Madame Grès, Couture at Work is a retrospective that is entirely devoted to this mythic couture label.
It is planned by Paris-based fashion museum Museé Galliera's new director, Olivier Saillard. It is running until July 24th at Museé Bourdelle.
80 creations, mainly Museé Galliera's vast private collection, spanning the 55 year long career of Grès, is being exhibited along with pieces on loan by collectors such as Azzedine Alaïa and US Vogue's Hamish Bowles.
Germaine Krebs, aka Madame Grès, was a trained sculptor and worked rarely with patterns and constructed designs directly on the body. According to Saillard, who views the designer as the pioneer of sophisticated minimalism, Madame Grès essentially reworked the same dress pursuing her ideal of the seamless garment economy of line and volume. Grès was amazing with colors from neutrals to yellow, bluebell, raspberry, brown and coral. Her heyday was in the Thirties, Forties and Fifties. There was a come back in the Seventies with Yves Saint Laurent and Issey Miyake who among advocates of her work. Among her label's fans were Marlene Dietrich, the Duchess of Windsor, Grace Kelly and Paloma Picasso.
While great designers such as Balenciaga and Pierre Balmain used padding and undergarments, Grès' designs were supple, light and unstructured. Saillard says that she liked her models not to wear any underwear because she wanted the clothes to be in contact with the skin.
What is missing from the exhibition is information about Grès herself. She was extremely private and that is how she liked it. She was a workaholic who preferred her clothing to do the talking. Saillard learned that she drove in a Jaguar with mink lined seats and she often sat on a piece of jersey to protect the fur.
She named her best selling fragrance after herself baptizing it Cabochard, which translates as stubborn. Saillard said that when she was heartbroken, she sawed her marital bed in two after being deserted by her husband, Serge Anatolievitch, known as Grès, after whom her company was named. Grès was an anagram of Anatolievitch's first name, dropping
The firm was liquidated in 1987, before it was acquired by Japanese textile importer Yagi Tsusho Ltd, which still owns the brand today.
Grès died in obscurity in 1993 in a retirement home near Toulon, France a few days before her 90th birthday. Her death was made public only a year after the event. The last dress she ever made, a Japanese style floral gown that features in the Musée Bourdelle show, was commissioned by de Givenchy in 1989.