This past month has been one of great losses in many creative fields, and fashion has been no exception. With the death of Andre Courreges on Jan. 7, the fashion industry lost an icon responsible for changing the very silhouette of womenswear. With his space-age, imaginative, future-driven designs, Courrèges boldly explored shape, texture, and transparency to transform society's notion of the traditionally feminine into something unique, striking, and revolutionary.
Perhaps thanks to his background in civil engineering, Courrèges designed with clean lines accented with geometric shapes and created ensembles with bold new silhouettes. Having begun his career in fashion in Paris with Jeanne Lafaurie, and shortly afterward Cristóbal Balenciaga, Courrèges quickly developed a notable style and launched his own fashion house, where he worked side by side with his wife, assistant, and later the artistic director for the brand, Coqueline Barrière. As Vogue reported, Courrèges designed for his brand from 1961 through the '90s, and continued to watch over it from his home in France even amidst a battle with Parkinsons. Today, the brand lives on via the efforts of creative directors Sebastian Vaillant and Arnaud Meyer, who proved their worth for the Courrèges name with the clean 2016 spring line.
Courrèges created a legacy marked by iconic looks worn by a variety of influential individuals, such as Brigitte Bardot, Jacqueline Kennedy, Françoise Hardy, Audrey Hepburn, and even the staff of the 1972 Munich Olympics. In retrospect, much of what we consider to be quintessential '60s and '70s fashion can be attributed to Courrèges. Here are some of his most iconic looks.
1. The Miniskirt
Rather hotly debated in fashion communities is the original inventor of the miniskirt. André Courrèges and Mary Quant seem to be the frontrunners for this honor, which Courrèges laid exclusive claim to. According to Valerie Steele, author of Fifty Years Of Fashion: New Look To Now , Courrèges was designing short skirts as early as 1961. Whether Courrèges was the first, or simply one of the best designers of the miniskirt, we owe him many thanks for finally freeing our knees.
2. Go-Go Boots
The '60s were awash with modern, white designs. From gloves to dresses to skirts to pants and even boots, no item of apparel escaped the fashion-forward look of classic white with clean lines. Arguably one of the most iconic pieces of '60s apparel was the go-go boot, which Courrèges was famous for.
3. Exploratory Textures
Courrèges favored unique materials, often working with plastics, vinyl, Lycra, and metallics. His designs explored notions of the future, space travel, and what technology might create. Not only did he work with materials that were on the cutting edge of what textiles could provide, but he also created ensembles that worked in new ways, such as metallic bodysuits and pants for women.
4. Unique Color Palettes
While white seemed to be the base from which Courrèges began most of his color palettes, he was known for gravitating toward vibrant pops of color, from pale pinks to poppy reds to soft blues to energetic oranges. His bold use of colors paired with stark white in apparel and accessories, especially when combined with transparency, quickly became a signature look, and a style truly significant to '60s couture fashion.
5. Peek-A-Boos, Cut-Outs, And Transparent Design
Always seeking a way to change the standard silhouette, Courrèges began to poke holes in his designs. Literally. He became master of the strategically placed cut-out, featuring skin as part of his design aesthetic. When cut-outs were not enough, Courrèges used transparent vinyl and sheer fabric to create unique plays on negative space within his outfits. His work was daring and occasionally challenged the social norms of the time. In short, André Courrèges designed for actual women, who led active lives and were searching for ways to express their individuality.
6. Two-Tone Designs And Thick Outlines
Another iconic style that Courrèges fostered was the simple, straightforward placement of white edging against color. Paired with white accessories, the look created a two-tone effect, and a tell-tale '60s vibe. Courrèges even used welted seams in his creations, giving further weight to their stitching and calling them the "pencil strokes in the sketch." Although the white edging seemed to be his favorite, the designer maintained simple embellishments of other colors in geometric shapes and simple patterns across many of his designs.
Clearly revolutionary — not just in the fashion world, but in terms of culture as a whole — André Courrèges influenced the way women moved and dressed in the '60s and beyond. His design sense pushed boundaries, suggested new possibilities for futures unknown, and toyed with the idea that women could play through life in much the way they did as children — exploring the world in a free, uninhibited manner.
Courrèges lived into a unique future that featured innovation, imagination, and a marriage of technology and style. And luckily, in the way only true visionaries can, he managed to take us right along with him.