7 Decades of 20th-century Designs to Be Auctioned in Paris

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PRIVATE LABEL: On Oct. 1, a private collection of designer clothing and accessories spanning from the second half of the 20th century to the early 2000s will go under the hammer at Paris auction house Piasa.

The 235 lots have been curated from the collection of “Monsieur R,” a Paris-based couturier who spent 25 years amassing items that inspired him on his own creative journey, which has a leaning toward reuse and recycling.

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“He didn’t start a collection on purpose, he just bought whatever he felt drawn to — materials, shapes and ideas alike — for their own sake, not as an archive. That’s how he ended up with a range of 70 years of design,” said expert and curator Pénélope Blanckaert, who collaborated with the auction house on this sale.

The idea that design is circular in all respects permeated the selection. There were silhouettes inscribed in design history like a fuchsia dress from John Galliano’s 1995 fall collection, later worn in a Mario Testino photograph, or Comme des Garçons’ blue gingham “Bump” sheath from spring 1997; items exploring sustainable fabrications like a green Xuly Bët shift dress made of upcycled cotton T-shirts and going back to the early ’90s; even items that could be worn straight out of the auction house, like a lime-yellow coat from Courrèges spring 1967 haute couture collection, walking the edge between the era’s ladylike aesthetic and the designer’s futuristic leanings.

Hence the approachable price points of Blanckaert’s estimates. While a draped silk jersey dress from Madame Grès made around 1945 was estimated to go for between 1,500 euros and 2,500 euros, most of the pieces started in the low hundreds. A 2004 cotton jersey dress by Helmut Lang that wouldn’t have looked amiss in this year’s Met Gala lineup was tagged at 200 euros to 400 euros, and even a Chanel suit from the 1970s had a conservative estimate of 500 euros.

“I dislike the notion that such designs are elitist. What’s interesting is to build connections between the piece’s original time period and today, to show that some of these items can be worn today, even a dress from Martial et Armand,” a Parisian couture house that had its heyday in the 1910s, she said.

Accessories will also be featured, ranging from a tote bag from Azzedine Alaïa’s 1991 collaboration with Tati and a rope-bound Lady Dior handbag imagined by French artist Morgane Tschiember, to the surrealist designs of Japanese designer Tokio Kumagaï and a pair of bow-adorned pumps by American luxury footwear label Herbert Levine, as well-known for its outlandish designs as it was for making shoes for Jackie Kennedy or Marilyn Monroe.

Ahead of the sale, the “De Madame Grès à Helmut Lang Collection de Monsieur R.” selection will be on public display from Sept. 25 to 30 at the Piasa auction house, located 188 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris.

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