Last season in Paris, the fashion label Courrèges hosted a massive Paris Fashion Week show with brand new designer Yolanda Zobel, who transformed the brand by taking inspiration from its 1960s space age roots. Guests stood around Courrèges’s Avenue François flagship store as models marched and danced in and around the perimeter wearing quirky hoods, jumpsuits, and slick jackets emblazoned with the label’s signature logo. Zobel’s appointment at the brand was announced in 2018, and before that, she spent time in house at Chloe, Jil Sander, and Acne Studios.
At the tail end of last month, Zobel again presented a new take on the brand at Paris Fashion Week in the form of her fall 2019 collection. This time, the designer staged her show inside the futuristic Espace Niemeyer landmark building (the former Parisian headquarters of the French Communist Party). “The collection itself features modular components that come together to form a liberating and modern wardrobe, typified by artist Vava Dudu’s playfully erotic drawings applied to tailored jackets and sporty, second-skin undergarments,” read the brand’s collection statement. Shearling jackets and wintery white separates in wool went down the runway, followed up by black, white, and blue structured coats, trousers, and dresses that had a very vintage sensibility. Punches of graphic black and white shapes, trimmings, and prints further added to the ‘60s aesthetic.
When asked why Zobel felt so drawn to design for the brand, she told Vogue, “I felt that it had a spirit of revolution, of being counter-bourgeoisie, of radical change, of innovation . . . things that I was like, okay, this house did things in the ’60s which are really relevant today.”
As a brand, Courrèges was indeed insanely popular in the 1960s. André Courrèges defined a brand during the era that became particularly well-known for its streamlined, futuristic silhouettes as well as a few keys pieces, such as miniskirts, vinyl jackets in white and vibrant hues and shiny go-go boots. He launched the line in 1961, after working under the legendary Cristobal Balenciaga for ten years. It was the deft architectural silhouettes of Balenciaga that informed much of his own work in his later years. These pieces, along with structured double-breasted coats, can be seen in the new form of Courrèges, under Zobel. Above all else, Courrèges himself was a supporter of women’s liberation—a topic that feels more relevant than ever before. He was one of the earliest designers to concoct the miniskirt silhouette (along with Mary Quant) as well as one of the few to consistently dress women in trousers.
On that note, one of the biggest inspirations for the fall 2019 collection was Courrèges’s sketches from the 1970s. These sketches “sought to blur gender, race, ethnicity, and age,” according to the brand. That comes as no surprise given the man himself once said, “A woman's body must be hard and free, not soft and harnessed. The harness—the girdle and bra—is the chain of the slave.”
While Courrèges may be taking the silhouettes, colors, and themes of yesterday and making them modern, what may be most appealing about the brand and why it’s fast becoming one to watch, is its contemporary approach to sustainability. At the spring 2019 show, Zobel’s first for the line, there was a total dedication to sustainability by putting emphasis on recycled invitations and sustainable textiles. Here, too, the manifesto was reflected in the form of the set. All materials used for the set were given a second life, upcycled by La Reserve des Arts, a Parisian association that recovers waste, scraps, and materials and redistributes them to people in creative industries. The future of this once iconic fashion brand is looking bright.