André Courrèges’ Space Ride To Womenswear

 

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André Courrèges portrait by Vincent Knapp

Who was the ‘King of Space Age Fashion?’ The owner of this unique moniker was André Courrèges, a couturier and ready to wear fashion designer who revolutionized 1960s womenswear with his space odyssey clothing.

Although inspired by the extraterrestrial, the Courrèges aesthetic was grounded in functionality. The designer understood that his customer, and women in general, were no longer interested in the constrictive clothing of the 1950s. About his customer Courrèges said, “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.”

Courrèges was one of the first designers to use pants in his designs. Once he introduced them 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.”

 

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Lemon-yellow minidress by Andre Courrèges, 1967; Image by Mabalu

Aside from functionality, Courrèges was inspired by geometric cuts and shapes, particularly squares and trapezoids. He also liked to incorporate modern architecture and technology into his work and is credited as one of the first to use plastic and PVC as textiles.

An example can be seen in his 1964 spring collection that shook fashion to its core. Courrèges debuted a selection of 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 helmets. For the final touch, the designer added what we know today as “go-go” boots in a clinical white coloring.

When bohemian styles took over the 1970s, Courrèges ‘Space Age’ looks went out of fashion. He then transitioned to architecture, a subject he studied in college, and environmental design. In his later years, he helped with the design of the Hitachi Pavilion for the 1985 World Exhibition and with Minolta on the design of their camera.

Courrèges passed away in 2016 in France. Soon after the designer’s death, the French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin spoke on the importance of Courrèges work in 1960s French society, “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.”

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