Known as the king of Space Age fashion, André Courrèges was a couturier and ready to wear fashion designer who revolutionized the 1960s with his space-odyssey-inspired shapes and liberal thoughts on womenswear.
The thought behind the Courrèges aesthetic was one of both functionality and liberation. The designer understood that his customer, and women in general, were no longer interested in the staid life that they lived before. On speaking about his customer, “You don’t walk through life anymore. You run. You dance. You drive a car. You take a plane, not a train. Clothes must be able to move too.”
The legacy of Courrèges was not only through his inventive take on futurism, which was occurring during America’s first venture to space, but also on his liberal views on womenswear. He is considered one of the first designers to encourage the use of pants during a time where they were worn by a few. But once Courrèges introduced the concept in his haute couture line, pants became more popular than ever. “Look how we have failed,” he said in 1963. “A woman to drive her car must pull up her skirt. We have failed her in designing her clothes. There are occasions when pants are the thing to wear. They are more elegant on those occasions than any dress.”
Courrèges was also inspired by geometric cuts and shapes, especially squares and trapezoids, and liked to incorporate modern architecture and technology into his design work. He is credited as one of the first to use the then-new plastic and PVC as textiles.
An example of his work can be seen in the 1964 spring collection that shook fashion ground. Courrèges debuted futuristic looks that consisted of dresses with cutouts, slim pants, goggles, short A-line skirts (also known as minis, which he also helped popularize) and hemults. For the final touch, the designer added what we know today as “go-go” boots in a clinical white coloring.
Courrèges continued to push the boundaries of 1960s fashion with A-line minis, cutouts and knitted pants, calling style icons like Jacqueline Kennedy, Gloria Guinness, and Lee Radziwill as clients.
When fashion took a different turn in the 70s, Courrèges micro, Space Age looks were overlooked. After losing his place in fashion, he worked on a number of design projects in architecture, a subject he studied in college, and environmental design. In his later years, he helped on the design of the Hitachi Pavilion for the 1985 World Exhibition, and helped give a human image to the company’s robots later on. He also worked with Minolta on the design of their camera, which appealed to trend-focused women.
Soon after the designer’s death, the French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin spoke on the importance of Courrèges work in French society during the 1960s, “In the end, he invented a universe full of shapes and colors in which elegance could not be conceived without imagination, humor and a great freedom of expression and movement. Courrèges made the women he dressed happy.”