Designer took fashion to space age

Designer Andre Courreges was hailed as a visionary.
Designer Andre Courreges was hailed as a visionary.PHOTO: REUTERS

Andre Courreges created the Space Age collection in 1964 with angular mini dresses and trouser suits in stark black and white

NEW YORK • Andre Courreges, the French designer who brought the space age to the catwalk and into the closets of women such as Catherine Deneuve and Jacqueline Kennedy, died last Thursday at his home in Neuilly-sur-Seine outside Paris. He was 92.

Courreges, who stopped working in the 1990s, died after a 30-year battle with Parkinson's disease, the Maison de Courreges said in a statement. His funeral was to be held in his southern hometown of Pau today, the company said.

Last Friday, French President Francois Hollande wrote on Twitter: "A revolutionary designer, Andre Courreges made his mark on haute couture using geometric shapes and new materials."

Said Mr Carla Sozzani, proprietor of the influential Milanese boutique 10 Corso Como: "If the words 'modern' and 'future' exist in fashion, it is because of Courreges. It changed the concept of couture, marking the turn of fashion into a new era."

Courreges made his name in the early 1960s, at the dawn of the space age, and it quickly became synonymous with a certain style and attitude that gained momentum during that decade.

As old norms were rejected, elaborate draping and decoration were left behind in favour of a celebration of freedom in the form of flat go-go boots, truncated A-line dresses, a palette of astronaut- friendly white and silver with an occasional shot of lime and tangerine, and, above all, a miniskirt.

Courreges was interested in knees. He believed in trousers for women - the neater and more body-conscious the better - and worshipped the modernist architect and designer Le Corbusier. He disliked bras, corsets, high heels and anything that restricted movement. He once said: "A woman is never more beautiful than when she is naked."

He studied and worked as a civil engineer before switching to fashion and spending a decade working for designer Cristobal Balenciaga. He formed his own label in 1961.

His breakthrough came in 1964 with his Space Age collection. Patricia Peterson, writing in The New York Times, called him "the brightest blaze of the year".

Angular mini dresses and trouser suits in stark black-and-white colour schemes were combined with goggles and helmets taken from astronauts that became known as the Moon Girl look. His little white dress replaced the little black dress as the frock of choice.

His style - often with lots of metal - was a hit with artist Andy Warhol, who once said: "Courreges clothes are so beautiful, everyone should look the same, dressed in silver. Silver merges into everything, costumes should be worn during the day with lots of make-up."

Fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac hailed Courreges as a "visionary" who "came at a time of frills and furbelows and stripped it of non-essentials to take fashion to a new phase".

Courreges married his assistant Coqueline Barriere, who had also been a Balenciaga trainee, in 1967. They had a child, Marie.

By 1972, there were 125 Courreges boutiques worldwide and he had introduced its first fragrance. He was chosen to create the staff uniforms for the Munich Olympics.

His wife, who survives him, took over artistic direction of the company when he retired in 1994, moving into painting and sculpture in his later years. They sold their brand in 2011.

Last September, after a long hiatus, Courreges reappeared on the Paris Fashion Week Runway schedule under new creative directors, Sebastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline 'Designer took fashion to space age'. Print Edition | Subscribe