Every closet has a story to tell, and Katie and I love the stories behind all of our pieces. It's bittersweet when we find exceptional wardrobes that we know were carefully chosen by interesting women who are no longer with us. We can even sometimes feel the very energy of the women who filled those closets and we always want to know more about them.
The same is true of designers. We get attached to them, study their lives, and even start to believe we somehow know those incredibly talented men and women who created the vast collection we have acquired. That's an illusion, of course, but when you have done this for many years and you recognize the hook and eye used by one designer, the content label used by another, and the signature seams by another, you start to feel like you are in on an intimate, beautiful secret.
Designer France Andrevie photograph by Antonio Guccioni
It always makes us sad to see a designer fall off of the map and no longer be talked about, given museum exhibitions or mentioned in reference to their contributions. Many talented and well respected designers disappear from fashion school textbooks and become nothing more than a small footnote in design history. Clare Potter, Harry Collins and Sylvia Peddlar are just a few of the designers who have been largely ignored by modern day fashion historians.
France Andrevie two piece dress circa 1982
Recently, we were absolutely thrilled to find a rare dress designed by the incomparable France Andrevie.
In 1978, the New York magazine called Andrevie, along with Claude Montana and Thierry Mugler, "among the most experimental members of the fashion world." Naturally, we wanted to tell you all about her and assumed the internet would be filled with volumes of information. We were shocked at how wrong we were.
But, thanks to the amazing photographs shot by Paul Van Riel available on the Europeana Website, old newspaper articles, the half a hand full of articles available online, and from interviewing a few kind people who knew her, we are hoping you can start to appreciate the unique vision that France Andrevie brought to the fashion world.
In 1980, The San Francisco Examiner called Andrevie the "princess of new wave fashion" and in 1981, "one of the fashion world's most militant feminists."
The writer Jean-Pierre Fily described her as "a lioness in the world of ready-to-wear."
Designer France Andrevie by Antonio Guccioni
So who was she? France Andrevie was originally from Belgium and she started her own line of clothing there called, Laurent Vicci, a name she invented. She then moved to Paris in 1976 to start over again as she was approaching 30, this time, using her own name.
She would later say that she had no support from the French, the banks, or the journalists. She claimed that her first real support came from the Japanese and then the Americans.
Andrevie's favorite designers were Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, Claude Montana, Thierry Mugler and French designer Anne Marie Beretta (another somewhat forgotten name).
Known as a passionate designer who would work all night, often in silence, she was driven to achieve. She lived in hotels, surrounded by her cats and dedicated her life to her craft.
The New York Times described Andrevie as a workaholic who was "her own business manager, accountant, designer and, if need be, shipping clerk."
The master of layering, France Andrevie was layering different patterns, textures and color ways and creating a high fashioned "immigrant" look long before Gucci.
France Andrevie with her entourage of runway assistants & MUAH professionals
Successful make-up artist, Linda Mason, created many of the most memorable runway looks for France Andrevie models.
"She was fabulous, I loved her clothes, very exciting to work with as she had a strong vision, so strong that you could intuitively pick up on it. She wouldn't second guess your ideas she would just let you create what you felt for her." Linda Mason
Manfred Millicent, textile designer, worked for the first time in fashion with France Andrevie. She remembers her as being very advanced for the time, or a "visionary."
Backstage at France Andrevie Show Photograph by Paul Van Riel 1980
Photographer Paul Van Riel remembers the Andrevie runway shows as having colorful, graphic clothing that was always more interesting that the more famous labels at the time. She even had a live band on stage with percussion instruments for one of her shows!
Perhaps my favorite remembrances of France Andrevie came from her dear friend Coco, who at first echoed the other voices who said it was hard for her to stop working and that she was a warrior and a thinker, who spent all day and all night thinking of new looks. But then she humanized her in a genuinely connected way, "..we were soul sisters. She had an amazing smile and an intense, beautiful look in her eyes." I can see that intensity about which she speaks in the scarce images of Andrevie available.
It should come as no surprise that France Andrevie's favorite writer was Colette, 'a vanguard' as she called her, 'outside the norms.'
There were famous designers who actually decided to become designers after being inspired by one of her several avant garde runway shows.
''What I have always wanted is a mix of masculine and feminine clothes, I love the simplicity of what men wear and I've tried to reinterpret it in a feminine way, but without the froufrou that the word 'feminine' usually implies.'' France Andrevie
France Andrevie died of a heart attack in her workshop in 1984 at the young age of 38. She was survived by her husband and 6 month old son. The obituaries were brief and not very descriptive. Not, in my opinion, an appropriate legacy for such a groundbreaking designer.
Back to that dress we acquired, I am happy to say that a museum in Belgium purchased it from us, so maybe there is hope in honoring the Andrevie legacy.
As for me, I don't think my research into France Andrevie can stop now. I have been somehow captured by the bright, brief light she shined on the world with that wild talent that ultimately consumed her short life. I hope to encourage fashion lovers to re-discover the world of France Andrevie, where all things are possible and where a dreamer's imagination becomes a brilliant reality.
"I myself, want to dream."