Paul Poiret


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(1879–1944) Poiret was a key figure in the French fashion industry of the early decades of the 20th century, particularly his introduction of a strong oriental flavour and rich colours to contemporary clothing. This was inspired by the dramatic settings and costumes for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes by Leon Bakst and others that first took Paris by storm in 1908. Poiret's work was widely disseminated by fashion illustrators through publications such as Les Robes de Paul Poiret raconté par Paul Iribe (1908) and Les Choses de Paul Poiret vues par Georges Lepape (1911).

After meeting leading couturier and collector Jacques Doucet in 1896 Poiret had moved into dress design, working for Worth before setting up independently in 1904. After meeting Josef Hoffmann in Vienna in 1910 and seeing the multidisciplinary outlook and activities of the Wiener Werkstätte at first hand he established the Atelier Martine in Paris in 1911. Named after his second daughter this school of decorative art was attended by working-class girls with no formal training. They produced bold, colourful patterns for textiles, wallpapers, ceramics, murals, and furniture perhaps partly inspired by the flower-patterned textiles of the Wiener Werkstätte that themselves drew on folk art. Poiret arranged for the work of the Martines (as the participants in the Atelier were known) to be shown at the Salon d'Automne in 1912, leading him to establish an interior design business under the name of L'Atelier Martine. Advice was offered for the interior decoration of cafés, hotels, offices, and private houses and the venture proved so successful that a London branch was opened in 1924. The Atelier Martine also produced designs for the prestigious luxury liner Île de France (1927) on which many leading French designers collaborated. At the Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels of 1925 Poiret exhibited three barges moored on the Seine near the entrance entitled Amours, Délices, and Orgues that included hangings by Raoul Dufy and room settings, furniture, and furnishings by the Atelier Martine. However, as a result of the difficult economic times from the late 1920s Poiret's fashion business went into decline.

From A Dictionary of Modern Design in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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