The second part of our blog to discover the history of the Paris fashion scene picks up shortly after WWII, after a time of textile shortages and strict rationing, Europe was in the need of some normality to remind it of former times but also to get back on track. In the case of France and the Paris fashion scene there was a new name on the block and he was a visionary.
Christian Dior grabbed the Fresh fashion scene by the scruff of the neck, shook off the wartime dust and proceeded to dominate post-war fashion with a brand new and innovative look. Dior’s new look, was a term that was given to Dior’s creations after a fashion show by magazine editor Carmel Snow. Her comment to Dior was,
It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian! Your dresses have such a new look!
And they certainly did, the main characteristics of this new look were tiny waists, length, volume and sexy busts and the ladies of Paris loved it. It transformed the female silhouette from drab wartime grey into and elegant feminine form. It was definitely all very controversial at the time as Europe was used to clothing shortages, and Dior’s designs were extravagant and his dresses used plenty of material. Apparently, Dior’s response to this criticism was, Europe has had enough of bombs, now it wants to see fireworks! Dior’s work was all about promoting the optimism that had come back to Europe post war, and once again Paris was the fashion center of the world.
The 20th Century
Following Dior’s lead, the old established names returned to the Parisian fashion scene, but the 20th Century saw a boom in new designers plying their trade. The French fashion industry was led by Pierre Balmain and Hubert de Givenchy, but there was stiff competition from Italy and America. In the early 1950s Giovanni Battista Giorgini promoted the work of Italian designers and Milan became a fierce rival to Paris in the fashion world.
A decade later Britain joined the fray and Mary Quant was championing Youth Culture that was prevalent in London during the Swinging Sixties. The more formal gowns of Paris and Milan were making way for the Mini Skirt, which was adored by men and women alike. They represented a sexual liberation for the youth of the day and started a plethora of counter-culture movements during the decade.
Yves Saint Laurent
At the end of the 60s, a young French designer by the name of Yves Saint Laurent had a big impact on the world of fashion. He created designs for women that were traditionally very much in the male domain, the most notable was le smoking, a female adaptation of the male dinner jacket. But his biggest revelation was the first couture brand to promote a ready-to-wear collection, it was something quite radical and started a revolution. For the first time the average person was able to afford top fashion, and the greatest thing about it all was that it was more profitable too. Paris remains a fashion capital, but today it is also contested by New York, London and Milan, with the likes of Singapore, Berlin and Barcelona waiting in the wings.