Revival of historic fashion or couture houses does not sound attractive only to fashion historians but also to a long list of well-educated fashionistas who long to see the rebirth of classical styles and the reinvention of signature pieces. It’s partly nostalgia, partly curiosity; the major forces behind ambitious business plans that respond to the needs of this ever-growing vanity market. Let’s see the most interesting comebacks in fashion!
1. ELSA SCHIAPARELLI
The interwar surrealist who hung out with Dali and was hated by Coco Chanel – credited for daring evening wear and a signature pink – closed her couture house because of WWII. Her wondrous archives passed on recently to Tod’s CEO Diego della Valle while many of her creations were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of New York together with Prada’s in 2012. Her granddaughter Marisa Berenson organized a Christie’s Paris sale of her precious personal items that turned over an unexpected 2.3 million dollars last January.
The first comeback collection in 60 years at the Paris Fashion Week SS 14 season was designed by former Rochas designer Marco Zanini, who will also design a high-end RTW collection. Previously and off-catwalk, Christian Lacroix has created a one-off couture collection for the house. Tilda Swinton wore one of Zanini’s first pieces at the International Film Festival of Berlin. The Creative Director still tries to tune in Elsa’s bold design spirit but at least managed to surprise his audience with great fit and craftsmanship. There were signature elements, such as lobster motifs, ornate sleeves, and feather but also a desire to tone down the theatrical extravagance to adjust to modern times.
2. CHARLES JAMES
America’s first couturier – a master of cutting, pattern-making, construction and mathematical tailoring – who is the subject of this year’s Costume Institute exhibition at the Met, left behind a 50-year-old heritage that was recently confirmed to be revived by Harvey Weinstein.
The media mogul and husband of Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman signed a deal to license the house with the option to buy, appointing his wife and her brother (Marchesa CEO) as creative consultants. Their mission is to revive the British-born self-taught designer’s commitment to avant-gardeness and opulence. James had been hugely successful in the 30’s, 40’s and mid-50’s, as the architect of style who inspired Dior’s New Look and left his creative mark in Paris, New York and London fashion scene. His contributions include the spiral cut, the figure-eight skirt, and the easy-to-slip-on taxi dress
Madeleine Vionnet – the inventor of the bias cut and proponent of sculptural uncorseted looks – established her couture house in 1912 and closed it in 1939 on the verge of WWII. Her 20’s and 30’s European successful business, with a fully-fledged fashion and lifestyle brand crossing the Atlantic with ready-to-wear designs for US wholesale was resurrected in 2006 under Arnaud de Lummen, member of the family that owned the house since 1988.
Sophia Kokosalaki became Creative Director, at the apex of her popularity, marking the first collection after 67 years during the SS 07. Names of owners and designers alternated dramatically at the helm of the house – with designer Marc Audibet being the best fit for the position – up until today. Under its current owner, Goga Ashkenazi, and Creative Director Hussein Chalayan, Vionnet seems to be finding its pace in the world of fashion through a boundary-pushing demi-couture collection.
The 40’s smallest of Parisian couture houses, founded by Madame Carmen de Tommaso and credited for successfully dressing the petites, quickly embraced chic wearability, totally contrasting Dior’s more restricting vision on femininity. The house’s impressive growth over the next 50 years lessened as she was getting closer to her retirement in 1993, when aged 84.
Couple of creative names came by before former Givenchy designer Guillaume Henry was hired by Henri Sebaoun – owner since 2008 – to present his first Paris Fashion Week collection in 2011. His flirty and super feminine dresses crested a buzz among insiders and the company is now monetizing on the reinvented notion of the modern schoolgirl. The brand is expanding across the world, including a boutique in Manhattan. The FW 14 collection is a great moment of creativity for the designer who really captures the house’s great balance between sensuality and elegance.
Known for his two-third length coats and skirts with pockets, Marcel Rochas established his business in 1925, but after his death in 1955, his wife was unable to keep up with the heritage. It was briefly revived in 1990 but a real resurrection took place in 2003 under the creative leadership of Olivier Theyskens. Unfortunately, the owners back then (Procter & Gamble) closed the business in 2006. Ultimately the actual revival happened under designer Marco Zanini in 2008. His final SS 14 for Rochas, before moving on to revive Schiaparelli, paid homage to the signature elements of the brand. He was succeeded by Alessandro Dell’Acqua who did a remain-to-be-judged FW 14 collection. We are sure that he will be even better in the near future.