"When a woman smiles, then her dress should smile too," said Madeleine Vionnet. I admit, I didn't know much about Vionnet until I read Madeleine Vionnet, by Pamela Golbin and Patrick Gries. If it weren't for Madeleine, dubbed the queen of the bias cut, gowns and skirts wouldn't be half as fluid and sexy as they are today. Not only did the late and great Madeleine create the bias, she also spearheaded the invention of the handkerchief dress, cowl neck, and halter top — wow. This book also features an illustrated chronology of her life and never-seen-before photos. It was kind of like stepping into a romantic history lesson on the creative mind of Vionnet. Cool.
>> INSIDER WIRE —Confirming last week's reports, former Valentino chairman Matteo Marzotto and Marni's CEO Gianni Castiglioni have bought Vionnet. Creative directorship has been placed in the hands of Rodolfo Paglialunga, a twelve-year veteran of Prada, where he was one of Miuccia's assistants. The first designs will preview in early June, and Rodolfo will make his runway debut during Paris Fashion Week in October, the same time that Phoebe Philo makes her runway debut at Celine. [WWD]
Big change is afoot in the fashion industry: after the 90s, which were dominated by male designers, women designers seem to be taking the upper hand.
Even though female designers have a long way to go in male-run fashion capitals like New York and Paris, there does seem to be a trend emerging, particularly in Milan. In Italy alone, a large number of family-run companies were founded or are helmed by women: Alberta Ferretti, Prada, Versace, Fendi, Trussardi, Missoni, Etro, and Emilio Pucci. As Paris-based industry consultant Concetta Lanciaux explained, "Italy's tradition of family ownership for fashion companies gives women a great chance to emerge, whereas France, by contrast, is dominated by luxury groups. It's more corporate."
Although women have always played a pivotal role in fashion, especially in early 1900s Paris, when Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, and Jeanne Lanvin reigned supreme, after World War II, a new generation of male designers emerged: Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga, and Pierre Balmain. Since then, female designers have come in spurts: Mary Quant and Betsey Johnson in the 60s and 70s, and Rei Kawakubo in the 80s.
Finally, as more and more women are taking charge, their prominence is returning to what it was in early 1900s Paris. Alessandra Facchinetti has just succeeded Valentino, Frida Giannini took over from Tom Ford at Gucci, and let's not forget the outstanding influence of Miuccia Prada. But it all makes sense, as Donatella Versace explains, "women are instinctively in tune with the female customer."