Madeleine Vionnet 1876 - 1975 PDF Print E-mail

Madeleine Vionnet 1876 - 1975


1876 Birth of Madeleine Vionnet in small village of the Loiret. Her father is a gendarme and her mother is a
garment worker.
1879 – Separation of her parents. She is 3 and a half.
1881 Moves to her father’s house in the north Paris suburbs (Aubervilliers) where he works now as customs officer.
1886 – Madeleine who is an excellent student obtains her “certificat d’études” at the age of 11.
1887 – Leaves school to be apprenticed to a dressmaker, Mme Bourgeuil.
1890 Parents’ divorce is pronounced. At this date her mother keeps the cash register at Paillard, a smart Paris restaurant.
1892-93 – Madeleine leaves Mme Bourgueil to work at 16 in the couture house of Vincent & Cie on
rue de la Paix.
1894 – Marries a policeman, Emile Dépoutot. Gives birth to a daughter, Jeanne Yvonne.
1895 – Leaves for England to learn English. Works in Holloway sanitarium outside of London. Her daughter is
killed in an accidental fall while staying with her uncle in the country.
1896 – Madeleine decides to return to England to work. Works in Kate Reily’s couture house on Dover St.
1897 – Divorces he husband Dépoutot.
1901 – Returns to Paris. Is employed as première in the famous house of the Gerber sisters at 400 francs a month supervising 20 seamstresses manufacturing skirts (“jupières”) and corsets (“corsagières”).
1906 – Leaves Mme Gerber after 5 years to work for the new couturier Jacques Doucet who gives her the opportunity to create her own models. One of her first innovations is to get rid of the undergarment with long sleeves and high neck used by the mannequins to model evening dresses for clients under the pretext that it is immoral to show bare skin in daylight. This causes great hostility with the personnel. Vionnet uses famous actresses to model her creations instead: Cécile Sorel, Réjane, Liane de Poujy.
1911 – Encouraged by the actress Geneviève Lantelme she opens her own fashion house on rue de Rivoli with Mme Léonie saleswoman from Doucet.
1914 – Closes her house for the duration of WWI.
1918 – Reopens for business. Marcelle Chaumont becomes close collaborator and première of the workshop. Marie Louise Favot is hired to design models and Albert Michonet works as embroiderer.
1919 Founds her company “Madeleine Vionnet & Cie” in partnership with Mme Lilaz granddaughter of the founder of the BHV department store and an industrialist, Emile Akar. Her logo, which will be used until the closing of the house in 1939, is designed by the Florentine artist Thayaht.
1920 – Vionnet is very vocal in the battle against illicit copies of her creations, though she is helpless against American copiers.
1921She authorizes the Eva Boëx couture shop on rue Castiglione to manufacture up to 3 copies of her models. Wins two court cases against unauthorized copiers which institute a new jurisprudence protecting couture creations.
1922 All dresses made at Vionnet’s and Eva Boëx’s houses now carry an autograph signature, a special number and Madeleine’s fingerprint stamped from a stencil created by Thayaht in Florence. Thayaht collaborates with Vionnet on the creation of a universal and multifunctional dress baptized Tuta”. They also design a special “aviation dress” with flaring skirt that enables easy climbs into airplanes! In collaboration with the owner of the Galeries Lafayette department store, Alphonse Khan, Vionnet buys and renovates an hôtel particulier on avenue Montaigne installing a new couture workshop in the back courtyard. The Vionnet house boasts 300 employees. Vionnet offers them a crèche, a cantine and medical and dental care, none of which are yet stipulated by French social law.
1923 – The new salons are inaugurated with the launching of the summer collection. Madeleine marries Dimitri Netchvolodoff, a handsome White Russian, a former marine officer who is 18 years younger. She sets him up as bootmaker on rue Trouyon. Buys a plot on the Mediterranean coast in Sanary where she will build her summer home, the “maison blanche” designed by Thayaht and decorated by Boris Lacroix with furniture by Pierre Chareau, Francis Jourdain and René Herbst.
1924 – The MV monogram appears for the first time in this year’s collections. Visits New York where an American company is launched with salons on 5th Avenue. She presents her creations in the new trade fair in Milan and in the first French couture show in New York. Thayath’s contract is not renewed. He is replaced by Boris Lacroix. Another of her designers, Yo, leaves to found a house with her husband Alfred Lesage. She is replaced by Muguette Buhler from Paul Poiret. 
1925 – Opens branch of her house in Biarritz in Bellevue casino. Exhibits her models in famous Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs (“art deco”) fair on the Champs Elysées.
1926 – Vionnet declares 1200 employees.
1927 – Buys country house in Bière valley south of Paris.
1929 – Co-founder of PAIS (Association de protection des industries artistiques saisonnières) with the other great Paris fashion houses (including Callot, Lanvin, Lelong, Molyneux, Worth) to more effectively protect copyright on couture creations. Decorated with legion of honor.
1930 – Hires Sonia, her most famous model (until 1939).
1931 – Vionnet dresses Cécile Sorel in Sapho for the Comédie Française and Marion Davies for the film “The Bachelor Father”.
1932 – Closes her New York branch as a result of the Depression.
1933 Madeleine at 57 is weak, thin and exhausted.
1935 – Inauguration of the ocean liner Normandie. On inaugural trip to New York mannequins model dresses by the great Paris fashion houses, including Vionnet’s on the liner and on arrival at the Waldorf hotel.
1938 – Boris Lacroix resigns. 
1939 – Vionnet decides to close her fashion house. Named officer of legion of honor. In August she presents her last winter collection. Many of her former employees found their own couture establishments in the early 1940’s.
1943 Madeleine divorces Netchvolodoff.
1945 – Final liquidation of her fashion house assets.
1948 – Sale of Maison Blanche in Sanary.
1951 – An homage to Vionnet, titled “Holywood 1925”, is organized by the couturier Jacques Fath who displays her creations using his own mannequins at the château de Corbeil.
1952 – Vionnet donates her archives, patterns and library to the French garment union.
1971 – Receives golden medal of city of Paris on her 95th birthday.
1975 – Vionnet dies at home.
1985 – Sale at Drouot of her furniture and objets d’art.
1990 – Demolition of her old hotel particulier on the avenue Montaigne.
1994 – Madeleine Vionnet exhibition at the fabric museum in Lyon.
2009 First major retrospective of her dresses at the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris.


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