Paul Poiret, Ryan Richmond’s Masters of Design muse, was a hugely influential early-20th century Parisian designer. His looks are now icons of fashion history, so much so that a modern designer who looks to Poiret for inspiration must be careful not to inadvertently create a collection of period costumes.
Ryan has managed to create a collection that is modern, fun, wearable and, with a few carefully chosen elements, pays homage to Poiret without mimicking the master.
Poiret is credited with several design trends, but probably the most lasting is introducing the brassiere and moving style away from the corset—ironically he is also credited with creating the “hobble skirt,” which forced women to take itsy-bitsy steps. He is quoted saying: “I freed the bust, and I shackled the legs.”
Poiret is noted for lush fabrics, beading, bringing an oriental influence to European fashion, and for a theatrical and romantic aesthetic.
While Ryan’s looks are contemporary, there is a hint of the roaring ’20s reflected in a fringed tunic top that is part of one of his runway looks. He uses velvets, laces, and beading in a rich color palette—all of which provides a mix of textures that nod to Poiret’s era.
“I looked at how he combined materials into a successful design, rather than interpreting silhouettes,” said Ryan about how he was inspired by Poiret.
Ryan was interested in Poiret’s approach to construction, which was more based on draping then tailoring—a dramatic shift in Poiret’s time and from Ryan’s own approach.
Ryan likes patternmaking. He likes the puzzle of getting all the pieces to work together. Ryan purposely chose a designer who worked off the form, however, and used both approaches in his work.
“To get something to drape well, you need to start with a flat pattern,” Ryan noted.
Patternmaking can be viewed as a planning stage of the design process, and planning is definitely a strength of Ryan’s. Knowing he had to create rich, expensive looks on a strict budget, Ryan was meticulous in his planning to ensure that he bought only what he absolutely needed and that he did not waste precious yardage. One of his favorite fabric finds is an embroidered tulle that he ran across at Virginia Marti Fabrics in Cleveland.
But even with careful planning there are still surprises. As Ryan built his collection, he was playing with a look that strongly referenced a look that Poiret had done. He tested the piece with a denser (less expensive) fabric than was planned for the final construction. As he reviewed his test garment he was concerned about how the fabric was draping on the form (it had a bit of a diaper effect). Fortunately he took a chance and continued on. Once the piece was made with the lighter, final fabric, the look was completely different than the test run and more in line with Ryan’s original concept.
In the end he can be proud that he accomplished all of his design goals and stayed in budget. And, as his collection comes down the runway he can enjoy the show knowing he has already been asked to join the Abercrombie & Fitch team as a technical designer.
The CCAD Fashion Show is an annual fundraising event that showcases the talent of graduating Columbus College of Art & Design Fashion Design Seniors. This popular event sells out every year and this blog is a portal through which to view the behind-the-scenes goings on.