An homage to André Courrèges (1923-2016)

André Courrèges by Richard Avedon

He brought humour and futurism to fashion, was inspired by the future, the female body and freedom of movement. His muse was his wife Coqueline, whom he’d spent family vacations road tripping through America in a caravan. He loved America and felt more American than French and was obsessed with space and space travel. He dressed some of the most influential women of his time and was quite a character; refusing to negotiate with the Duchess of Windsor about style changes in his creations.

Couturier André Courrèges passed away on January 7th at the age of 92 after a long battle against Parkinson’s disease, but his legacy remains immortal.

“Le Corbusier is my only master.”

A trained civil engineer, he studied engineering and architecture, an element that would become visible in his fashion creations. After having served in the French air force during World War II, he started working at fashion house Jeanne Lafaurie and went on to become Cristóbal Balenciaga’s assistant, where he remained for 11 years. He found his own house in 1961 and garnered headlines in 1964 for his “Space Age” collection.

Signature to Courrèges were his futuristic designs inspired by geometry, by circles and squares, triangles and trapezoids. He was interested in Futurism, modern architecture and technology- and was a worshipper at the altar of modernist architect and designer Le Corbusier: “Le Corbusier is my only master.” Ahead of his time he was the first designer to use metal, plastic and PVC for his industrial couture.

“A woman to drive her car must pull up her skirt. We have failed her in designing her clothes.”

He was passionate about the female body and saw the challenges women faced at the time, the disconnect between women’s fashion and daily routines of modern life- and made it his mission to liberate them: “A woman to drive her car must pull up her skirt. We have failed her in designing her clothes. There are occasions when pants are the thing to wear. They are more elegant on those occasions than any dress.”

He was an ardent supporter of trousers for women and blew life in to the miniskirt- both Courrèges and Mary Quant lay claim to the invention of the miniskirt– I guess we’ll never know precisely, but womanity is grateful.

André Courrèges was a modernist with a desire to create clothing that was functional and liberating. Driven by the idea of movement he was one of the first designers to embrace ready-to-wear.

“You don’t walk through life anymore. You run. You dance. You drive a car. You take a plane, not a train. Clothes must be able to move too.”

His 1964 Space Age collection redefined fashion, featuring dresses with cutouts, A-line skirts; sweaters, slim-fit trousers, and plastic goggles and helmets inspired by astronauts- in a fitting futuristic palette of white, metallic, red and flueorescent tones. His patent leather white “go-go boots” became everyone’s favourite.

“If the words ‘modern’ and ‘future’ exist in fashion, it is because of Courrèges,” said Carla Sozzani, former editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue. “It changed the concept of couture, marking the turn of fashion into a new era. Today, fifty years later, the Courrèges shop is still my must destination in Paris.”