“It's been a while.” Those were the intriguing and only words on the invitation to a Courrèges collection re-vitalised by the designer duo who have given up their own Coperni brand to project the ideals of André Courrèges, who personified the world of sharp, graphic design in the era of the 1969 moon landing.
Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer made a smart move by stepping on to the stage, where they took turns to speak before the show started. That lowered expectations of any radical shift.
Unlike the dramatic brand makeovers we have been seeing this season in Milan, the concept at Courrèges was respect to the founder, his wife and design partner Coqueline Barrière, and what the designer stood for: a youthquake.
That was half a century ago.
“Ready-to-wear should express the spirit of ready-to-live; how we live today,” explained the new duo.
Against the flat, modern, simplicity, the 15 designs, few materials and colours, and basic square patterns were, as the duo announced before the show, “building blocks that we hope over time will become the foundation of a full story — one that is still bring written”.
It is impossible to imagine now the shock to a formal fashion world that Courrèges, a designer trained by the mighty couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga, should be making clothes that were a surgically-cut construction of a new sexual freedom. It was always in question who created the mini skirt — London’s Mary Quant or Courrèges in Paris. Both designers were fashion inventors with the same understanding of women’s lives after the contraceptive pill.
But how wise of the new designers to play it cool and calm, apologising for having only 15 basic looks, but making them, by colour or decoration, seem varied.
First came zipped-up jackets worn over ribbed bodysuits and a new version, with a small heel, of the original 1960s Courrèges boots. Covered with lines of small discs, a jacket looked different from its plainer partners. A-line mini skirts, treated in a contemporary way in vinyl, included more disc pieces that looked like they belonged to the digital age.
Next up were jeans-style trousers in many fabrics, and so the display continued with a powerful element of mix-and-match. That was the essence of this lively collection. It seemed like the building blocks of a 21st-century Courrèges — one that offered a new generation a rational wardrobe.