Poiret's flair-filled rebirth
Poiret is born again, and has passed a telling test with flying colours. The Parisian couture label was founded by artist and designer Paul Poiret in 1904, and it closed down in 1929. In 2015 it was acquired by Korean group Shinsegae International, and it graced the Parisian catwalks again on Sunday, at the Paris Decorative Arts Museum, showcasing an Autumn/Winter 2018-19 collection designed by Yiqing Yin, which won it universal praise.
The China-born French designer, 32, reinterpreted the maison's design codes cleverly, introducing rich fabrics, bright colours and an Oriental mood, and at the same time steering well clear of the danger of creating a facsimile, giving instead a new lease of life to Poiret's original spirit.
"We spent a year on this project, putting a lot of time into research and archive work, and then standing back from it to focus chiefly on the personality of Paul Poiret, the man who set women's bodies free from corsets," said Yiqing Yin backstage.
The spirit of this pioneering designer was evident in a collection featuring a hint of nonchalance, a touch of classy extravagance, and sensuality, with moderation. The clothes are pliant and versatile, seemingly changing personality from one woman to another. Oversize down jackets and parkas in sumptuous tech jacquard fabrics are worn sometimes like a plaid over the shoulders, sometimes like an evening dress.
A grey turtleneck sweater slinks out of a kimono-shouldered dress in rust-coloured shantung silk. A mini leather jacket combines with a straight skirt with vertiginous slits at the front and back. Extra-large mohair sweaters overflow over sophisticated long pleated skirts.
Shimmering fabrics abound, but worn in an easy-going fashion, in flowing trouser jumpsuits; in pleated, asymmetric-cut sleeveless dresses in golden hues, and in a giant bow-dress made in a crackling fabric spun from metallic gilded yarn, akin to a gold-foil chocolate wrapper.
"At Paul Poiret, there was extravagance in decoration and fabric enhancement, but the clothes' architecture was understated," said Yiqing Yin, whose collection features a series of monochrome dresses with an array of draped, pleated, cross-over and drop-down effects. Often buttonless, these dresses are cinched at the waist with a simple knot, or fastened with zips across the back, or the front, depending on the mood.
"I've created clothes women can have fun with, expressing their own personality through them. Many models can be worn in different ways, back-to-front and vice versa, belted up or loose, their volumes adapted at will. They follow their wearers' moods, their secret plans throughout the day," said the designer.
"It's women who wear the clothes, not the other way round. Women themselves decide who they are! With Poiret, a very free, very strong kind of woman is taking shape," said the label's CEO, Anne Chapelle, who is also in charge of Ann Demeulemeester and Haider Ackermann, of which she is a financial partner.
"Poiret targets all women, and plays on contrasts, for example using extra-fine fabrics for sporty items and very straightforward evening dresses. It's high-quality accessible luxury. Everything is produced and developed in-house," added Anne Chapelle, who is in charge of a team of 24 people of 16 nationalities. The fabrics are manufactured exclusively for Poiret in France, Italy and Switzerland, and production is Europe-based.
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