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André Courrèges – Master of Mod

André Courrèges (1923-    ) French

Photo by Willy Rizzo, 1966.

André Courrèges was trained as a civil engineer and was a pilot in the French Air Force.  He  studied fashion at the Chambre Syndicale school and eventually was trained by the great Balenciaga. His early designs were conservative like other fashion houses of the day. However, when he launched his ‘space-age’ Couture Future collection for spring 1965, his designs had drastically changed and were seen as unconventional.  At the showing, his studio, the furniture, and models were all in white and the looks he showed included above-the-knee short dresses, short boots, and accessories such as large orb-like goggles, all uncluttered by extraneous detail.

Wool gaberdine coat, 1967.

This collection was a sensation to the fashion critics and the press. However, since couture purchases were made by older women, the designs were not ideal for a traditional fashion house. They were conceived for young, fit women with an open mind towards fashion.

Ensemble, 1960s.

The numerous retailers who made copies of his work had to tone down his ideas for the general public. Shortly after he showed his futuristic collection in 1964, the market was flooded with plastic jackets, short A-line dresses, helmet-like hats, vinyl or leather mid-calf, flat-heeled “go-go” boots, and bug-eyed goggles.

Suit, 1965.

Courrèges built his dresses from geometric shapes such as squares, trapezoids, and triangles rather than designing them with flowing lines. He frequently used polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in his designs, from footwear to eye-wear. When he used color it was usually primary colors of red, yellow, blue, or neutrals such as navy, brown, or black, all on a field of white. The color was used as trim, a finishing detail, or a bold statement usually highlighting the geometric shapes. In later years, his choice of colors would move to acid colors and even glow-in-the-dark fashions. In 1985, he retired and sold his business and instead focused on painting and sculpture.

Courreges-inspired McCall's pattern ad.

Home Sewing Connection: Though Courrèges did not design them, McCall’s in collaboration with Seventeen magazine created patterns inspired by his designs, McCall’s  7903, McCall’s 7923, and McCall’s 7884.

Hollywood Connection: In 1967‘s Two For The Road, his clothes appeared on Audrey Hepburn, along with designs from other modern designers of the day such as; John Bates, Paco Rabanne, Mary Quant, and Pucci. His accessories (above) were also featured in her film, How to Steal a Million in 1966.

Wool jumper, 1965.

His style, innovations, and influence on fashion:

  • Both he and Mary Quant have been branded as being the first designer to show miniskirts as fashion. Quant insists that she only marketed the style that she had seen on the streets, whereas Courrèges took them to the couture level.

Polyurethane, acrylic coat, 1963-69.

  • Couture Future was his deluxe ready-to-wear line and two years later he created his haute couture line, Prototypes. In 1971, he created Hyperbole as sportswear for his younger clients.

Leather mid-calf high boot, 1965.

  • Courrèges and his wife Coqueline, both studied under Balenciaga. Coqueline has gone on to design La Bulle (the bubble), the EXE, and most recently the 2006 Zooop; all electric powered vehicles and well known in France.

Zooop battery-charged car, 2006.

Images: Victoria and Albert Museum,  London; McCall’s ad from nurse_marbles on Flickr.

Sources:The World’s Most Influential Fashion Designers (2010) Noel Palomo-Lovinski; “André Courrèges or the Futurism in Fashion,” by Lubomir Stoykov, (2008) Fashion Lifestyle Magazine, #12; Fashion: The Century of the Designer, 1900-1999 (1999) Charlotte Seeling; Swinging Sixties (2006) Christopher Breward.

Lisa Williams



January 1, 2014 #

Thank you for this brilliant post! I didn’t know Courrèges had been an engineer before going into fashion… really makes sense when you see the precision of his work! :)