Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Bournemouth to Paris Couture

 Bournemouth Art School  fashion show the garment I intended wearing in Paris

a very suburban audience ..probably our parents

dis I really write or visit all these people ..very industrious

I was flicking through my chaotic filing system when I came across a small brown leather address book and suddenly I am whisked back to the early 60's. Pages are full of addresses that I either visited in Paris or wrote to but I don't remember ever receiving a reply except one from Chanel of all people (well one of her minions) who snootily replied that Mme Chanel was the only designer. I was devastated but still determined. On finishing a 4 year  course in fashion and weaving at Bournemouth   Art School  in 1961, I just gathered myself together  picked up my folio and went to Paris armed with my small address book. I was reasonably fluent in French as my dear Parents had the wisdom of sending me to a french family from the age of 14 to learn French , well that is obvious after all they would not send me to France to learn Chinese .  From the early days in Art school I was determined to  work for a French couture house . I even designed my last garments around the interview so I was ready to go as soon as the term finished . I stayed in Viry Chatillon with my old family however they were sad days as M. Huin was very ill with cancer.
However on arriving in Paris I soon realised that people did not walk around wearing rather chic hats nor did they wear gloves with every garment . (look at top photo )in fact compared to Bournemouth I thought they looked rather ordinary. Bournemouth was very chic in the late  50,s . I therefor had to rethink my wardrobe ...the hat was discarded and so were the gloves but I kept my beautifull coat made from Garigue wool and my stiletto shoesthat I had purchased in Greek Street. Believe it or not we were trained to wear hats and gloves  for  interviews in England. 
Then disaster struck , I developed a tummy upset . The toilet facilities in my French house were not ideal, slightly up from a hole in the ground and the perfume was not enhancing.  I therefor had to plan my interviews with the utmost dexterity.I nearly had a disaster in Carvel where they kept me waiting for  over half an hour . In the end I just had to escape. Strangely years later I did a small freelance collection for them but I never disclosed my first meeting.... too much information of course !
Bernard Sagardoy

 Eventually I was offered a position with Bernard Sagardoy a small couture House that I had never heard of. I hated it . I was taking the place of an American boy who had been involved in some type of accident .  M. Sagardoy  offered me a maids room just off the Champs Elysee, which I did not mind , however it had no locks on thew door and I felt extremely vulnerable . I had to stay in the freezing cold van when he was showing his boring collection at some hotel whilst they all were wined and dined . It was mid winter and one of the coldest on record .   Not only did he offer the maids room but he treated me exactly like a maid showing me disdain especially after he invited me to tea and I turned up with two friends. Seeing I was with someone and not alone I was shown the door (no Tea) and his obvious fury did not go unnoticed.  I guess it makes a change from being shown the etchings . The next day I was given my marching orders and the American boy was sat at my table again ..obviously recovered .  I was relieved to leave , it was old, sad and had obviously seen better days . I did not see haute couture and nothing like the wonderful picture on my blog. He was more like a suburban dress maker. The ateliers were dark , dusty and dismal.   Well I was out on the street with no where to go except look for another job and somewhere to live . Going back to Viry Chatillon was impossible  Papa Huin was dying . However luckily I managed to find a room in a large ornate villa in  Bourge la Reine. It was owned by an elderly lady who was only too delighted to receive me as a tenant .

Charade Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenc
 My  luck changed, I was offered two interviews the next day , one with Givenchey and the other with Serge Matta at Maggy Rouff . Armed with my huge portfolio I at first attended Givenchey. Two elderly  men interviewed me. They were   very courteous and kind. It might have been Givenchey himself. I cannot say the interview inspired me  the salons were rather depressing lacking in  style. I was rather disappointed . Even in the early sixties it was obvious that couture was changing, every where I went they advised me to go into ready to wear was going to happen , it was to be the next big thing couture was dead or dying and clients were few and far between but i would not listen . I had always dreamed of working in Couture . I had been offered many positions in ready to Wear but I turned them down. I was offered a position at Givenchey, as an apprentice. I said I would get back to them the next day to make arrangement etc But secretly I wanted to meet Serge Matta at Maggy Rouff before I made my decision. I wanted excitement , I wanted to feel the Adrenalin of the making of a collection and being in the company of two old men did not actually inspire me .       

the beautiful Serge Matta

vintage Maggy Rouff

1961 Serge Matta I can remember this dress being fitted
Of course you have guessed .  On meeting Serge Matta, I felt as though we were on the same wave band. He hooted when I said that Givenchey had offered me a job."You want to work in a Morgue, Lybalule( his nick name for me .) Fashion is changing couture has to be in line with the people now not pre war . Pret a porter is going to be big , You wait and see . "  I turned down the Givenchey job for the handsome Chilean designer Serge Matta, a trained architect who had designed for Schiaperelli and Jacques Fath before joining Maggy Rouff. He was the brother of the famous painter Roberto Matta . What healthy young girl would even think about it .  The salon was in the Avenue Marceau ... place D'Alma more known now for HRH Princess Diana accident .  The salon had an altogether younger appeal . There were  two   studios  which  were  bright and airy. Serge handled the couture side  and someone else handled the ready to wear. I did not have a work permit  so I had to keep a low profile.  Serge paid me from his own pocket about £15 per week (it was 1961 )  It sounds an extraordinary little amount however I do not remember being broke . He had an elderly secretary( I cannot remember her name ) who obviously completely disapproved of his life style. She could only remember the "good old days when she was the assistant of  Maggy Rouff (Marguerite  Besancon de  Wagner ) This was a bone of contention for Serge but he just used to raise his eyebrows and ignore her comments. Another exciting element to my job were the mannequins or models as we now call them . They were a certain breed , outrageous amusing and full of scandal/ My ears and eyes were always open waiting for the next outrageous instalment.  Jaqueline had worked for Chanel and said she was an absolute nightmare.There was another  designer Gerard Blaize who eventually went to work for Lanvin  and married one of the models .  I do not remember any bitchiness within the studio everyone was like a happy family .
However most important is the influence that Serge Matta had over me . He opened my eyes to architecture , the fine simple lines of design and the importance of a really good cut . I left after about 4 months but I do not regret one moment.  Serge left not long after . Sadly Maggy Rouff closed down in 1970's. It had been one of the leading couture houses in Paris  and one of the first houses to realise the importance of ready to wear.

The fashion revolution began in the early 60's. In England    youth, music and fashion   was about to take on the world and to a certain extent they succeeded until materialism reared its greedy head . They say that the 50's was the last period of innocence,there was hope , the war had ended and designers responded to that era There was a future an exciting future ahead.
Coming soon ................From Paris to the Kings Road Chelsea  the 60,s revolution...
Markets opened selling amazing vintage clothes and  the Kings road was happening .


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