Madelaine Vionnet: Oh to Be Worthy (by M F)

To have a boutique in Place Vendome is not easy. Disregarding the fact that the rent is outlandishly expensive, it is difficult still to find space. And, for business to survive there is even more impressive. A few select labels, designers, names, have been able to withstand the pressure. Although Place Vendome may be obnoxiously exclusive, it is exclusive quand meme.

Madeleine Vionnet is one of these designers. Born in 1877, she began designing in the 1920s. Her invention of the bias cut in 1922 is her greatest contribution to fashion. It made her famous. Throughout her career, she was compared with Coco Chanel. However, she had a very distinct, revolutionary style. She rejected corsets, padding, stiffening and anything that distorted the natural curves of the body. Her trademark was the look of a draped, form-fitting clothing. She also left her imprint on fashion with her chiffon handkerchief dress, the halter, cowl, and unique hemstitching. Women have her to thank for first campaigning comfort in clothes.

Very famous and successful designers continue to praise her and consider her one of the first masters of innovative fashion. Issey Miyake, one of the most respected contemporary designers, says that the first time he saw a Vionnet dress he thought “that the statue of Nike had been reincarnated.” He said “she had captured the most beautiful aspect of classical Greek aesthetics: the body and movement.” She truly appreciated the feminine form.

It is true that her clothes were enjoyed by only a select few. Her designs were favored among European nobility and many Hollywood stars. For example, Marlene Dietrich, Gypsy Rose Lee and Katherine Hepburn were all fans of her creations. For the time being, the line does not manufacture clothing. But, the scarves, neckties, handbags, socks, belts and perfumes are all still considered of the finest quality and still enjoyed by a certain economic elite. So elite, in fact, that the foreign market that the company targets most is Japan, for not enough Americans can afford Vionnet products.

Madeleine Vionnet herself was truly innovative, skilled, and cunning. Through her determination and hard work she was able to establish herself and her name. She is deserving of respect. The space, therefore, of the boutique, Madeleine Vionnet, is well deserved (even if most people can just window shop there). Similarly, so is the space of most of the other exclusive shops as well.

The prestige of these shops, however, need be kept in perspective. After all, they are just shops selling beautiful things. Promoting material beauty in general is not rational. Perhaps, then, the prestige of the Place is not rational and neither is its reputation. It still, however, well deserved.