Loungewear just got a high-culture makeover. French designer Pierre-Louis Mascia has partnered with the Palais Galliera fashion museum on a capsule collection of luxurious silk pajamas, velvet robes and twill scarves featuring patterns lifted from 18th-century garments.
The collaboration was born from a meeting between the designer, who is based in the southern French city of Toulouse, and curator Pascale Gorguet Ballesteros, in charge of 18th-century fashion and dolls at the Paris museum. She proposed a selection of pieces, from which Mascia chose nine items. They include a “robe à la française” from circa 1750 with a red, white and blue pattern, and a waistcoat worn by Claude Lamoral II, Prince of Ligne and the Holy Empire, in blue silk with a lush woven floral design.
“I almost had the Stendhal syndrome,” said Mascia, referring to the physical reaction, including rapid heartbeat and fainting, that is said to overcome some people in the presence of objects or art works of great beauty and antiquity.
“These are not just fabrics, but pieces of clothing, and these clothes have crossed through centuries, and therefore they have a presence,” he said. “All the clothes are in white protective covers secured with bows. In the wrapping alone, there was a feeling of discovery. I really liked that. I felt a little bit like a cave explorer or an archeologist in Egypt.”
Mascia noted that finding intact pieces from that period is rare, since making dresses was expensive, and women frequently had them altered until they ended up as disguises for carnivals or costumed balls. “We’re fortunate to have this heritage in France,” he remarked.
The items were photographed in high definition and juxtaposed with modern motifs to create original fabrics, produced by Italian company Achille Pinto. A silk tuxedo jacket, for instance, combines a yellow background with Chinese-inspired floral embroidery from a men’s waistcoat, and a Japanese kimono check.
The capsule collection launched this month on the e-commerce site of Cabana magazine, but Mascia wants to make it a permanent addition to his main collection, which is carried by more than 200 retailers worldwide, including L’Eclaireur and Le Bon Marché in Paris, La Rinascente in Italy, Isetan in Tokyo and Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.
It looks like he won’t be jostling for access to the Galliera archives. The museum recently unveiled the first exhibition of its permanent fashion collection, with a show of 350 pieces of clothing, accessories and documents, and has collaborated with brands such as Acne Studios. But many of its pieces rarely see the light of day.
“Few designers come to consult the archives, mainly because they don’t know about them,” Mascia said. “The big houses often have their own archives, so there’s already a lot to work with. And perhaps we also live in a period when people don’t want to be weighed down by the past.”
Mascia, by contrast, is happy to engage with history. “It allows me to see my culture. It’s shaped who we are,” he said. “The 18th century laid the groundwork for the French luxury industry today.”