GRAND IDEAS ARE MEANT TO BE REBORN. THE HOUSE OF VIONNET IS SEEING A SECOND LIFE A HUNDRED YEARS AFTER ITS INCEPTION. A LUXURY RENAISSANCE THAT LEANS CONTEMPORARY, WHILE KEEPING THE ORIGINAL CREATOR’S VALUES SECURELY IN PLACE.
First thrown into the spotlight in the 1900s, a designer by the name of Madeleine Vionnet changed the female form by swapping corsets for a new way of draping cloth and cutting fabric on the bias grain. The revolutionary technique lent itself to a fluid dress form that minimized seam lines. It was a breakthrough that changed women's dress forever and set a place in fashion history books as the “Vionnet cut,” or “la coupe en biais.”
THE ORIGINAL FEMME VIONNET
The original Madame Vionnet was born on June on 22, 1877 in Chilleurs-aux-Bois, France. She had already taken up an apprenticeship at the age of eleven and moved to London shortly after working under the suppliers of the British Royal Family. Returning to France, she took up work with the Callot Soeurs and Jacques Doucet until she established her own fashion house in 1912. She was known to never sketch, opting instead to tactically manipulate fabric by twisting and folding it in unconventional ways. Her bias cut and seamless silhouette was greatly inspired by the lines of movement, as in the motion of the famous contemporary dancer of the time, Isadora Duncan. Grecian gowns were another great inspiration for Vionnet and this influence reappeared in a lavishly modern interpretation for the brand’s Spring/Summer 2016 Paris show. Madeleine Vionnet's label boomed into the 1930s. Art Deco brought to life her sketches and the opulent style merged cohesively with her newly purchased atelier and boutique on Avenue Montagne in Paris. The onset of World War II sadly brought the house of Vionnet to a close in 1939. Still, the short- lived years of her career never veiled Vionnet's place among the greatly respected French fashion houses.
The years before the war saw some of the last design accomplishments put in place by the créatrice herself. By 1952 she had donated the majority of her collections to Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris, closing shop until she passed away in 1975 at the age of 98 in Paris. The potent history of Vionnet lay dormant until the Lummen Family purchased the brand in 1988. Despite the acquisition, the brand profile lay low and saw a changing number of designers such as Sophia Kokosalki and Mark Audibet pass through the house. In 2007 Matteo Marzotto acquired the label and moved the home base to Milan. Despite the investment, a solid creative team was the missing link in keeping Vionnet’s image in line with the brand's original inception.
DEMI COUTURE FOR A NEW ERA
In 2012, Kazak oligarch Goga Ashkenazi bought a majority stake of Vionnet with an ambitious goal of revitalizing the brand. Ashkenazi's vision for Vionnet merges the collaborative energies of her team, which is made up of Hussein Chalayan, Albino D’Amato and Diego Dolcini. For the fall 2015 collection inspiration, she took her creative team to Iceland and Greenland where they flew a helicopter over an erupting volcano, which manifested the collection’s inspiration. Alongside the brand's revival, Ashkenazi introduced the Demi-Couture concept to Vionnet based on scaling back excessive labour while employing couture fabrics and limited edition orders. The gowns were launched in 2013 as a special celebration to mark 100 years of the historical name.
NEW CHAPTER WITH CHALAYAN
In 2014, Hussein Chalayan was appointed to lead Ashkenazi's Demi-Couture vision alongside the house’s senior design team, Albino D’Amato and Diego Dolcini. Chalayan's artistic eye and architectural approach to design, a vision very much in line with Vionnet’s historically complex cuts, made him the paramount choice. For his opening collection, Chalayan brought to life the idea of beauty in the banal. Electric wires serves as a portion of the collections “Electrified” theme, which he reinterpreted through the striking gowns accentuated plissé technique, another original Vionnet trademark. Chalayan has used the Vionnet cut as a principle to reinterpret the brand by layering multiple bias cuts sheaths which he cut away to reveal the draping technique. A jewelry line evolved from the wiring concept in the same year, a parallel idea that fuses luxury with leather piping and man-made materials to bridge the Vionnet brand from history to contemporary.
103 years into the historic brand, the bias cut and plissé construction techniques still remains at the forefront of Vionnet’s aesthetic. Movement and feminine strength remain prominent.
Madeleine Vionnet’s forward-thinking style has remained distinct throughout the revived brand’s language and the design team has diffused each collection with contemporary innovation.
Madeleine Vionnet opens her own fashion house in this year and her business grows with momentous success.
At the height of her success, Vionnet acquires a building on Avenue Montagne in Paris, complete with 21 ateliers and an in-house boutique. The lavish Art Deco interiors designed by French glass sculptor, René Lalique, adorned the space.
The onset of the Second World War causes the unfortunate closure of Madeleine Vionnet’s business.
Madeleine Vionnet donates the majority of her collections from 1921 to 1939 to the Parisian Musée de la Mode et du Textile.
Madeleine Vionnet passes away at the age of 98 in Paris, France. Her famous “coup en bias” remains deeply engrained in the fashion history.
The Lummen Family buys out the brand and pursues a low-key developmental approach until the 2006 turnover.
While still under the Lummen Family direction, the brand flipped several hands between the years 2006 and 2009. In 2006, Sophia Kokosalki is appointed as the house’s Creative Director, succeeded by Marc Audibet in 2007 and eventually Matteo Marzotto, a new investor who stepped in and purchased the brand.
The Matteo Marzotto label acquisition relocates the house to Milan, making some crucial structural changes to the business.
Kazak billionaire business woman Goga Ashkenazi purchases a majority stake in Vionnet. Five months later, she purchases the remaining shares from Marzotto and takes full control of the brand.
Vionnet turns 100 years old. A special event to commemorate the historical brand takes place on September 30 with the presentation of a Demi-Couture collection.
Hussein Chalayan is appointed Vionnet’s Demi-Couture designer. The brand launches its first advertising campaign shot by iconic photographer Jean-Paul Goude.
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