Mme. Grès, born Germaine Emilie Krebs, was one of the pioneers of the art of couture, the patron saint of pleating and draping. Her label, which originally beared the name ‘Alix,” transformed through the years to eventually be called Mme. Grès- an anagram of her late husband’s name. Nearly 80 years after her start, one my generation clearly missed, we are privy to see one of the most incredible examples of timeless fashion ever produced at the Mme. Grès exhibit hosted by the Musée Bourdelle in Paris.
In this exquisite exhibit set in a sculpture museum devoted to the early 20th century artist, Bourdelle, is a one of a kind look into the mystical world of the Mme Grès’ Couture collections from the early 1930s through the 1980s. Starting with her designs for her label, Alix, all the way through end of her creations, it is evident that her timeless, artistic approach to making clothes extends beyond the functional purpose of the clothes, but embodies an ethereal quality. Mme. Grès was known for her life-long desire of being a sculptor. This is seen in her innate ability to channel this desire through the fabrics, creating pleats and draping unlike anyone else in her time. This tidbit about the life of the designer makes the juxtaposition between the hard, immense sculptures in the museum and her graceful, fragile creations truly a masterpiece. Being able to step up, barely two inches from the piece, and see the detail and perfection created with each pleat of chiffon or silk jersey was beyond impressive.
Each piece had me saying “oh my god, I want that in my closet,” or, “why hasn’t someone worn that on the red carpet lately?”
Everyone hears of “vintage Valentino” and other couturiers, but it is never “oh, I’m wearing vintage Mme. Grès”- but I promise you this, I bet we start hearing it more often after this exhibit reminded us all of the timeless beauty in her collections.
The exhibit holds about 80 original designs by Mme Grès from both private collections and archives. But, showcasing her collections is only the beginning. There is also a full collection of incredible sketches from the designer showing her impeccable creative process. Plus, there is a whole set of photographs taken by artists like Richard Avedon to accompany the dresses.
As you wander from room to room at this exhibit, you are continually impressed, taken aback, but rarely reminded of how dated each dress is. There is truly a perfection achieved in each Mme. Grès piece that transcends trends and decades.
La perfection est l’un des buts que je recherche. Pour qu’une robe puisse survivre d’une époque à la suivante, il faut qu’elle soit empreinte d’une extrême pureté.