Martin Kullik reports on Madeleine Vionnet – Purist de la Mode

"For me, the idea of a dress is a mental concept…" Madeleine Vionnet

Madeleine Vionnet stands out as the first conceptual designer worthy of the name. Each piece was developed without the traditional use of live models. Instead, and throughtout her entire career, she chose to work directly with fabric on an articulated wooden mannequin. This created the necessary distance from the female body, encouraging a more formal vision and greater abstraction. Without any drawing or preparatory sketch, the geometer of couture produced designs from three essential forms: the square, the rectangle, the circle. It was in the arrangement of these archetypal shapes, – which were slashed, pleated, gathered, twisted and knotted-, that her stylistic vocabulary found form and was expressed. Dresses without linings nor stays, without buttons nor hooks, making obsolete all the trimmings that had imprisoned women as if in shackles. Thus, the corset was simply eliminated.

Marie Madeleine Valentine Vionnet was born to a modest family in
Chilleurs-aux-Bois in the Loiret region of France on June 22nd, 1876.
At three and a half years of age her parents divorced and she went to live with her father in the Parisian suburb of
Aubervilles. In 1896, Vionnet decided to move to London to learn
English. She began her professional career as a 'fitter' at the house of Kate Reily. During her English
sojourn, Vionnet learned the ins and outs of Anglo-Saxon business and
acquired a taste for select, rich and cultivated clientele. Back in Paris in 1901, Vionnet introduced herself at Callot Souers,
then one of the most important fashion houses. If she left the Callot
sisters after working for them for five years, it was because Jacques Doucet offered her the
opportunity to create her own models. In 1912, Vionnet finally took the
step and opened her own fashion house at 222 rue de Rivoli.

Exhibition at Les Arts D

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