"Because I really didn't know what it would take to rebuild a legendary House from ground zero, I had no fear. It was a damned challenge, but my only goal was success. It wasn't possible for me to do anything less than succeed. Now it seems that my naivete, and my youth, where my assets!"
The news of his position was met with skepticism and even outrage by the old guard of the fashion cognoscenti. They viewed his hiring as nearly "sacreligious" and not really having seen his work yet, considered the selection was done for the sake of marketing at the expense of talent. To top that off, there had never been another designer at Grès other than the master herself.
Now, imagine if you will, how challenging it was for a young budding designer to prove his talent as the first successor to design under the mantle of Grès. To make it even more of a challenge he was assigned the responsibility of rebuilding the disbanded studio representing nearly 75 years of work... from scratch!
Madame et Monsieur
The Classicists - Designing Under The Influence | Book Preview
Lloyd Klein recalls those days of stepping in as the Head Designer for Grès, Paris, one of the couture worlds most revered fashion houses founded by Madame Alix Grès aka the 'Sphinx of Fashion'. History considers her to be one of the fashion industry's greatest Grand Couturiers. Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Cardin were her among her contemporaries that referred to her as the "designers" designer" for her insistence on forging her own style and for her longevity and dedication to the practice of couture.
To have been given such a tremendous professional opportunity at such a young age was practically unheard of in 1992, the year in which Lloyd Klein signed his three year contract. Marc Bohan at Christian Dior, Gerard Pipard at Nina Ricci, Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel and Eric Mortenson at Balmain who had already passed away a decade prior, were already well seasoned designers in their 40's and into their 60's when they became heads of design for those historic brands. However a growing trend of hiring younger and younger designers emerged in the late 1980's. Josephus Thimister for Balenciaga and Tom Van Lingen for Jacques Fath were among the first. However in 1992, Lloyd Klein at the age of 25, became the youngest designer on record to take on the position historically reserved for those twice his age.
At 25 years old, Lloyd Klein became the Creative Director for Grès-Paris and stepped into the shoes of one of the greatest Couturiers of French high fashion by becoming the first successor to Madame Grès after her retirement. The realm of couture is somewhat of an exclusive club. In the early 90's, Paris fashion was on fire. It was an extraordinary and glamorous time to be a fashion designer. Just recall the Altman film "pret-a-porter" and the background references which were very real to life (with a little drama for good theater of course) and you will get an idea of what life was like for a designer from the scene at that time. This book is combination of short stories based on real life occurrences as well as those that are more poetic and anecdotal that surround Lloyd Klein's early career in high fashion in Paris. Observation and musings from a designer's point of view. Frankly, the designer’s point of view is rarely sounded.
Master Class with the Master Classicists
Perhaps it was the endless energy of youth or his desire to succeed, but by working around the clock and by often sleeping on site to meet the deadline of showing the first collection, within a few months he had orchestrated and rebuilt the atelier for Grès. By building the blocks of the tailleur atelier (tailoring dept.) which was first on his to-do list he was able to begin and complete what most assumed was his only task... The Collection.
But the collection, especially one that needed to be the interpretation of one of the industries "iconic couturiers" required that he not only be on point, but he'd have to be spectacular in order to win over the naysayers who doubted that a designer so young could perform. He knew, the eyes of Paris were upon him and waiting for him to fail.
SUGGESTED LINKS SUGGESTED FOR YOU
For similar stories, like the one above about Madame Carven, follow the links on the right to learn how photographer Helmut Newton "discovered" Lloyd Klein at the Ritz in Paris on the page entitled Brand Milestones 1986-1997 - The First Tango in Paris.
Read further and discover how Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy had a hand in crafting Lloyd Klein's future and got him hooked on fashion. This article can be found on our blog, Fashion Eponyms.
More images and articles regarding Madame Grès are found on this site, don't miss them. Connect to "About" Madame Grès, a look at her iconic impact on fashion; and The Milestones that narrate her career achievements and the Book Preview for the Garment Sculptors which covers Lloyd Klein and Madame Grès or the House of Grès. (buttons for links are on the right).
In addition to the internal links please visit our Pinterest Board and our Tumblr Blog specific to Madame Grès and Lloyd Klein as Classicists. These last two buttons will open up new pages that are external to the Lloyd Klein Website. - Enjoy!
CLASSICISM: noun clas·si·cism \ˈkla-sə-ˌsi-zə\
:the ideas and styles that are common in the literature, art, and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome
:a traditional style of art, literature, music, architecture, etc., that is usually graceful and simple with parts that are organized in a pleasing way.
Miriam Webster Dictionary
Although they never physically met, Mme Grès and Lloyd Klein shared many personal traits and life experiences that are reflected in the threads woven through their personal and professional lives. The greatest among them are the influences that play muse to their artistic expression. Hers were reportedly the Goddesses and Heroines of Greco and Roman Mythology depicted through the priceless sculptures and statuary attributed to historic works from those eras. His is certainly his appreciation of, and fascination with: architecture and in particular the historic monumental buildings found throughout Europe mostly attributed to the Greeks and Romans. Both Madame and Monsieur developed early lifetime passions for their respective ambitions through exposure to those great works of art as a result of extensive childhood travels. They each yearned to make a significant mark in their hoped for respective vocations as sculptor and architect, and both unexpectedly discovered the art of fashion design as the avenue through which to express their creative affinity and love for the genre/category of design and art known as Classicism.
Side By Side | the Consequence of Influence
by John Arguelles
I've watched a large library of Lloyd Klein brand editorial images grow exponentially under my direction. It so happens that working with stylists and photographers is one of the favorite aspects of my day to day activities and as a result, I've become the keeper of photo archives (about 10,000) for the brand. Social Media has such an almost unquenchable thirst for more and more photos and videos. I've also fervently collected over 3,000 Grès images discovered from multiple sources online over the years as a fan and with no real agenda for end use other than to have a niche collection. So, about 3 years ago, I started organizing a collection of images that cross-referenced style and mood between the Klein and Grès photo collections with the intention of using existing collateral to re-introduce them as new assets for online marketing. I had already started a series of side by side images featuring runway x editorial x celebrity personal appearances to share on our online channels, so the idea of comparing vintage archival Grès images to Lloyd's seemed like a fun project. What I discovered was an uncanny mix that demonstrates a style of Classicism that is fascinating when shown in comparison. Most are obvious and some more subtle. Keep in mind, that not a single photographer was ever encouraged to reference previous images of Grès work which makes it more interesting to see how uncanny the same values are used so often i.e. hair, styling, model, mood and artistic handling of the subject matter. History repeating itself only gives evidence that Classicists are always eternally in style. As you glance at the photos take into consideration that the Grès images span from her career from 1932 - 1989 and the Klein images span from 1989 through today.