A key figure in French fashion’s transformation from couture to ready-to-wear — and in making Paris an undisputed style capital — Didier Grumbach is a walking encyclopedia of fashion history.
And in “Mémoires de Mode,” his second book, he recounts his extraordinary career, whose highlights include manufacturing Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche rtw, backing and running Thierry Mugler’s fashion house for two decades and a storied 16-year tenure as president of French fashion’s top organizing body.
Grumbach confesses he battled to write in the first person, but the point of the new tome is a more personal take on an industry he loves, for it straddles creativity and industry.
“Within the pages are things nobody knows or everyone forgot,” he observes dryly.
For example, while most people think rtw was an invention of the Sixties, it existed “much sooner than it is generally admitted,” he said, mentioning for example that Madame Grès produced rtw from 1957 to 1962, and that there are examples of rtw production in France as early as 1945.
The new book, published in French by Institut Française de la Mode and Éditions du Regard, is a slimmer, breezier volume than his sweeping, textbook-like “History of International Fashion,” originally published in 1993 in French and since translated into multiple languages.
Grumbach’s detailed prose reveals an infallible memory, a gift for remembering specific dates and a tender disposition when it comes to creativity. He calls his years at Mugler “fabulous. I always thought Thierry Mugler was close to a genius,” he enthused.
He devotes chapters to his childhood, his family’s coat manufacturer C. Mendès, contemporary art and the vast changes he witnessed, from the globalization of the business to its first concept stores and its ever-more theatrical fashion shows.
“Mémoires de Mode” sells for 15 euros and Grumbach plans to sign copies on Feb. 23 at the Maison Alaïa bookstore on the eve of Paris Fashion Week.