Editor’s Be aware: The fourth installment of WWD’s weeklong exploration of the Fairchild Vogue Archive incorporates this Feb. 15, 1977, interview in Paris with the legendary Madame Gres, as well as a Dec. 31, 1975, job interview in London with Zandra Rhodes.
PARIS — You need to be prepared for Mme. Gres. She is stated to be chronically frail, timid, “living in yet another world” and even bald.
Inside of the Gres offices on the Rue de la Paix, Madame’s aides provide counsel on how to carry out an job interview with the previous grande puriste of the French couture. There are concerns not to be questioned, photographs which ought to not be taken, comparisons not to be manufactured, not also much time to be taken. The near-to-70-calendar year-old couturier who has been draping well known feminine bodies for around 40 several years is apparently as tightly lipped as she is turbaned.
One approaches zero hour with some trepidation. A significant white door opens little by little into the cream-colored key salon and in walks a quite quick, company-looking woman who is all fingers, eyes and lips. She movers swiftly in an oatmeal-coloured Shetland sweater and a straight grey skirt. She appears about as shy and retiring as Diana Vreeland.
There is not considerably doubt that this curious, dignified designer is the exact same Alix Barton who opened her personal structure enterprise in Paris in 1934 who married a Russian artist who favored to live apart in Tahiti who refused to cater to German shoppers all through the occupation and consequently experienced her workrooms shut down, and who reopened in Paris immediately after the occupation less than the title of Gres. Observing Mme. Gres cross a room clarifies why she named just one of the Gres perfumes Cabochard – which usually means strongly stubborn (actually pigheaded) in French.
She arranges herself on a white leather chaise and laughs about her “aversion” to interviews. She is prepared to speak. About the couture, of study course.
“People say there is a new power in the couture these times, but I actually never know. I really feel that the energy has usually been there. Youthful persons nowadays are fascinated in and value high-quality. I see it in my younger purchasers. Persons understand that couture is truth of the matter – couture is inspirational. The couture goes further than thefrontiers of the dwelling that it is made in. The couture influences every thing. The couture,” she provides quietly, “is my daily life.”
The matter of completely ready to use is raised hesitantly: Mme. Gres is the only Parisian couturier who does not layout a collection of pret-a-porter. “Pret-a-porter? The significance of pret-a-porter? Ooh la la,” she sighs. “The couture generally provides the ideas to pret-a-porter. The pret-a-porter designers are often motivated by the couturiers. I truly feel that pret-a-porter has indeed specified the female in the street a far better, neater visual appeal, but couture is the resourceful critical. It is a grand work – it is real truth – couture provides a little something into the earth.”
There is no stage in bringing up Kenzo. Mme. Gres sits back again contentedly and smooths the paisley silk scarf at her throat.
“One should have courage to be a couturier,” she states. “Unhappily, a maison of couture is a business enterprise. It is really, quite complicated. Every period, a couture collection is judged on the toughness of the styles you current. It is like you are nude for the whole globe to see.”
Company, across the board, is not a cherished matter for Mme. Gres. She contends, “It is only not possible ever” to design anything with a gain in mind.
“Ooh la la,” she states vehemently. “I can’t believe about enterprise or charge when I am designing a dress. I do not search at the price tag of any of the fabrics I use. I do not care.”
Her consumers don’t both. Mme. Gres’ loyal record of Females – which includes Jacqueline de Ribes, Jackie O, Babe Paley, the Brandolinis, the Rothschilds, Sao Schlumberger, Mica Ertegun, Chessie Rayner and Nan Kempner – have been purchasing chez Gres for a long time. She is not a lot copied due to the fact her designs counton intricate draping and minimize-outs which involve several hours of fitting time and the most highly-priced fabrics in the earth.
“I like to intensify the natural beauty, the identity and the particular person gestures of the gals I costume,” she claims. “A couture gown is a 2nd skin. Every single lady has her have distinctive comportment and determine. I am clothing personalities. I see my purchasers remodeled through a fitting. It is a miracle to see this.”
An pretty much sacred silence settles more than the salon. “Let me give you an instance of the electricity of the couture,” she says. “I was in Russia in 1969 – or was it in 1968? – for a 3-working day tour with my couture assortment. A person day I showed the selection to government officials, but the other two times I showed to the people today – in large general public auditoriums. The individuals arrived from considerably absent – they ended up very poor but they paid a couple of rubles or somesuch to see the present. I have under no circumstances noticed a reaction like this. They could not envision that dresses these kinds of as I confirmed even existed. They could not get around it. They cried. It was a pretty emotional occasion for me. One particular that I will never forget about.”
She would seem unconscious of the tears that are building up in her constant eyes. She recovers effortlessly.
“The couture is a accurate great,” she says quickly. “I have been asked about the challenges of couture, but at the property of Gres we have no problems. The personnel are satisfied. Men and women gladly give further time for collections. Certainly, there are fewer craftsmen than in yrs earlier, but we have in Paris the finest handwork available. It does exist. Excellent is enduring.”
The dilemma of the competitors, the other couturiers who dwell and perform in Paris, leaves Mme. Gres considerably cold. “The some others? I am not fascinated in what any person else does. I have in no way in my occupation attended a displaying of a further designer. You ought to constantly locate your strategies in on your own – not the course of many others. I do not believe in studying what other couturiers do. The couture is an individualistic fashion of minimize and doing work with cloth. It has absolutely nothing to do with outdoors influences. It is not worth the discomfort to do the job if you do not do a thing special and coming from you alone. I have even refused designers who needed to appear and see my collections. The couture ought to be particular person.”
And so, claims the eternall, turbaned designer, ought to non-public purchasers be distinctive. “My shoppers are pretty particular females,” she claims smiling. “I acknowledge that often they do inspire my work. Most of the females are French but we have a lot of from The us, Brazil and Greece.
“The Americans are wonderful to operate with,” claims the designer who has utilised above 50 yards of fabric in a single single dress.”“American females appear to be to like various ideas, various designs. They have an appreciation for sculpture. They are fashionable and they value simplicity. And on leading of that,” she provides gleefully, “American women of all ages have these good rib cages and backs. And these extensive legs.”
Mme. Gres scoots up to the edge of her chair and toys with the very good luck charms that dangle from several very long gold chains. It is time for her to get back to the ateliers.
There is no dialogue of herb 36-12 months-aged daughter, her 1930s-styled home in close proximity to the Bois de Boulogne, her Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur status, her excursion to India in 1958, her friendship with Cocteau, her nonexistent holidays, her working day-to-working day private life.
“I am outdoors of lifestyle,” she describes.
Mme. has spoken.