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France first became a major fashion game player from the 15th century. It wasn’t until the 17th century that France became the overall winner of the game and took the title of global fashion capitol.

France exploded into a rich industry, leading the way for innovative design. The Royal Minister of Finances at the time, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, famously said “Fashion is to France what the gold mines of Peru are to Spain“. By the 19th century, France still wore the crown given to her centuries prior, but it was at this time French fashion transitioned into many styles.

New Idea takes a look at three of the most influential French fashion labels that have made significant contributions to the global fashion industry and that still do, according to fashion expert at The Masters Institute of Creative Education Todd Anthony.

Chanel

“How can we possibly talk French fashion without kicking off with Chanel? Founded by Coco (Gabrielle) Chanel in 1909,” says Todd.   

“We have Chanel to thank for her vision of stylish comfort for women. We wouldn’t be wearing jersey if it wasn’t for Chanel and her determination to assist modern women in the then new world, to look good by feel comfortable. It was after World War I that Chanel really started to gain attention, as she brought on modernism in fashion through relaxing the female figure with shapeless beaded dresses in the twenties. Then she shocked again with her infamous little black dress, a must today in every woman’s wardrobe.

“Then she introduced the most famous of all her styles, which is still the front and centre Chanel hero look, the two and three-piece tweed suit.  We cannot mention Chanel without discussing Karl Lagerfeld. Karl joined Chanel in 1983 and reworked, innovated and interpreted that traditional tweed Chanel suit thousands of times over.

“The nipped at the waist cardigan jacket remains one of the most popular and most knocked off fashion pieces in history. Current wearers of Chanel are Anne Hathaway, Cameron Diaz, Julianne Moore, Alexa Chung, Nicole Kidman, oh, look the list goes on, to be honest anyone who can get into Chanel will, wouldn’t you?

Givenchy

“Let’s now talk Givenchy. Hubert de Givenchy opened the house in 1952. Famously his muse was Audrey Hepburn,” enthuses Todd.

“The secret to Audrey’s timeless and effortless look from movie to movie is to be credited to Givenchy. In terms of Hubert de Givenchy and his innovation, it was through the experimentation of shirting, he would use raw cotton similar to that of pattern making paper, to create his chic and casual collections. The house of Givenchy is a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture et du Pret-a-Porter and is owned by the LVMH luxury group. Clare Waight Keller is Givenchy’s current Artistic Director.  You may remember a dress worn by Meghan Markle at her wedding to Prince Harry on May 19, 2018, this was a Clare Waight Keller dress for Givenchy. But, even more exciting for me is that Givenchy have announced they will be launching a menswear collection for the autumn/winter 2019 season.  Other than the royals, again Julianne Moore lives in this brand, Emma Stone wears Givenchy a great deal, Beyonce and Cate Blanchet always looks beautiful in this label, but I feel no one will ever take Audrey Hepburn’s place on the Givenchy thrown and nor should they try.”

Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent opened the house of YSL in 1961. Famously credited with having introduced the tuxedo suit for women, a look that has ever since been on trend with no hope of slowing down.

“YSL was and still is known for the use of non-European cultural references, breaking away from traditional French fashion trends. For me personally the most notable contribution was YLS’s introduction to diversity on the runway, he was the first designer not to use all Caucasian models. YSL introduced the chic beatnik look of turtlenecks and black leather jackets and short mini-skirts, a look paired with smoky eyes and bobbed hair do’s,” says Todd.

“How can you talk YSL without mentioning the Mondrian Collection? It was 1966 when the most famous dress of all-time hit the runway, the YSL Mondrian Dress. The collection consisted of six wool jersey and silk A-line dresses which comprised graphic black lines and blocks of white and primary colour, a direct reference to the work of artist Mondrian.  

“In April 2016, Anthony Vaccarello was appointed as the Creative Director of YSL. Emma Watson loves a YSL tuxedo as does Angelina Jolie, I have even seen a Kardashian in one too and again Julianne Moore looks hot in YSL, I would love to see that lady’s wardrobe, it would have to be the size of a football field,” adds Todd.

The three labels above are French fashion powerhouses, since their beginnings and up until now, they have not only set trends, they have engineered our future. “This has been achieved through the experimentation and innovation lead by their Creative Directors. What makes French fashion the best? French Creative Directors choose to report on the times we are living in rather than to follow macro trends, this is the secret to long lasting style,” concludes Todd.

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