13 July 2022

TFJP x Comité Colbert, gold in French Couture

Having looked at gastronomy, TFJP and the Comité Colbert* now consider the use of gold in couture. Here are three fashion houses that treat this precious metal as a supreme value.

By Sandrine Merle.



Fashion designers have always been fond of gold, a yellow metal that radiates and catches the light like no other material. “Gold can be used in metallic details or in friezes made of embroidery, scrolls, acanthus leaves inspired by the eighteenth century, etc. which then become real jewels highlighting collar, cuffs, the waist,” explains fashion heritage consultant Julia Guillon. The metal can also be treated in fabric, lamé, or the brocade that became ultra- fashionable in the 1950s and 60s. But not many people know if the dresses were made of real gold: “Some descriptions speak of gold threads but also of diamonds and emeralds, when in fact the dresses contain no gems … They’d need to be be analyzed,” continues Julia Guillon. Gold can be used both for its showy qualities and for the refined and cultivated spirit of its radiance. It’s also imbued with historical and spiritual references. Symbolically, there is no richer color – it’s associated with immortality, kings and emperors, and Christ.


The gold of Balmain

The gold of the classical age, of palaces and churches, greatly influenced Pierre Balmain, who gave his creations names like “Versailles” or “Byzance”. They were intended for stars and princesses, like the pieces made for Queen Sirikit of Thailand or the piece for Edwige Feuillère, kept at the Museum of Decorative Arts (Paris). Of similar lineage, Olivier Rousteing does not skimp on gold, whether in embroidery, in braiding chains with leather, in draping tiny chains reminiscent of the threads of passementerie which, in the 1920s, gave movement to clothing. In his latest shows, the designer makes his mark with new treatments of gold inspired by the Fabergé egg given by Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor, as well as this precious color developed from a maxi-sized chain link worn as a top over the skin, and very recently by gold plates sewn on a white wool dress like a form of armor. Masterpieces.


The gold of Jeanne Lanvin

Gold featured throughout Jeanne Lanvin’s work, especially in the 1920s. Her refined and cultured gold evoked her medieval and religious inspirations. “It came from Italian Renaissance paintings such as those of Fra Angelico, surrounded by flamboyant frames,” explains Laure Harivel, director of heritage. Jeanne Lanvin excels in this work: christening and wedding dresses in pinkish gold or slightly green lamé, in tulle or silk are covered with pearls, crystals and embroidery, illuminated with gold threads. As precious as jewelry… “It’s their way of highlighting dark colors – and especially black,” adds Laure Harivel. Gold featured as decoration as in the frescoes of the golden woodwork of her salon and also graces her logo representing her with her daughter or her perfume bottle “Arpège”. In the 30’s, more focused on volumes and cuts than on decorations, Jeanne Lanvin only used this color in embroidered leather inserts to underline the structure of the garment.


The gold of Yves Saint Laurent

“I love gold, it’s a magical color; for the reflection of a woman, it is the color of the sun,” said Yves Saint Laurent, adding: “The evening must shine, otherwise it would be a bit ridiculous.” Passionate about art objects and silverware, and a collector of silver, vermeil and ivory objects, the couturier never ceased to explore the connections between the arts. Throughout his career, he worked with this precious color like no one else. From his first collection 60 years ago to the closure of his company in 2002, the variety of fabrics is infinite: brocade, tulle embroidered with sequins, lamé, leather, etc. The exhibition in the gilded Apollo Gallery in the Louvre bears glowing witness to this: the velvet embroidered of the “Miroir Brisé” jacket (1978) is just beautiful! Not to mention the organza embroidered with gold and rock crystal on the jacket “Hommage à ma maison” or the black gazar evoking the dress of dancers in Southeast Asia! This fascination with gold and light is also featured in the upcoming exhibition “Gold, les ors de Saint Laurent”. There you can discover about forty looks, including the 60s dress photographed by David Bailey for Vogue. A sublime piece, whose pride of place on the poster is well deserved.


* Comité Colbert is a 1901 law association that brings together more than 100 members representing French luxury. Its mission is to passionately promote, patiently transmit and sustainably develop French savoir-faire and creation in order to infuse a new sense of wonder.


Banner image : Yves Saint Laurent – Evening dress in gold sequins encrusted with multicolored jewels presented in “Gold, les ors d’Yves Saint Laurent” exhibition – Haute Couture collection AW 1966-1967 © David Bailey / Vogue Paris


Related articles:

Putting gold on the menu

Les robes Lalanne at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris 

Balmain SS22 fashion show: It’s all about links

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