a cura di Alessandro Martinelli

Teacher of couture, seen by his peers as the tutelary deity and forerunner, Madame Grès has been saying for life: “I wanted to make the sculptress. Per me, it is the same work as fabric or stone. "His research led her through the ancient world but also in North Africa and India. A fifty years journey, which starts from the Hellenistic statuary and comes to pure minimalism of which was the forerunner in the fashion world. Nel 1933, the models of the future Madame Grès – whose real name is Germaine Krebs – They are already known as Maison de Couture Alix. Nel 1942, Germaine Krebs opened his own fashion house under the name of which he edited until Grès 1988. Starting with an outfit that has figured seamless,  has invented an economy of lines and volumes voluntarily timeless and original, transforming the woman's body into that of a goddess.

A creation of Madame Alix 1935

Emile was born Germaine Krebs 30 November 1903 in Paris, in the 17th arrondissement from a small local bourgeoisie family. Nel 1920, Despite his desire to become a dancer and sculptress, not appropriate professions to a girl at that time according to the parents, He decided to approach the world of tailoring.

If you believe the legend surrounding the mysterious Madame Grès, alias Germaine Krebs, learn the basics of sewing in three months next to a première d'atelier;  around 1924 became assistant model maker, then the second and finally first modeller modeller at the House Premet, Place Vendôme. Around 1930, sells its paintings, the models prototypes, to the major buyer of contractors who work for Europe and the United States of America. Nel 1933, Germain, nicknamed "Mrs. Alix”, He collaborates with Julie Barton to found the fashion house "Alix Barton”. The creative duo was noticed by the '' Officiel de la Mode et de la couture "which highlights how" Mademoseille Alix, intelligent artist,  He has placed in the foreground the Maison Alix Barton with his creative talent ".

From the collection "Summer 1933", the stylistic vocabulary of the future Madame Grès takes shape from its draping technique of the silhouette with the fewest possible seams; should remember the costumes from the beach or pool, bold in their simplicity. He begins to explore with all the curiosity of an experimenter "tissue-innovations" like jersey, he mohair, satin waxed, nylon tresses that she deliberately discipline.

Nel 1934, new lenders to propose to found a house of couture that she only will be the creative director. The House "Alix"Opens its doors to’ 83 di Faubourg Saint-Honoré All'Angolo con Avenue Matignon, just above the famous gallery "Bernheim-Jaune" and begin immediately to present the great Parisian and international customers, movie stars and influential people.

Creations of the Maison Alix thirties

The costumes created for "The Trojan War will not take place" by Jean Giradoux, opera staged by Louis Jouvet in the Athenée in 1935, allow her to have the utmost dedication by the magazine "Vogue Paris": "This old line is made by Alix its modern line: In fact, her costumes are a la mode, immediately wearable. As the text of’ opera, They are extremely relevant. “Il 17 Aprile 1937 Germaine married the artist Serge russeo Anatolievitch Czerefkow, said Grès.

Mademoiselle Alix is ​​a’ “artista” sculpting the cloth in ancient drapes, gowns with draping a statue of the Pavillon de l'Elegance, It presents a relief plaster - with the body in a draped dress – in the French pavilion Expo International in New York 1939 (see photo below). In June 1940, He left Paris without her husband left for Tahiti, to take refuge with her daughter in Saint-Béat, in the Haute-Garonne, where are the workshops of the Maison Alix. He begins to wear the iconic jersey turban that never abandoned. Back in Paris, thanks to the support of Lucien Lelong, President of the National Chamber of the Paris couture, thanks to the cash obtained from the sale of its share in the Maison Alix, He decides to launch his own label. Located at number 1 di Rue de la Paix, his new couture fashion house is called "Grès", the pseudonym with which her husband signing his paintings. THE’ Official of fashion and couture osserva nel November 1942: "With pleasure we learn that Grès reappears on the Parisian scene and immediately resumes the place that belongs".

The change from "Alix" in "Grès" is a fait accompli: “Grès is the name that is being dearest to me”, says couturière: It does not change anything of the style that made the glory of Mademoiselle Alix since the first draping jersey. In January 1944, the German authorities ordering the closure of the Maison Grès as an example: will reopen in March, provided to abandon its draping, deemed too expensive to implement in fabric.

Designs Gres preserved the MET

Nel 1945, as the set of "Theater of Fashion", showcase of French art crafts, which will tour the world. Nominated along with costume designer Elsa Schiaparelli, creates clothes still worn by Maria Casares in "Les Dames du Bois de Boulougne" Robert Bresson. Become the priestess of simplification (minimalism term was not coined yet): Season after season, its collections succeed in the atmosphere of his white monk's living rooms. It takes the habit of closing with double-locked his house at the beginning of each défilé: a ceremony for herself but also for the public, not accustomed to silence and meditation.

Nel 1949, It is decorated with the Legion of Honor with the title of Knight. In the same year, as the actress Silvana Mangano for his role of Penelope in "Ulysses" films by Mario Camerini, con Kirk Douglas.

A creation of 1951

Nel 1951, are realized some heads with the "Grès boutique" label with the intention of realizing a line of ready-to-wear.

From autumn-winter collection 58/59, starts producing clothing with the label "special Grès", a shape inspired by its combination with other famous designers such as Lanvin and Nina Ricci within the association "Prêt-à-porter Création", which organizes up to 1962 fashion shows and promotional initiatives. Against all odds, Alix participates in the emergence of the ready-to-wear luxury with day dresses or coats with simple lines. In 1958, under the auspices of the International Education Institute and the Ford Corporation, Madame part in India with a group of studies to reorganize the local textile production. The following year, inspired by that trip, creates the scent "Cabochard", which detects an instant hit.

“A name so may not be suitable for a perfume”, dice, “but I like it because it makes me think a little ‘ To myself”.  Innovative since its creation, this fragrance has dared a name with a strong personality and an olfactory avant-garde tone, the chypre-vert and a bottle with a gray velvet node.

To the left: Veruska portrayed in 1967 da Irvin Penn. To the right: Ingrid Boulting per Vogue Paris, Gennaio 1970

Nel 1972, It was unanimously elected Chairman of the Board of Chamber of Parisian Couture and will remain in office until 1989; subsequently, He will remain Honorary President. Il 29 Luglio 1976, receives for the Fall-Winter 1976/77 the first "Golden Thimble" de la Couture in Paris, created by Cartier.

Nel 1978, riceve a New York il Creative Leadership in the Art Profession Award, while in Italy the first prize by the National Chamber of Italian Fashion as one of the most talented and the most elegant women in the fashion world.

Nel 1979 Partners with Cartier to create the line of jewelry designed by Cartier-Grès creative for the Autumn-Winter collection 1979/80.

Nel 1980, for the launch of pap Fall-Winter 1980/81, declares in Vogue Paris: "I have not fallen in the street,  There are uphill ". E’ decorated with the Legion of Honor with the title of Official for "his immense talent and his spirit of faithful businesswoman at the prestigious tradition of France which helps to spread around the world".

Nel 1982, on the occasion of the tercentenary of the Kunst Academie de Aia, its director and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands to appoint "an honorary member." In 1983, He was named a Commander of Arts and Letters.

Nel 1984, The house was purchased by Bernard Tapie: there are numerous disputes and finally liquidation. Tapie will sell the house in 1987 Jacques Esterel has. Nel 1986 la maison is excluded from the Board of Chamber of Parisian Couture for non-payment of contributions, although Alix will keep your title of president.

Nel 1987, after two years of unpaid rent, the three floors of the house are emptied in one day. "We've broken mannequins and furniture with an ax. The toiles and clothes were thrown in the garbage. IS’ It was a real lincenziamento. No one moved. I gave the obligation to Julio, the driver, not to bring my mother .. "says Anne Grès. "She came in her little black dress. It looked like a ghost. That day, he realized that his life had been stolen. "

Nel 1988 The house was finally purchased by the Japanese company Yagi Tsusho Limited, which still owns. Madame Grès makes his last public appearance at the Oscars of fashion Opéra Garnier: He will retire immediately after the presentation of the Spring / Summer collection 1988, composed of only twenty-one models.

Nel 1993 Madame Grès, reemerged as Germaine Krebs, enters a nursing home at La Valette-du-Var near Toulon, where he died on 24 November 1993, in great misery.

The work of Madame Grès

Draped dresses on display at the Musée Bourdelle

Nel 1938, l '' Officiel de la Mode "argues that in stoneware creations can not talk about cuts but real sculptures: "Alix seems to carve and chisel matter, kneading and shaping fabrics to give them the same shape of the dream ". The ultimate goal is to accompany the woman with natural movement, fluency ignoring the rigid rules of sewing. "I did not know the dressmaking trade. Ignorance is something very important…brings purity and innocence, It brings you to try things others would not dare to do. E’ That's why I took the matter and I worked directly on it, using the knowledge I had, that of the sculpture ". Invent new tools, as the straight wire, which represents the plumb line of a tailoring. If Dior has named its collections using the spectator's point of view (Line H, A, Zigzag, oval, tulip, etc…), a stoneware collection was born from the relationship that develops between the creator and body shaping ("Zampillanati" lines, “liana”, "Wraparound", “glissando”, "Headlong", etc.. ) The pleats and the trademark of couturière: a sussgeuirsi of folds flat taken in a straight line each 3 cm and with constant depth of 1,5 cm that are sewn upside down and protrude outside of 2mm. This creative process creates a new exceptionally wide by the textile product Racine silk jersey: 280 cm of cloth are reduced to 7cm thanks to the technique set forth above,  the folds are minutely fixed with a myriad of pins above a covered mannequin Kraft. it jersey, directly removed from its roll during the preparation, viente cut once the operation has been completed. The network of folds obtained is then sewn on a bust whale called by seamstresses "drape". The skirt, so the jersey falls freely, It is formed from the strips used by the bustier: on average there are between 13 to 21 meters of fabric in each of these dresses. The earliest date back to draped dresses 1934, using the elastic properties of an artificial silk jersey.

"These draped dresses come from the ancient world, but I was never inspired by antiquity. When this tissue did not exist, I had the idea of ​​draping, but as soon as I had, the fabric fell alone … To the touch, you can know the soul and character of a fabric. When draping a silk pattern, I react in my hands and I try to understand and judge his reactions. So the dress gift I create a line and a form that the fabric would like to have.” The maximum exploitation of this technique occurred in the years 70, full revival of the 30: many designers refer to the work of Madame Alix and returned to the forefront.

gown 1949

Grès is however also creations by day: It is unmatched in taming taffeta and wool, practical techniques to achieve suit with the same mastery of those used to make the evening dresses. His complete and his flannel skirt or his male of a great delicacy complete. His complete and his flannel skirt or his men cut suits are of great delicacy. To his contemporaries, Madame Grès scolds flashy and superficial ideas - declining sources of haute couture. While the New Look of Christian Dior in Paris in triumph 1947, She has never used a corset: respect for the body and its movements took precedence over the sophistication of the forms. It is the structure without the trappings of Persian robes, Indian and Berber Madame Grès is looking for. Reinterprets the Turkish trousers, long dresses Hindu princesses and kimono sleeves without being dazzled from the exotic.

His search for clothes “seamless” It is near traditional clothing with the particularity of the cutting plate and in a single piece: burnous, djellaba, caftano, Dalmatian inspire his clothes, coats, mantella ...

Particularly skilled in the use of dull tones, dusty or sometimes unexpectedly bright, It is a true colorist with its own color chart: the chestnut,  the champagne, cinnamon, hyacinth, the turtle, bronze, verdigris, red currants, all shades of white, deep blacks come together to build a unique harmony of colors that gives perennial modernity models.

In the '60s and' 70s, his clothes and short coats are radicalized, surprise for their minimalism but also for their quality of execution: without ornament, They look really modeled,  the line and the volume lends them a sculptural quality. In tessuto double-face, therefore particularly preferred by Madame Grès, these models have few equivalents in French couture. Tuttavia, the body is not only carved. At the designers also like to suggest, to do so could read into a garment austere: if you shared with Balenciaga taste for paintings by Zurbaran and the monastic clothing, this attention brings us back to his search for purity. His clothes have gained perfection in simplicity that remains unchanged over time. This simple lesson is especially in small day wear – whose rigor and appearance “wise” hide many sensuous details such as necklines in the back, or cutting details, that by means of a random movement highlight the curve of a body. A game of odds that she likes to stage, a disturbing sensuality as never performed.

Creations by day

Its technical discoveries become models, as in architecture. Indifferent to fashions, chasing his work, resumes and sets forth the reasons, the forms and structures of his invention during his fifty-five-year career. In time, evening dresses in pleated jersey are fewer, its design becomes more and more minimal: windings or folds of a single band of tissue that passes straight wire, seams limited to the minimum necessary … remove more and keep only the essentials. Almost eighty-three years, He has reached its goal: a dress with no seams, made from a tubular knitted wool with four scissors: the hem, the neckline and the two armholes.

« Perfection is one of the goals I search. For a dress to survive from one era to the next. It must be extremely pure footprint. This is the great secret of the survival of a creation.»

Creation of 1951