Creativity takes courage! A lesson to be taught by none other than the French.
I just got back from Paris and I remember looking at all the fashion and architecture being mesmerized by its beauty! Now that I’m home, I couldn’t help but look up how Paris became a world-renowned fashion influencer. Here’s what I learned, along with some examples of architecture and fashion that revolutionized the design industry.
Paris has acted as a “research lab” for hundreds of years by architects and fashion designers alike. Pioneering architects have come to Paris to experiment with their ideas. When looking around the city streets, you notice the presence of different eras coexisting in harmony: Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Neoclassical, Art Nouveau and Contemporary Architecture Styles. Names like Chanel, Dior, Saint Laurent, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton ring in the air. French designers who crafted the culture of haute couture. Paris has been a mecca for designers all over the world! It’s flourished as a city where creativity is encouraged to be expressed and chances are meant to be made. (I know, I totally just romanticized the city, but it’s Paris! Who doesn’t romanticize Pari?)
Architecturally speaking, France went through its time of controversy and protest over change. However, after each creative hurdle, France grew to lead design trends worldwide.
To be fair to past critiques, the Art Nouveau Castel Beranger is a LOT to take in. The design of the castle, by famous architect Guimard, was considered to be so radical it was later renamed Castle Derange (or the Deranged Castle, Ha!). The design ignited debate and resentment towards the Art Nouveau style (a style full of whimsical curves and asymmetrical details). Frankly, people were pissed! They saw it breaking all tradition. However, by defying conventional form and stepping away from the familiar, Guimard ignited a flame in architectural history and presented non-traditional forms to be further explored! Lesson being: give zero f*cks, let your creativity go wild, and just maybe you can create some change in an ever-traditional world.
Take the Eiffel Tower for instance. This one structure undertook so much controversy, protest, and criticism. People didn’t believe it was feasible. They expressed how this ugly steel structure would be a completely useless eyesore seen throughout all of Paris! Nonetheless, through all the criticism in 1889, Eiffel et Compagnie, a consulting and construction firm owned by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel was awarded the commission to build the Eiffel Tower as an Exposition Universelle to mark the 100-year anniversary of the French Revolution. Designed by Maurice Koechlin, this massive steel structure is now one of the most recognizable structures on the planet! A risk, yes, but the Eiffel tower still stands tall 100 years later, proud to be an act of creative bravery. Oh and did I mention, how Mr. Eiffel totally tried to change Koechlin’s design by adding tacky ornamental features just to make people stop being so critical. Thank God that didn’t happen. Am I right? Lesson being: if you have an idea that you are passionate about, don’t let the criticism of the crowd deter you.
The Fondation Louis Vuitton is a modern art museum and architectural marvel! Designed by Frank Gehry (I love him!), this building is the couture of architecture (if there is such a thing), expressed by billowing glass panels, and numerous terraces that offer spectacular views of Paris. Gehry says this about the building,
“To reflect a constantly changing world, we wanted to design a building that evolves depending on the time of day and the light, in order to create an impression of intangibility and continual transformation,”
Quite the appropriate and poetic concept for such a building. Now, if you find yourself visiting the Fondation Louis Vuitton, chances are you’ll risk spending the day getting lost discovering the architecture! I mean why wouldn’t you? Who really cares about the art inside? Only half kidding!Apparently the art is supposed to be as good as the building it sits in – believed to be combinations of works owned by LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton) and Bernard Arnault. Lesson: let your creativity be a reflection of something larger than yourself.
It’s been suggested, the French owe their chic fashion taste to King Louis XIV, whose reign began in 1643. His particularly lavish taste was evident in the expansion he commissioned for the extravagant Palace of Versailles as well as in the way he dressed (Talk about a hottie with all those frills and lace!). Thanks to King Louis, the textile trade was brought to France. Establishing France as the worldwide influencer of style! Still to this day, the highest quality fabric and materials are to be found in France.
Arguably the most famous fashion house, Coco Chanel changed the fashion industry by deconstructing the way women wore clothing. Chanel freed women from tight corsets and created a new design trend of loose free-flowing garments (A true act of heroism!). This style became a fashion trend in the 1920’s! Lesson: If you see people being constrained by societal norms, don’t stand by, do something about it!
After the Second World War, the fashion industry suffered. After years of rationing and textile shortages, Christian Dior established the “new look” of post-war fashion. Highlighting a woman’s elegant silhouette, a nipped waist and an a-line skirt falling to mid-calf, Dior’s garments required a great deal of fabric. In response to criticism for the use of fabric amidst shortages after the war, Dior declared, “Europe has had enough bombs, now it wants to see fireworks.” His influential optimism after the Second World War led his fashion house to be overcome with orders, reinstating Paris as the most fashionable city in the world. Lesson: Don’t let your situation define what you are capable of.
Arguably, the most significant impact on the fashion industry in the 1960’s and still today was by Yves Saint Laurent. Laurent was the firsts couture brand to produce a ready-to-wear collection. Making the elitist fashion industry accessible to others, such as myself! Today, all couture houses produce ready-to-wear lines. Thank you Saint Laurent! Lesson: Everything is a little bit better when it can be shared with others.
As you can see, French history is filled with courageous designers who chose to be creative! Their creativity changed tradition and molded Paris into what it is today, an official fashion capital worldwide. Now, fashion and design have become deep-rooted aspects in the French culture. After visiting Paris, I have such a deeper respect for the architects and fashion designers who changed the course of history in Paris through their risk-taking and creativity. A lesson we can all learn from, whether it be to follow your passion, go to the gym, or try your hand in brewing beer. If something creative is burning inside you, think of Pari and all the designers that went there to take a chance. Hopefully, their courage will inspire some creative bravery in you as well!