French Fashion of the 1960s on Display at FIT

Fashion Week may be over, but fashion lives on in New York City. At least until April.

An exhibition dedicated to French fashion in the 1960s is currently showing at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)‘s museum until April 15, 2017. Set against a minimalist decor, the Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 exhibit showcases the works of French designers made in the sixties. Besides numerous creations by Chanel, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Balenciaga, there’s also Pierre Cardin’s red mohair suit as featured in Vogue, a silk floral-print dress designed by Christian Dior, and a vinyl dress by André Courrèges. Every piece in the showroom was created between 1957 and 1968, a pivotal period for French fashion and its role in the fashion world.

“It was a period during which the world of fashion was turned upside down,” says exhibition curator Colleen Hill. One piece in the collection that really demonstrates this is the Yves Saint Laurent’s pantsuit for women. It debuted in 1967, and shook the fashion world to its core. While preparing the exhibit, Hill committed to giving visibility to less well-known designers who were nonetheless integral to the era. “When thinking about the French fashion scene, people talk about Courrèges or Saint Laurent, but they forget about designers like Emmanuelle Khanh or Michèle Rosier. With this exhibition, I wanted to show to the full extent how innovative and influential French fashion was during the 60s.”

An enduring influence

The exhibit is both an homage to French fashion’s turning point, and a demonstration of its influence in the United States. “During the 60s, the impact of French fashion was particularly visible in New York on 7th Avenue, where the designers and ready-to-wear clothing stores were,” says Hill. At that point, French fashion houses weren’t selling clothes in their own flagship stores in the US; clothes were rebranded or sold in different boutiques. Hill explains, “The high-end French brand Réal sold its clothing in the US under the brand name Mademoiselle Arlette, in reference to the founder of the boutique Arlette Nastat. Similarly, Dorothée Bis’ famous pullovers were sold by the New York business, Albert Alfus.”

Today, the French style of the sixties continues to be a source of fashion inspiration. French designer Jean-Michel Cazabat, who first made a name for himself in New York, recently released his latest shoe collection, inspired by the decade.

“French fashion has always had enormous influence,” says Hill. “You only need to see the buzz created by a new Chanel by Karl Lagerfield collection to understand how much French fashion matters.”

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