Focus On Fashion: Andres Courreges

by Raymond


With the popularity of Poppy Parker and a resurgence of interest in 60s fashions, I thought it might be interesting to do a series on some of the designers that help made the swinging 60s swing. I'd like to begin our look into the 60s with the king of the mini skirt, Andre Courreges.

Andre Courreges was born in Pau, in the Basque country of France in 1923. Although he became a civil engineer, he was always interested in architecture and textile design. He found work designing footwear and men’s clothing for a tailor, while pursuing his hobbies of Rugby and mountain climbing. During World War II he was a pilot in the Air Force.


In 1945, he came to Paris and worked briefly for designer Jeanne LaFaurie. In 1950 he fulfilled a lifelong dream of apprenticing with Balenciaga. He still considers Balenciaga his mentor. He remained with him for ten years.

In 1961 he opened his own house, Maison de Courreges, at 48 ave Kleber. It was from here that he began his leap into the future, turning out clothes that were mesmerizing in their simplicity. By 1964 he had elongated the leg and become the father of the mini-skirt and the shift dress. His mini-skirts were the shortest in Paris, and were designed in ultra chic cool colors of pink, white, ice-blue, pale turquoise, day-glow orange and lime green. He featured skinny pants with tunics and jackets, slit back boxy tops, baby bonnets tied under the chin and oversized sunglasses. His garments featured welted seams, top stitching on the bias. All of these were made up in gabardine, double-faced wool, cotton lace, organdie and leather.

1964 was definitely his year, the start of his brief reign as King of Paris Fashion. It was in 1964 that he unveiled his Moon Girl look. Featured in his fall 1964 collection, the look featured flared mini dresses with plastic portholes for waistlines and an assortment of hats shaped like platters. Even more revolutionary, was the footwear. Low-heeled, calf high boots made of white plastic and ornamented only with a clear cut-out slot near the top. This ‘Go-Go’ boot quickly moved from the catwalk to the street and the dance floor.

In 1965 Courreges reorganized his company and banned the press from his collections (as Balenciaga had also done). When he re-opened, he had a carefully planned three-tier structure: “Prototypes” -- his couture division; “Couture future” -- his deluxe ready to wear division; and “Hyperbole” -- his inexpensive ready-to-wear line. He also moved his salon to new premises at 40 ave Francois Premier.

In 1967 he married his assistant, Coqueline Barriere, who had also been a Balenciaga pupil. Also during this year, he began to experiment with tops with sequins and transparency, and designed a see-through mini in sheer organza, appliquéd with flat round daisies.

During the sixties Courreges assumed that all his clients lived in pants. Pants went to balls, theatre, lunches, dinners, everywhere. He did away with front pleats, cuffs, side pockets, fly-fronts and even belt tabbed waists. His famous trouser suits came with slit backed boxy tops that showed a sliver of midriff. He was really the man who put women into trousers. He also made tube-shaped trousers and trousers cut on the bias, white dresses trimmed with beige and vice-versa, mid-calf length white boots and goggles.

Courreges made headlines again in 1968 with his Space Age collection. This collection was functional, uncluttered and futuristic in design. He was fascinated by metal and put his models into metal brassieres and bustiers. Silver merged into everything. Courreges' clothes were sharp, angular and subject to a highly disciplined design. Simple, stark, trapeze-shape dresses and coats were boldly piped in contrasting colors.

In 1969 he introduced his mummified Egyptian look, giving Egypt a high fashion look for the first time. He used metallic wigs, geometric haircuts, welding plastic and frosted lips.

In the early 70's fashion moved away from the Space Age look and back to a more romantic look in clothes. Courreges softened the austerity of his clothes by using curves and showing knitted cat suits and all-white collections.

In 1971 he introduced the Hyperbole line of sportswear for younger clients. In 1972 Courreges designed the garments for 15,000 employees at the 1972 Summer Olympics, in 10 different styles. In 1973 He launched his menswear line Courreges Homme. In 1979 he diversified into fine leather goods, beauty products and other related products.

In 1985 the Japanese group Itokin took a financial interest in the firm, although Andre Courreges is still designing his beautiful clothes. When Andre Courreges turned 70 he brought in Jean Charles de Castelbajac to start designing for the house of Andre Courreges. Courreges himself still keeps an overall eye on the designs made by his house.