Fashion world rushes to Poiret auction

10th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 10 (AFP) - Bidding was fast and furious Tuesday as museums and fashion fans battled here for a share of a rare collection by late avant-garde designer Paul Poiret which has lain hidden in the family attic for decades.

PARIS, May 10 (AFP) - Bidding was fast and furious Tuesday as museums and fashion fans battled here for a share of a rare collection by late avant-garde designer Paul Poiret which has lain hidden in the family attic for decades.  

The Drouot-Richelieu showrooms in Paris were packed to bursting as the once-in-a-lifetime auction of more than 600 pieces of clothing, furniture and interior furnishings, dating between 1905-1928, got underway.  

With rolls of wallpaper up for grabs first, bidding on the phones and on the floor climbed above the modest catalogue prices within seconds, with some items fetching up to 10 times the estimates set for the two-day sale.  

It is the first auction of its kind of designs by Poiret, who helped to liberate women from the confines of their corsets and brought swathes of bold colour and design to the pale, fussy world of early 20th century fashion.  

A 1911 delicate ivory linen embroidered garden party dress went for 16,000 euros (20,000 dollars), well above the catalogue price of 10,000 to 12,000 euros, while a pair of embroidered shoes fetched 14,000, compared to the 3,000 euros estimate.  

Most of the clothes were discovered lying in three large trunks in the attic of the designer's grand-daughter Sophie, who called in Paris auctioneers Piasa when she moved house and no longer had the space for the collection.  

"She thought the trunks were empty and she just had the furniture, but when we opened them they were full. And it was only when I then saw the labels I realised they were by Paul Poiret," auctioneer Pierre-Emmanuel Audap told AFP.  

Using museum documents and photographs, Audap took three years to piece together the history of the collection which Poiret's wife and muse, Denise, had conserved since their 1928 divorce and passed down through the generations.  

"He was a designer who dealt in fantasy. A precusor to modern fashion because he dared to be different from his contemporaries. His originality helped to advance modern fashion," said Paris designer Dominique Sirop.  

Sirop was hoping to buy several of Poiret's documents and sketches, as well as a stunning wall mural, admitting the designer's use of colour, line and design would be a good source of inspiration.  

But he feared the huge interest shown by museums such as the Philadelphia, Japan's Kyoto Museum, as well as many from South America and Canada would push prices up well beyond his reach.  

The most expensive piece on sale is a 1911 ivory cotton, velvet and silk coat with a pattern designed by the avant-garde painter Raoul Dufy and with a catalogue estimate of 15,000 to 20,000 euros.  

The total value of the collection has been put at between 800,000 to a million euros, but auction house spokeswoman Isabelle de Puysegur admitted prices could go much higher.  

"We really don't have any point of reference. The only sale of a Poiret dress we can find went for 60,000 francs," she told AFP.  

The first 100 items sold for about 200,000 euros, with the more expensive dresses and coats still to be auctioned on Wednesday.  

Several French museums on Tuesday were taking up options on items after the hammer fell on bids from the floor, a right accorded to them under French law to prevent French heritage from disappearing abroad.  

Curator at the Musee de la Mode, Pamela Golbin, said she was hoping to add to the Paris museum's collection of designs by Poiret (1879-1944), who despite his early success was to die in poverty and obscurity.  

"We can dream," she said.  

Many people though were just eager to glimpse a piece of fashion history.  

"It's a very beautiful collection," said Jane Whitefield, from England, who said she worked in the fashion industry. "I've only ever seen bits and pieces of Poiret before, nothing on such a huge scale.  

"I think what impresses me the most is the colours, textiles and the lightness of the designs, given the time when he was creating."  

"I love the freedom that he gave to the body," agreed Paris designer Adeline Andre. "And then there are things from him that I never imagined, such as the nightdresses."


Subject: French News

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