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The Erté Touch | 1920s Art Deco – Today

Is it just us, or are the 1920s slowly making their way back into today’s fashion mainstream? First, there was Viktor & Rolf’s Fall 2012-Winter 2013 collection that brought out enough Déco references for a mega photo-shoot at Rockefeller Center (itself a jewel of American Art Déco architecture); then came Jean Paul Gaultier’s haute couture Fall 2012-Winter 2013 collection this past July.

Harper's Bazaar cover by Erte

Harper’s Bazaar cover by Erté

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Harper’s Bazaar cover by Erté

At first we really thought Fritz Lang’s 1927 futuristic masterpiece Metropolis was behind the trend…. And it is! But, the more we look at this emerging Jazz Age influence, the more we are reminded of Erté.

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Metropolis is a 1927 German expressionist science-fiction film directed by Fritz Lang

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Jean Paul Gaultier – haute couture Fall/Winter 2012-13

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Erté

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Viktor & Rolf – Fall 2012-Winter 2013

Erté was, and still is, a fashion pioneer. He was hired in the mid-1910s to illustrate the covers of Harper’s Bazaar and was handed a well-funded creative carte blanche at that. He did whatever he thought right, and we are, to this day, very thankful for that lucky break. His illustrations are magical, though highly escapist and perhaps unrealistic. They could be described as romantic fashion fairytales.

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

1915, Erté behind doing Harper’s Bazaar covers

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Jean Paul Gaultier – haute couture Fall/Winter 2012-13

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Harper’s Bazaar cover by Erté

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Viktor & Rolf – Fall 2012-Winter 2013

Erté (né Romain de Tirtoff, 1892–1990) was an effete Russian aristocrat – a White Russian – who escaped the Russian Revolution and made his nest in Paris, where he lived for the rest of his life. His creativity was not just relegated to magazine covers, he was also highly sought-after to help with costumes and sets for films and music-hall revues, not only in France but also in Hollywood. The 1920’s were his heyday, his “no holds barred” era, and these platforms gave his creative voice a wide audience.

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Jean Paul Gaultier – haute couture Fall/Winter 2012-13

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Erte’s “improvised cage” was on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in July 1922. Later that year, the design turned up as a costume for the “Greenwich Village Follies”

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Viktor & Rolf – Fall 2012 – Winter 2013

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Viktor & Rolf – Fall 2012 – Winter 2013

The 1920s were rather decadent when it came to luxe – cinema was its calling card and the Charleston and jazz its hymn. The fur industry was starting to perfect fox and mink ranching; hence, it was developing natural mutation colors such as silver fox, which were used in volumes. The quintessential fur trim coat or the cocoon/wrap coat (known in France as manteau Portefeuille, literally wallet coat) were as much part of the era as was the Art Deco movement itself. And Erté reflected this beautifully.

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Jean Paul Gaultier – haute couture Fall/Winter 2012-13

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Types of coats favored in the 1920s (from over the top Hollywood to the couture salon)

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Jean Paul Gaultier – haute couture Fall/Winter 2012-13

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Actress Pola Negri wrapped in a white fur coat – Image by © John Springer Collection/CORBIS

Erte Romain de Tirtoff 1920s Art Deco Today

Jean Paul Gaultier – haute couture Fall/Winter 2012-13

Through Erté’s drawings, and photographic images of his work, it’s easy to see the influence he has had on MSSRS Viktor & Rolf and Jean Paul Gaultier. Don’t you agree?

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