PARIS — “I think visitors will be surprised by the wild designs I came up with as a young man,” said Daniel Tribouillard, Leonard’s president and founder, who, in 1958, transformed what was a dusty textile firm into a flower-powered fashion brand.
Almost half a century later, Tribouillard’s style and odyssey with the company are the subject of a retrospective exhibition at Lyon’s Fabric and Decorative Art Museum, running April 7 through Oct. 8.
On display will be some of Leonard’s defining designs, including silk jersey dresses splashed with the house’s signature hand-printed Coptic and orchid designs from the swinging Sixties, Asian-inspired florals from the disco Seventies and pieces by current house designer, Véronique Leroy.
“In 1969, I left France to conquer the Asian market,” said Tribouillard, recalling the day he was offered Queen Sirikit of Thailand’s personal orchid to be immortalized in a Leonard print, or when, in 1983, he was invited by the Japanese government to study the secrets of kimono making.
This resulted in Leonard’s own kimono collection in 1984, which reworked the ancient craft with a French touch. “I called it the kimono of the future,” he said of the feather-light silk jersey robes he created.
But a clue to Tribouillard’s ultimate source of inspiration can be found in his own wardrobe.
“It was Marquis Emilio Pucci who sparked my passion for print,” said the designer, who noted he met the man he considers his mentor — and main competitor — in 1980. “The first thing he told me was that I was full of talent, but that I dressed badly.”
To fix the problem, the generous Pucci took off his own tailor-made jacket and handed it to Tribouillard to keep. “I still use Pucci’s Roman tailor, Giovanni Moschini, to this day,” quipped Tribouillard. But there are subtle differences between the two. “Pucci spent his life doing geometric prints. I’ve spent mine doing flowers.”