In the 1960s designer André Courrèges became a leader of the fashion world with his bold, futuristic, youth-oriented styles. His design innovations included “paper doll” coats, vinyl trim, hip-hugger pants, short boots, and the trademark use of white fabrics.
André Courrèges was born on March 9, 1923, in Pau, France. Although he wanted to be an artist, he began a career in engineering to please his father, a butler in a wealthy English home. In 1948 Courrèges left engineering to work in a small Parisian fashion house. Eight months later he became a presser for the designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. After eleven years with Balenciaga's firm, he advanced to the position of Balenciaga's first assistant.
In 1961 Courrèges opened his own design house. Although his first collections were strongly influenced by Balenciaga, by 1964 he was being hailed as one of the most original designers in Paris. His collection that year featured well-cut pants, clothes with smooth “trapeze,” or trapezoidal, lines, and short skirts, with white midcalf boots and large, dark glasses as accessories. The collection was dubbed the “Space Age look” because of the futuristic, geometric shapes of the clothes, which were made almost entirely in white.
Courrèges' simple designs were widely copied and distorted, which prompted him to take strict control of the manufacture of clothing that he designed. At the 1967 fashion shows he presented both high-fashion creations and ready-to-wear clothes for his boutique, Couture Future. Distribution of his ready-to-wear was controlled by selling only through licensed outlets.
Through the late 1960s Courrèges' designs remained dramatically simple, with complete lack of nostalgia. His models, moving to rock music, wore such innovations as hip-hugger pants with halter tops, transparent tops, sequined jumpsuits, and vinyl-trimmed suits and coats. Controversy arose over his extensive use of see-through fabrics and revealing cut-out designs.