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André Courrèges

One of the leading figures of the introduction of the miniskirt in fashion and the designer of the famous boots, André Courrèges was the fashion designer who brought modernity into the world of French couture.

Born in 1923 in Pau, in the French Pyrenees, André Courrèges studied at the École Nationale des Ponts-et-Chaussées in Paris, as his father wanted him to become an engineer. However the civil engineer André Courrèges, who became a pilot in the France Air Force in World War II, decided after the war to change profession. In 1950, at the age of 28, he joined the house of Balenciaga, where he stayed for ten years, eventually becoming Critòbal Balenciaga’s First Assistant.

Dress designed by André Courrèges, 1967. Collection Les Arts Décoratifs, all rights reserved.

Dress designed by André Courrèges, 1967. Collection Les Arts Décoratifs, all rights reserved.

It was in 1961 when Courréges and his future wife Coqueline, with the help of Balenciaga himself, founded their own house. At the time, Courrèges courageously revitalized the world of French haute couture by importing elements of the “youthquake” which invested London in the early 1960s. He was, along with Mary Quant, a leading figure of the introduction of the miniskirt, to which he paired, in his collections, his trademark white kid boots.

Pair of leather ankle boots, designed by André Courrèges, Paris, 1965. Collection Victoria and Albert Museum, CC-BY-NC.

Pair of leather ankle boots, designed by André Courrèges, Paris, 1965. Collection Victoria and Albert Museum, CC-BY-NC.

The influence of the designer’s background as engineer and his ten years spent working at Balenciaga were already visible in Courrèges early creations. His clothes, sharp and somehow minimalistic in style and construction, showed his sartorial knowledge, which improved the effect of his innovative creations. He also experimented with new materials, usually involving plastics in his designs.

Ensemble designed by André Courrèges, Paris, 1965 – 1970  ca. Collection ModeMuseum Hasselt, all rights reserved.

Ensemble designed by André Courrèges, Paris, 1965 – 1970 ca. Collection ModeMuseum Hasselt, all rights reserved.

His programmatic collection, which would have defined his aesthetic, was shown in 1964. Entitled “Space Age”, it made the designer fortune – British Vogue declared 1964 “the year of Courrèges”. His debut in couture was in 1965, and two years later he presented “Prototype”, a made-to-order line. Courrèges entered the spirit of the Seventies with “Couture Future”, a luxury prêt-à-porter collection, along with a men’s ready to wear line in 1973. In order to reach a wider market, the designer also launched the lower-priced “Hyperbole” line in the early 1980s, and sold his company in 1985 to the Japanese firm Itokin, to solidify his brand name. Courrèges also designed some of the looks for the character portrayed by Audrey Hepburn in “Two for the Road” in 1967, and in 1972 he created the uniforms for the Olympic Games in Monaco.

Ensemble in dark brown wool designed by André Courrèges in 1972. Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag via Mode Muze, all rights reserved.

Ensemble in dark brown wool designed by André Courrèges in 1972. Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag via Mode Muze, all rights reserved.

In 1994, the lead of his brand was passed to the hands of his wife Coqueline, while the designer focused on sculpture and painting. In 2002, Coqueline began developing the project of an electronic car – the first version of the car appeared in 1969 – which prototype named “Zooop EV” was well received by critics in 2008.

The designer died Thursday 7th January 2016 in Paris, at the age of 92, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Browse Europeana Fashion collection to find more pictures of his modern creations.

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