Fantastical events and “happenings” as a means of pumping up publicity have been a staple of the fashion world for generations and while they may seem somewhat overdone in our era of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, they were a fresh idea back in Poret’s day and went a long way towards introducing new fashions. In this post, we consider one of the first fashion events that was staged by couturier Paul Poiret and ushered in a new era in fashion history. Enjoy! 🙂
Publicity has always been a part of the fashion world and it’s the fashion world’s life blood. Paul Poiret was one of the first couturiers to actively utilize publicity as a marketing tool on a large scale and one of his most notable efforts was the 1002 Nights or Persian Celebration that he staged on June 24, 1911. Poiret intended the event as a launch for his brand of perfumes under the “Rosine” label, named after his eldest daughter.
But there was more to the event than simply promoting perfume, he was also promoting his entire line of Oriental-themed fashions and in particular, the jupe cullotte or harem pants style. Harem pants (or any kind of pants for women) represented a radical departure in fashion and was considered by many to be scandalous- it was considered tantamount to being naked.
So, let’s take a closer look at the jupe culotte…here’s one of the more iconic examples that was worn to the 1002 Nights:
What is especially interesting was the theatrical element to the 1002 Nights. The event was held at Poiret’s 18th Century mansion at 26 Avenue d’Antin1Recent research on our part seems to point towards Poiret actually staging this event at a rented mansion in another part of Paris- see the postscript. and Poiret invited some 300 people, making it explicitly clear that everyone was expected to wear Persian dress (if they didn’t have any, a suitable outfit would be provided at the entrance before they were allowed to enter). Poiret provided a feast accompanied by some 900 liters of Champagne along with all manner of entertainments.
The centerpiece of the 1002 Nights was Poiret’s wife Denise modeling the new jupe cullotte style, sitting in a large golden cage with Poiret taking the part of a sultan. The finale of the show was when at an appointed time, Poiret then made a big show of “releasing” Denise from her cage:
The 1002 Nights was a huge success and was widely reported in the press. Although Poiret denied that he’d staged the party as a publicity stunt, it was evident that it had been just exactly that and the publicity led to a subsequent explosion in sales of Poiret’s Oriental-inspired fashions.
In contrast to earlier couturiers, Poiret was a consummate showman and constantly strove to attract the public’s attention to his designs and for a long time he was successful. Unfortunately, the First World War was an interruption that Poiret never full recovered from and while Oriental themes still informed his designs, the public had moved on, favoring more simple designs that were being put forth by Chanel and others.
From what we can determine, the event may have occurred at a mansion located at 109 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré (in the 8th Arrondissement) that he rented from a friend, an art dealer by the name of Henri Barbazanges. From checking on Google Maps, the location is currently occupied by some type of commercial building- whatever mansion that has been there is long gone. This location actually makes a little more sense in that the address is larger than the one at 26 Avenue d’Antin but again, only more research will tell and my French language skills are not the best. If anyone out there has better information, by all means comment. 🙂