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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?