Many famous French fashion houses have been revived in recent decades, but none carries a greater legacy than that of Madeleine Vionnet, who is generally regarded as the fashion designers' fashion designer. Her masterful use of bias cutting (and her equally inspired rejection of the corset) created a new modern silhouette, whose form-fitting fluidity would change fashion forever. No pressure, then, on Vionnet’s new creative director, Rodolfo Paglialunga, to guide the label into its next century.
But when actresses Carey Mulligan and Hilary Swank hit the red carpet on the same night in Paglialunga’s gorgeous sculptural draping, Vionnet was once again the label the fashion world was buzzing about. Grazia talked to the designer himself about stepping out from behind Vionnet’s shadow.
1. Karl Lagerfeld once said, 'Everybody, whether he likes it or not, is under the influence of Vionnet.' Were you influenced by Vionnet before you were appointed as chief designer at the house and, if so, how?
I totally agree with what KL said. I was certainly influenced by Vionnet before, by how she manipulated fabrics and how she could create a relation between the woman and her dress.
2. You worked for Miuccia Prada for 13 years. What did you learn from her that you couldn’t have learned from anyone else?
I was fascinated in many ways. She is able to transform garments in a 'statement': she puts together a skirt and a jumper and makes them become fashion.
3. In what ways is the legacy of such a legendary designer as Madeleine Vionnet an advantage? And a disadvantage?
The advantage is to work for one of the most fascinating names, and the disadvantage is the natural comparison people can make.
4. How have you managed to respect the original Vionnet aesthetic in your designs?
Trying to understand the essence of her work, even if this is extremely difficult for a person like her who has done so much work on the fabrics and the body and the relation between the two.
5. What is your favourite moment in Vionnet’s history?
After researching Madame Vionnet’s work I was deeply impressed by her '20s period because it was more rigorous but feminine and light at the same time.
6. Which piece or pieces have you found in the archives that have been particularly inspiring?
One of my favourite pieces is the black tunic dress. It has three horizontal sections of fabric sewn on the sides. The extra material is left and it creates an interesting draping when it falls. The dress moves around the body following its movements.
7. You are continuing with the idea of Vionnet’s signature draped aesthetic, created from two squares of fabric that can be worn in different ways. Why do you think this style would appeal to modern women?
The style would appeal to modern woman because it is changeable, versatile and can be worn with accessories, belts and brooches to be personalised.
8. Your designs recently appeared on the red carpet, worn by actresses Hilary Swank and Carey Mulligan. What kind of a woman is drawn to your designs?
I love when actresses like HS and CM wear my creations. My garments are for contemporary women who love to play with dresses.