Paul Poiret, Atelier Martine & Textiles

One of the most interesting aspects of Paul Poiret was that his design work was not limited solely to fashion but rather he expended into related areas such as fragrances, interior design, home furnishings, and textiles and as such such, he could be considered to be one the first “total lifestyle” designers. Of his various ventures was Martine which was Poiret’s home furnishings business. Named for his daughter Martine, Martine consisted of Atelier Martine, L’École Martine, and Maison Martine and opened on April 1, 1911. Inspired by the Wiener Werkstätte, Poiret created Martine as both a means of educating young working class girls in the decorative arts through L’École Martine and functioning as a design house through Atelier MartineMaison Martine served as the retail outlet for the venture, later adding on an interior design service. As part of this initiative, Atelier Martine designed textiles to be used for both home furnishings and clothing.

Collage of three photos showing three textile mills

One particular textile collection was made under licence in 1914 by the Duplan Silk Company of Hazleton, Pennsylvania and was intended as the fashion fabrics for several licensed dress designs. Interestingly enough, Duplan was originally established in 1897 by Jean Duplan, a French textile manufacturer as a means of avoiding the high import duty imposed on luxury fabrics by the Tariff Act of 1897. Pictured below are four of the original eight designs (Bishop, Bouquet, Lizeron, and Pekin):

Poiret/Martine, “Bishop” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01219)

Poiret/Martine, “Bouquet” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01218)

Poiret/Martine, “Pekin” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01221)

Poiret/Martine, “Pekin” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01220)

Poiret/Martine, “Bishop” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01222)

Poiret/Martine, “Lizeron” Silk Textile; National Museum of American History (TE.T01223)

Except for the Lizeron design, the above designs were cylinder printed on silk. In the case of the Lizeron, it was block printed and according to Duplan’s promotional literature, is was:

…the first hand block design ever printed by hand in the United States, on a heavy quality of silks. The yardage possible to produce per day, printed by hand by one man, in a design of the character, is only about 1/20th of what a silk printing machine can produce in the same length of time.

The Atelier Martine’s designs were heavily influenced not only by the Wiener Werkstätte, but also the Aesthetic/Arts and Crafts Movements with their emphasis on simple, bold designs that utilized bright colors. Martine was not only a business enterprise but also a repudiation of the prevailing design aesthetics of the Nineteenth Century, an element present in all of Poiret’s work. Although the Martine did not last long (Poiret sold the business in 1925), its legacy is a fascinating one.

Trending For 1918- Morocco & Paul Poiret

Paul Poiret was fascinated with non-Western styles and motifs and these often found their way into his designs. Morocco, in particular, was a constant source of design inspiration and one such design was a coat that he made in 1918 based on the traditional Berber Burnoose, cloak-like garment usually made from wool.

Image result for burnoose

Below are some pictures of the prototype made by Poiret’s for his wife Denise:

Paul Poiret, Jacket; Metropolitan (2005.201)

One of the interesting features of this coat is that while the collar was made as a funnel-shaped collar, it could also be worn open which Denise Poiret’s favored.

The prototype was made for Poiret’s wife Denise and she tended to wear it with the collar open as shown above. The coat was made of a finely woven wool that provided a luxurious feel while at the same time preserving the rustic hand-loomed natural effect of the traditional Burnooses. At the same time, coat was sewn together with a meticulous attention to detail and matching of the stripes along the seams. Subsequently, several versions of this design were made starting in 1921 and from all accounts, it was a success, reflecting the post-WWI trend towards looser, more comfortable clothing. In many respects, the design seems to us like something that Chanel would have done (which is ironic given the antipathy that both designers shared towards each other). To us, this design is almost timeless and would work as well today as it did when he made it in 1918 and the early 1920s.

Costume College 2019

It’s Sunday and all my teaching duties at Costume College 2019 are complete! It’s been a busy past two days with teaching three classes and meeting up with old friends, some who we haven’t seen in a year or more. Our classes were well attended and hopefully we were able to impart some useful information. More importantly, we also learned some new things from the many thoughtful questions posed by our students and in some areas, we’re rethinking some of our opinions. The old adage “never say never” has never been more true when applied to fashion and fashion history and it seems that just when we thought we’d gotten a handle on a certain subject, something comes along to challenge us.

We’re looking forward to 2020 at Costume College and it’s our goal to work up more classes with compelling content. Looking forward to seeing you there next year!

Paul Poiret & Resisting Change

Paul Poiret has always been fascinating to us and his designs and innovations never fail to amaze. At the same time, Poiret is also a cautionary tale on the dangers of not adapting to a changing zeitgeist (the spirit of a particular historical period). Poiret was a bit of showman and he utilized all manner of publicity in order to advance his innovations such as eliminating the corset-created silhouette as an essential design element (even though other couturiers were working on similar designs at the same time such as Jeanne Paquin) and the introduction of the jupe-culotte.

Paul Poiret, Jupe Culotte, 1911; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983.8a, b)

Poiret was also instrumental in introducing a simpler, less structured silhouette starting with the Directoire style in 1906:

The First World War disrupted the French fashion industry and Poiret was no exception. Called up for military service, Poiret was assigned to work on simplifying the production of uniforms and while he was successful in this area, his fashion house barely kept itself afloat financially. After the war, Poiret tried to pick up where he’d left off in 1914 but the fashion world had moved on with an emphasis on more simple designs such as those created by Coco Chanel. Poiret’s designs failed to catch on and combined with financial mismanagement and a nasty divorce from his wife Denise, he was ultimately forced to close his fashion house in 1929. In future posts, we’ll delve into some of Poiret’s post-WWI designs and the overall decline of Poiret’s influence as a designer.