Sensing the wonders and possibilities that fashion had to offer, Madame Grès strived tirelessly to find "the perfect harmony between fabric and the human body". Guided by her precepts, "couture is a second skin" and "clothes bring out 100% of a person's charm", she produced one impeccable dress after another, using her own methods based on pleats, drapery and architectural forms. She ceaselessly honed these techniques for nearly 60 years, elevating them to an art form; a great number of her works have in fact found a place in museums around the world, prompting many, in turn,to fall under the spell of these timeless dresses.
Her dresses, which feature a multitude of finely layered pleats and flowing shapes, are reminiscent of Greek statues. Their simple and architectural forms made it look as if the wearer’s body itself had been sculpted.
With their modern and original cuts, Madame Grès’s timeless pieces have lost none of their universality over the years, earning the couturière both titles of “fashion’s pioneer of minimalism” and “heiress of traditional French elegance”.
Madame Grès designed clothes with freedom and whimsy, as if she was creating art. Her style, both universal and modern, has transcended generations and inspires and encourages many creators today. Olivier Saillard, curator of the 2011 Madame Grès retrospective exhibition in Paris, has the following to say about the great legacy she leaves behind and her influence on designers:
“I think that many creators were influenced by Madame Grès. even without realizing it. Her most legitimate heir is quite probably Azzedine Alaïa. Like Madame Grès, he is a “sculptor of bodies”who creates around the female form. Although he does not work with drapery, I believe that he is a “sculptor” much in the sense that Madame Grès was. Although this might not be on a conscious level, I also believe that Yohji Yamamoto’s use of drapery and asymmetry, and Haider Ackermann’s long flowing silhouettes are evocative of Madame Grès’ aesthetic”. On visiting the exhibition, designer Hiroshi Koshino said: “Not only have these designs not aged one bit, they also seem surprisingly novel to this day - even on a technical level, [Madame Grès] had perfect control over expert techniques that are difficult to reproduce even today. These pieces really strike me as timeless”.
For all their simplicity and minimalism, Madame Grès’ sculpture-like dresses hid complex techniques. Her creativity and timeless designs are still passed on to this day. They offer a suggestion of true elegance, something, which, much like the quest for quality and comfort, never goes out of style.