
BEST KNOWN FOR: André Courrèges is a French fashion designer who worked for Cristobal Balenciaga and opened his own house in 1961.
At 25, after studying to be a civil engineer, Courrèges went to Paris to work at the fashion house Jeanne Lafaurie. A few months later, he went to work for Cristóbal Balenciaga.
In 1961, Courrèges launched his own fashion house. He became known for extremely simple, geometric, modern designs, including the “little white dress” and pants for women. They were often paired with low-heeled white ankle boots, a style that became known as the Courrèges boot, and evolved into the popular go-go boot.
Courrèges was also known for the miniskirt, which he explicitly claimed to have invented, accusing his London rival to the claim, Mary Quant of merely “commercialising” it. Courrèges presented short skirts (four inches above the knee) in January 1965 for that year’s Spring/Summer collection. He had presented “above-the-knee” skirts in the previous year, with his August 1964 haute couture presentation proclaimed the “best show seen so far” for that season by The New York Times. Valerie Steele has stated that Courrèges was designing short skirts as early as 1961, although she champions Quant’s claim to have created the miniksirt first as being more convincingly supported by evidence. Others, such as Jess Cartner-Morley of The Guardian explicitly credit Courrèges with having invented the miniskirt. Alongside short skirts, Courrèges was renowned for his trouser suits, cut-out backs and midriffs, all designed for a new type of athletic, active young woman. Steele has described Courrèges’s work as a “brilliant couture version of youth fashion.” One of Courrèges’s most distinctive looks, a knit bodystocking with a gabardine miniskirt slung around the hips, was widely copied and plagiarised, much to his chagrin, and it would be 1967 before he again held a press showing for his work.
Courrèges’s favoured materials included plastics such as vinyl and stretch fabrics like Lycra. While he preferred white and silver, he often used flashes of citrus colour, and the predominantly white designs in his August 1964 show were tempered with touches of his signature clear pink, a “bright stinging” green, various shades of brown from dark to pale, and poppy red.
In 1967 Courrèges married Coqueline Barrière, his design assistant. They had met while working together at Balenciaga, and worked together as a husband and wife team for the rest of his life.
In 1968 Courrèges sold a share of his company to L’Oréal in order to finance his expansion, which, by 1972, included 125 boutiques around the world. That year, Courrèges was commissioned to design staff uniforms for the Munich Olympics that year. He began offering menswear in 1973.
In early 1983, Courrèges worked with the Japanese motor company Honda to design special editions of their TACT motor scooter. By 2005, Itokin held the Japanese ready-to-wear license for the Courrèges brand, with a retail value of €50 million. By this point, Madame Courrèges had succeeded her husband as artistic director for the brand, Courrèges having retired in 1995 following their successful reclamation of the brand in 1994 despite several ownership changes. As of 2012, 50% of the firm’s total income was from license royalties.
In 2011 Andre and Coqueline Courrèges sold the Courrèges brand to two advertising executives, Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting. After a long absence from Paris Fashion Week, September 2015 saw the presentation of a new Courrèges collection designed by new creative directors Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant.
Courrèges suffered from Parkinson’s disease for the last 30 years of his life. He died on 7 January 2016, aged 92, and was survived by his wife and their daughter.