January 28, 2006

Paul Poiret and French Fashions

I was riding the bus up Sixth Avenue today and I noticed a lot of big white tents being installed behind the New York Public Library in Bryant Park. This can only mean one thing - we are about to host another Fashion Week in New York City! And I started thinking about how the fashion industry has changed and commercialized since Paul Poiret published the very first catalogue of fashion designs in 1908. It was called "Les Robes de Paul Poiret" and featured the illustrations of Paul Iribe. It was a huge success and brought instant fame to both designer and illustrator. In fact, the designer felt the illustrator's head became too swelled and hired another illustrator, Georges Lepape, to do the follow-up catalogue "Les Choses de Paul Poiret" in 1911. These were not catalogues the way we think of them today. They were very fine quality hard covered publications produced in limited quantities for the very wealthy customer. One outstanding feature of these catalogues was that they were printed using a method called "Pochoir", a stencil technique of hand coloration popular in France at the beginning of the 20th Century. The fashion plate illustrated here is from the later album and is typical of both Poiret's fabulous fashion sense and Lepape's artistic genius.

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