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Last Poiret heirlooms snapped up by museums and collectors

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AFP
Published
today Feb 14, 2008
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The grandchildren of ground-breaking French fashion designer Paul Poiret on Thursday auction off dozens of items from the 1910s and 1920s - Photo : Jean Ayissi/AFP
PARIS, Feb 14, 2008 (AFP) - Museums and collectors on Thursday February 12th snapped up dozens of designer items fashioned a century ago by ground-breaking French stylist Paul Poiret, the man credited with emancipating women from the corset.

The sale by Poiret's grand-children of clothes stacked in the attic for decades fetched a total 738,000 euros (1,079,000 dollars), according to auctioneers Beausant Lefevre.

In what experts believe will be the last major sale of Poiret effects by his descendants, more than 60 dresses, coats and jackets designed by the avant-garde couturier for his wife, Denise, went under the hammer along with shoes, hats and assorted belongings.

Museums from Japan, Latin America and the United States took part in bidding by phone and on the spot for the 120 lots, as did a Russian museum and collectors from Britain and France, the auctioneers said.

Poiret's revolutionary designs turned fashion on its head at the start of the century, though in the 1930s he was overshadowed by the likes of "Coco" Chanel and died in relative oblivion in 1944.

Hailed for simple practical dresses and for introducing straight lines such as Japanese kimono-influenced coats before 1915, Poiret roamed Europe and North Africa, giving oriental and other foreign flavours to his clothes.

The last sale of Poiret effects took place in Paris in 2005, bringing in 1.8 million euros for 600 lots, with a sports-coat notably fetching 131,648 euros at the time.

At Thursday's auction of clothes worn by his wife and muse, a 19-year-old country-girl when they married in 1905, the highest prices went for items carrying Poiret's iconic modern touch.

"When I dress Madame Poiret," he said in a 1913 interview with Vogue, "I do all I can to remove rather than to add and it is my conviction that every woman should seek this simplicity."

A long straight woollen coat spun with a North African-inspired motif fetched 97,224 euros while a very contemporary looking violet afternoon dress and tunic fetched 51,043 euros.

A pair of delicately embroidered shoes sold for 21,875 euros.

Already revered by the French fashionista set, Poiret's international reputation saw a boost last year when New York's MOMA museum devoted a major show to the man known for inventing the chemise dress and making bold colour mainstream.

The lots up for sale belonged to one of Poiret's five children, Colin, and were left to Colin's children when his wife died several months ago.

As children, Colin Poiret's family would sometimes remove the prized garments from the trunks and cupboards where they were stored to dress up for play or for special occasions.

"We can't keep them in proper storage," said one of the descendants Charlotte Mounier. "We want the rest of the world to see them."

"We wore these clothes, we were close to the whole Poiret legacy," added her sister Caroline Poiret. "But now it's time to pass on this heritage."

by Claire Rosemberg

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