The auction house organizes the sale of Madame Grès for the Haute Couture Week in Paris

The auction house organizes the sale of Madame Grès for the Haute Couture Week in Paris 7f3384e97d287974351256c2e1bd447c

FOLDS PLEASE: A selection of designs from Madame Grès’s personal archive will be auctioned in Paris on Thursday.

Dating from the 1930s to the 1980s, most of the pieces were purchased as a single lot by Philippe and Emmanuelle Harros, the husband-and-wife duo behind vintage specialist Quidam de Revel. French auction house Cornette de Saint Cyr is putting some 120 items up for sale, including outfits owned by an unidentified French actress, to coincide with Paris Haute Couture Week.

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Grès, haute couture collection, circa 1970. - Credit: François Benedetti, courtesy of Cornette de Saint Cyr

Grès, haute couture collection, circa 1970. – Credit: François Benedetti, courtesy of Cornette de Saint Cyr

François Benedetti, courtesy of Cornette de Saint Cyr

They include several examples of Alix Grès’s signature Grecian-style pleated knit dresses, but also minimalist designs such as a striking black cape from around 1970 and a coral apron-style evening dress from the 1960s. exhibited as part of “Madame Grès, Couture at Work”, a retrospective dedicated to the legendary French haute couture brand at the Musée Bourdelle in Paris in 2011.

“There are truly beautiful pieces that are representative of his work. It is a very nice collection. It is timeless,” said his granddaughter, Anne Graire, who was raised by Grès until she was 13.

Known as a designer’s designer, Grès enjoyed her heyday in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. But she also saw a comeback in the 1970s, with Yves Saint-Laurent Y Issey Miyake among the defenders of his work. Marlene Dietrich, the Duchess of Windsor, Grace Kelly and Paloma Picasso were among the admirers of the label.

Graire said the designer worked tirelessly well into her old age. “She was always surrounded by cloth or lots of books,” she recalled. “She was very busy, even though she was a grandmother. In fact, she was as busy as if she were a woman in her 30s or 40s. She was always dedicated to her work.”

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Madame Grès, November 1984. - Credit: Guy Marineau/Courtesy of Cornette de Saint Cyr

Madame Grès, November 1984. – Credit: Guy Marineau/Courtesy of Cornette de Saint Cyr

Guy Marineau/Courtesy of Cornette de Saint Cyr

Grès pursued his ideal of the seamless garment with economy of lines and volume, experimenting with constructions. The designer was also a great colourist, using a wide palette of hues, from sand to sunshine yellow, bellflower, raspberry and coral.

“Nothing was superfluous. He didn’t like things heavy and messy, and that’s probably one of the reasons the designs have stood the test of time,” said Graire.

“Sometimes dresses look very simple, but they are actually very complex. You wonder which way to lay the fabric and which side it will hold. There is often a bit of mystery in putting the dress on the mannequin, because she designed them and is no longer there to explain exactly how to put the dress on,” she continued. “It’s part of the charm of the garment, because it falls in a very particular way.”

Stoneware, haute couture collection, late 1960s. - Credit: François Benedetti/Courtesy of Cornette de Saint Cyr

Stoneware, haute couture collection, late 1960s. – Credit: François Benedetti/Courtesy of Cornette de Saint Cyr

François Benedetti/Courtesy of Cornette de Saint Cyr

Grès, who was born Germaine Krebs, released a couple of fragrances, was a skilled tailor and dabbled in ready-to-wear. However, her focus remained riveted on one thing: couture gowns, which she continued to design into her 80s. She is remembered as a fiercely private and strong-willed workaholic who preferred to let her creations speak for her.

“For me it is still current because people are still interested in his personality and his work. It has been passed down from generation to generation,” Graire said.

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A look at Madame Gres

Seven decades of 20th century designs to be auctioned in Paris

The next chapter of Karl Lagerfeld auctions highlights the couturier’s sketches

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