From Yohji to Rick Owens, Rei to Karl, Paris has always played host to the best of the rest of the world.
"If Paris is an attraction pole to the fashion world, one should thank Charles Frederick Worth. After establishing in Paris in 1858, this Englishman invented the haute couture concept as well as the fashion show with live models," says Olivier Saillard, director of Palais Galliera and curator of Fashion Mix, a new exhibition held at Palais de la Porte Dorée. Built in 1931, in traditional Art Deco style, the building is the setting for the Museum of History and Immigration, and the perfect place for Monsieur Saillard and his team to highlight the contributions made by foreign designers to French fashion, including German Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, American Alber Elbaz for Lanvin, English Alexander McQueen for Givenchy as well as Italian Elsa Schiaparelli, Spanish Cristobal Balenciaga, Tunisian Azzedine Alaïa and American Rick Owens who all opened their own houses in the French capital.
Paris has always been welcoming to young talents and newcomers. Kenzo was the first Japanese designer to hit Paris, in 1968. He was followed by master of pleats, Issey Miyake and a few years later, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons experimented by hosting their fashion shows in Paris. Heavily criticised at first, it took some time for the press to begin supporting them. The Antwerp Six had more luck in Paris after almost being rejected in London where they tried to show their work first.
"One should not promote nationality but talent", confessed Saillard, admiring a 1999 Yohji Yamamoto coat. "I love this idea of a very Japanese designer paying tribute to Cristobal Balenciaga, a Spanish designer established in Paris. In the end, it is a beautiful coat, my favourite piece in here."
Fashion Mix opens on December 9th and runs until May 31st at Palais de la Porte Dorée. 75012. Paris.
Text Oscar Heliani
Photography Spassky Fisher