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French Fashion Designers

Chanel herself presented many versions of her childhood, it seems certain though that she was born the second illegitimate daughter of traveling salesman Albert Chanel and his companion Jeanne Devolle in the small city of Saumur, Maine-et-Loire, France. Her parents got married in 1880. When she was only 6, her mother died; and a short time later, her father abandoned the family. Soon after the young Chanel spent seven years in the orphanage of the Catholic monastery of Aubazine, where she learned the trade of a seamstress. After a few affairs with generous wealthy men – a military officer and later an English industrialist – she was able to open a shop in Paris in 1913 selling ladies' hats, and within a year Chanel moved her fashion business to the fashionable Rue Cambon. In 1921, Chanel No. 5 perfume was introduced for the first time by Chanel. The perfume was to be sold worldwide, and the straight lines of its bottle stood out from the other famous perfume bottles of the time. The No. 5 in Chanel No. 5, is said to be Coco's lucky number, however it was actually chosen as it appeared as the fifth sample.
Soon after Pierre Wertheimer became her partner in the perfume business in 1924. Wertheimer owned 70% of the company, while Chanel received only 10% and her friend Bader 20%. Oddly enough, Chanel No. 5 porfume became a thorn in Coco's side, as she received very little income from its success. The Wertheimer's family continues to lead the perfume company today. In the late 1950s, Marilyn Monroe announced that Chanel No. 5 was her favourite perfume. And now, a bottle of Chanel No. 5 is sold every 30 seconds. The famous Chanel suit, introduced in 1923, was an elegant suit comprising a knee-length skirt and trim, boxy jacket, traditionally made of woven wool with black trim and gold buttons and worn with large costume-pearl necklaces. Coco Chanel also revieled the little black dress, whose blank-slate versatility allowed it to be worn for day and evening, depending on how it was accessorized. Although unassuming black dresses existed before Chanel but the ones she designed were considered made with the haute couture standards. In 1923, she told Harper's Bazaar that "simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance." The nickname Coco was evidently acquired at La Rotonde, it was there that Chanel, then a cabaret singer, performed a song "Qui qu'a vu Coco," and the name stuck.
Many sources state that the nickname "Coco" was given while she was working at a cafe, "Coco" meaning 'little pet'. After a while, Carmel Snow, editor in cheif of Harpers Bazaar persuaded Chanel to go back into fashion and she was set up in business by a paramour, Étienne Balsan, a French textile heir, and her romantic affairs with the artist Paul Iribe, the Duke of Westminster, Grand Duke Dmitri of Russia, and British sportsman Boy Capel all had a huge influence on the stylistic development of her often male-inspired fashions. Coco Chanel always liked minimal accesories, but was often photographed wearing a white Camellia. She never married. For more than 30 years, Gabrielle Chanel made the Hôtel Ritz in Paris her home. During the Nazi occupation of Paris when she was criticized for Antisemitism and homophobia, and for having an affair with Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a Nazi officer who arranged for her to stay in the Hôtel Ritz Paris. He later turned out to be an intelligence agent. She maintained an apartment above her Rue Cambon establishment and also owned Villa La Pausa in the town of Roquebrune on the French Riviera. However, she spent her later years in Lausanne, Switzerland. Chanel died in Paris and is buried there in a tomb surrounded by five stone lions. Chanel has been portrayed on the Broadway stage many times by Katharine Hepburn in a musical by Andre Previn and Alan Jay Lerner, and on screen by the French actress Marie-France Pisier. A new play based on her life, 'Creme de Coco,' is debuting very soon, in April, 2007. The House of Chanel in Paris, now under Karl Lagerfeld, remains one of the top design worldwide houses today.
Christian Dior (1905 – 1957), was a famous French fashion designer. He was born in Granville, Manche, Normandy, France.
Christian Dior was heir to a fertilizer fortune. The family had hopes he would become a diplomat and sent him to Ecole des Sciences Politiques from 1920 to 1925, but Dior only wished to be an artist. After graduating from school he received money from his father so that in 1928 he could open a small art gallery in Paris. Because of his father's compromise for the money, the family name did not appear on the gallery. The walls were decorated with the likes of Pablo Picasso and Max Jacob. During the 1930s Dior made a living by making sketches for Haute Couture Houses. In 1938 he worked with Robert Piquet. In 1945 he designed for Marcel Boussac. Boussac, a man who loved working with fabric, was interested in Diors new idea that involved using lots of layers of extravagant fabrics. In 1947 premiered Christian Dior's first collection, Corolle Line. In just two years he established his main fashion house; Christian Dior New York, Inc. The actual phrase the "New Look" was coined by the famous editor-in-chief of Harpers Bazaar, Carmel Snow. The look was refreshing pens and much more voluptuous than the old style boxy shapes of the recent World War 2 designs. They quote Dior saying "I have designed flower women." His newest look employed fabrics lined predominantly with percale, boned, bustier-style bodices, hip padding, wasp-waisted corsets and petticoats that made his dresses flare out from the waist adding his models a very curvaceous form. The hem of the skirt for example was very flattering on the calves and ankles, giving a unique and beautiful silhouette. First, there was some backlash to Dior's new form because of the amount of fabrics used in one dress or suit, but as soon as the War Time Shortages stopped, opposition ceased.
His designs represented consistent classic elegance, underlining the feminine look. Dior's New Look revolutionized women's dress and renewed Paris as the center of the world fashion after World War 2. At this point, being the most prestigious Paris couture house, Dior attracted the most talented assistants. One of them was Pierre Cardin, an Italian-born tailor who was Dior’s favorite assistant in the late 1940s before leaving to begin his own business. The other Dior's favorite was Yves Saint Laurent, a gifted young Algeria-born designer who joined in 1955 as the star graduate of the Chambre Syndicale fashion school. Timid in character as Dior himself, the young Saint Laurent flourished in the feminine trend of the couture house and contributed thirty-five outfits for the autumn season of 1957 collection. When all the fittings for the newest collection were finished, Dior left for a rest cure at his favourite spa town of Montecatini in northern Italy. His tragical death ten days later of a heart attack after choking on a fishbone at dinner shocked the world of fashion. The French newspaper Le Monde described him as a man who was “identified with good taste, the art of living and refined culture that epitomises Paris to the outside world”. Marcel Boussac sent his private plane to Montecatini to bring Dior’s body back to Paris, around 2,500 people attended his funeral including all his staff and famous clients.
Hermès, founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermès as a saddlery company, the business has been owned by a family member ever since. Today, the house of Hermès produces ready-to-wear fashion, home decor, jewellery, luggage, and fragrances as well as saddles. The company operates boutiques and franchises in 34 countries. Emile-Maurice Hermès, Thierry's successor, shifted the focus of the company at the turn of the 20th century away from the horse and towards plane, car, and train travel. Hermès manufactured trunks, bags, overnight cases, from its signature saddle leather. Emile also purchased the building at Rue Faubourg St.-Honoré 24 in Paris, which still houses the flagship store as well as the workshops. Robert Dumas, the husband of one of Emile's four daughters, introduced Hermès ties, fragrances, and beach towels. His son, Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermès, was the fifth Chairman of Hermès, and led the company from 1978 until January 2006, when he retired. Patrick Thomas, his successor, joined the company in 1989 and is the current CEO. Hermès is still 80 percent family-owned, with the other 20 percent traded on the Paris Bourse since 1993. The current CEO is Patrick Thomas, who replaced Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermès in January 2006. He has been with the company since 1989. Today, leather goods make up 30 percent of the business, clothes 15 percent, and scarves 12 percent. Hermès has a stake in several other companies as well. They own 35% of Jean-Paul Gaultier company, a large share of Leica, and full ownership of shoemaker John Lobb, which was acquired in 1976.
Louis Vuitton. One hundred and fifty years after its eponymous founder began creating and selling trunks in Paris, Louis Vuitton's signature leathergoods are considered a status symbol around the globe and are highly regarded in the fashion world. The company's iconic Monogram Canvas design can be considered the very first designer label in contemporary history; the design was created in 1896 by Vuitton's son Georges with the intent of preventing counterfeiting. Ironically, Louis Vuitton has become the most counterfeited brand in fashion history with just over 1% of all items branded with the Vuitton logo not counterfeit. The Louis Vuitton company has carefully cultivated a celebrity following and has used famous models and actresses in its marketing campaigns, most recently Uma Thurman and Scarlett Johansson. Other models and actresses who have lent their name to the Louis Vuitton line include Jennifer Lopez, Chloe Sevigny, Christina Ricci, Gisele Bundchen, Kate Moss, and Naomi Campbell. Hayden Christensen has also appeared as model for the company's luggage and prêt-à-porter lines. The company commonly uses print ads in magazines and billboards in cosmopolitan cities.
Vuitton bags and purses have a considerable list of celebrity adherents who are frequently seen in tabloid and magazine photographs carrying the brand. Madonna, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson, Ashley Tisdale, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Angelina Jolie, Anna Kournikova, Pamela Anderson, Katharine McPhee and Carmen Electra with Victoria Beckham are included in this list. The Vuitton collection of bags and purses has also created a cult-like following among consumers. Owners of the bags and accessories often refer to the products as their “Louis.” This cult following by both celebrities and wealthy consumers has elevated the Louis Vuitton brand to the foremost position in accessory design alongside houses such as Gucci, Prada, Fendi, and Hermès.
Pierre Cardin, born on July 7, 1922, near Venice, Italy, to French parents. In the age of 23 he moved to his ethnical motherland to Paris where he began studying architecture and working with Paquin after the war, then with Schiaparelli until he became head of Christian Dior's tailleure atelier in 1947, but was denied work at Balenciaga. In 1950 he founded his own Pierre Cardin fashion house and began with haute couture in 1953. Pierre Cardin became known in Paris for his avant-garde style and his space age designs with his geometric shapes and motifs, often ignoring the female form. This new Pierre Cardin trend advanced into unisex fashions, sometimes experimental, and not always practical, soon introducing the "bubble dress". It was Cardin, the first couturier to turn to Japan as a high fashion market when he travelled there in 1959. The same year he was expelled from the Chambre Syndicale for launching a ready-to-wear collection for the Printemps department store as the first couturier in Paris, but was soon readmitted. In 1966 however, he did resign from the Chambre Syndicale and now presents his collections in his own venue, the Espace Cardin (opened 1971) in Paris, formerly the Théâtre des Ambassadeurs, near the American Embassy.
In Cardin's fashion house Espace Cardin he also promoted new artistic talents, like theater ensembles, musicians, etc. Cardin had a fellow designer, Andrè Oliver, who joined him in 1971 and took responsibility for the haute couture collections in 1987, died in 1993. Pierre Cardin was a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture et du Prêt-à-Porter and of the Maison du Haute Couture from 1953 to 1993. Like many other fashion designers today, Cardin decided in 1994 to show his collection only to selected clients and journalists. He also purchased Maxim's restaurants in 1981 and soon opened branches in New York, London, and Beijing (1983). As well as a chain of Maxim's Hotels are now included in the assets. Cardin has also licenced a wide range of food products under his name. Pierre Cardin owns the ruins of the castle in Lacoste, Vaucluse that was formerly inhabitated by the Marquis de Sade. He has partially renovated the site and regularly organizes theatre festivals and celebrations there.


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