PARIS — Poiret, the French fashion house famous for freeing women from corsets, will rise from its ashes this week after a 90-year hiatus.
The label is set to unveil its first designs by artistic director Yiqing Yin on Sunday at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs here. Yin, who previously belonged to the elite club of Paris couture designers, has put her own brand on hold to focus on her debut collection, which she unveiled exclusively to WWD ahead of the March 4 show.
She has been working on the project for 12 months, setting up a 20-person studio in a Paris district full of government offices.
“Having a year to work on a first collection is truly quite a rare luxury. It allows you to think through the project, to study, to experiment and to work with a sort of instinct, too,” said the quietly spoken designer, surrounded by racks of clothes ranging from cozy oversize knits to floor-sweeping pleated skirts.
The Poiret trademark was acquired in 2015 by Shinsegae International, a division of the South Korean retail conglomerate that imports foreign brands and distributes them through its department stores.
It has its own premium labels, such as Vidi Vici and Man on the Boon, and its portfolio of foreign luxury brands includes Givenchy, Céline, Chloé and Moncler. Shinsegae has named Anne Chapelle, the Belgian entrepreneur behind the Haider Ackermann and Ann Demeulemeester labels, as chief executive officer of Poiret.
Yin won the ANDAM Prize for First Collections in June 2011 and presented her debut couture show the following month. She subsequently served as creative director of French fashion house Leonard for two years, updating its archival patterns with new fabrics and techniques.
Now she has turned her exacting gaze on the Poiret heritage, coming up with a modern and somewhat surprising vision of the house as a melting pot of artistic influences, rooted in a hedonist approach.
Paul Poiret established his house in 1903 and became famous for his Asian-inspired designs, including his cocoon or kimono coats. He had a passion for decoration, feathers and flowers, as highlighted by “Paul Poiret: King of Fashion,” a 2007 retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Yin wears the Asian influences lightly. The designer, who was born in China and moved to France as a young child, does not want to be categorized by her origins.
“I’ve done a lot of editing of the information and heritage, because Poiret was famous for having brought parrots and elephants to Paris and having them parade in a caravan with women wearing his clothes. That’s not at all what I’m interested in: it’s the cut and the minimalism of these clothes,” she explained.
“When you look at a piece of Poiret clothing, it’s as simple as can be. Most of his clothes are made of rectangles or squares,” Yin noted. “He freed women from corsets, but he also quite simply transferred the comfort of loungewear to the public domain with a lot of elegance, grace and luxury.”
She has followed a similar approach with her own designs, with oversize volumes in simple shapes that can be adapted to fit the wearer. A key example is a cross-draped sack dress with a deep neckline and pockets, which can be worn loose or belted, or front to back.
The design is based on a Poiret cape from 1923, a connection that only became fully apparent on a mood board showing the two side by side. “I like it when a fabric is completed by the movement and personality of the wearer,” Yin said. “It’s all about a playful, subtle sensuality that I think is missing in the market today.”
She is also inspired by Poiret’s all-encompassing approach, as the first designer to create a brand that extended to interiors, lifestyle and fragrance.
“He was an alchemist of art, a curator of all art forms who brought together gifted people and was known for the variety of his talents and interests. He also promoted up-and-coming talents, and in terms of philosophy and motivation, the brand was about celebrating hedonism and lifestyle,” Yin noted.
She is launching with a full offering of shoes, handbags and jewelry, with bold designs including gold-soled shoes with metallic-cage heels, transformable bags, and necklaces featuring heavy clusters of raw crystals. Gold is a signature of the house, appearing on some clothes as a thin jagged line of metallic thread.
The label is working with external artisans to develop its exclusive fabrics. A shawl-collared tent coat, for instance, comes in variations including a chartreuse and black jacquard. To arrive at its pattern, Yin and her team drew a mural inspired by a geometric floral design from the archives.
“I see the brand as inclusive and collaborative, open to many different domains of expression and experimentation. I expect that to come through via long-term collaborations, either with our artisans or with artists who might be totally unrelated to fashion. It could be a photographer or a pastry chef,” she said.
Likewise, she doesn’t want the house to cater only to wealthy women. Prices start at 200 euros for knitwear and go up to 3,000 euros for special pieces. “The last thing we want is to be an elitist label. We want to be able to speak to younger generations and to have an accessible entry price point,” she said.
Yin, whose early couture creations featured intricate pleating techniques, has struggled in the past to reconcile her elaborate approach with more streamlined manufacturing methods.
At Poiret, exceptional pieces represent 30 percent of the offering, and the simple structure of the clothes makes them less costly to assemble, she countered, adding that the daywear that makes up the bulk of the line consists of items like oversize shirts with brushstroke embroidery, or tailored suits and coats.
Above all, Yin aspires to empower her customers by letting them shine in her clothes.
“There is no beauty outside of reality, and that is something that brands and designers sometimes forget, because they are shut in their world and they design for themselves instead of designing at the service of women,” she said.
“Our DNA is really the art of being yourself and the art of being free, so we will do what it takes to create that feeling and to offer an intimate and personal experience. We don’t want to become a museum,” she concluded.