French Couturier Philippe Venet Has Died at 91

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“GREAT CUTS OF VENET—FUR-LINED POPLIN, GAITERS TO THE KNEE…. Paris—Venet’s mal-weather suit of beige stretch-poplin, with knee-high poplin gaiters. A little rounded cape lined in red fox, with an arm-slash at one side; short wraparound skirt, side-buttoned; an earth-green jersey shirt, diagonally buttoned. Kislav gloves. Gaiters by Roger Vivier. — “Paris”

Photographed by Irving Penn, Vogue, September 15, 1965

“GREAT CUTS OF VENET—LONG CLEAN GREEN, BACK-CURVE OF BUTTONS. One of the distinctive cuts of Venet, in a clean pale colour, with a marvellous back—buttoned seams that curve from neck to hip, shaping a long curved evening dress of seafoam-green silk crêpe. At the high neck and long sleeves, edges of gold embroidery. — “Paris”

Photographed by Irving Penn, Vogue, September 15, 1965

Philippe Venet, the French designer and partner of the late Hubert de Givenchy has died in Paris. He was 91.

Philippe Venet, left, and Hubert de Givenchy, circa 1961.

Photo: Tony Vaccaro / Getty Images

Born in Lyon, at age 14 Venet apprenticed himself to a local dressmaker, Pierre Court, who was authorized to reproduce Balenciaga designs. In a 1985 interview the designer recalled orders for 17 copies of a single 1950 Balenciaga suit design.

“WHITE SATIN, BLAZES OF GREEN. Shiny, snowy, blazing a dinner suit of heavy white satin—nothing better than white at night—from Venet. Blazing at the throat: a chain-mail border of emerald brilliants—green is the jewel for white.” — “The Great Fashion Ideas that Tip Vogue’s Paris Choices”

Photographed by Irving Penn, Vogue, September 15, 1963

Venet moved to Paris in 1951 and was employed as a cutter at Schiaparelli. There he met Givenchy, who he followed when the aristocratic designer established his own maison two years later. Venet was a head cutter chez Givenchy until 1962, when he too went solo. A writer for the Newspaper Enterprise Association described the entrepreneurial Venet, then 32, as “handsome, a champion skier and Alpine climber with nothing of the prima donna about him.”

“VENET'S NINE-TENTHS COATS, BACK-FASTENED. Venet’s coats, wrapped to the back, nine-tenths length. The left, beige fleece, completely bias, back-wrapped like a surplice under a belt with a tortoiseshell buckle. Over a suit of brass-colored wool. Right, a bright yellow coat, perfectly symmetrical, blind-fastened straight across and straight down the back. Over a suit of wool and Orlon, patterned in blue and yellow. Shoes by Roger Vivier.” — “Paris: The News as We See It”

Photographed by Irving Penn, Vogue, September 1, 1966

Though a witness to couture’s 1950s heyday, Venet preferred the minimal to the lavish, and Vogue praised “the clean-sweep lines” of his work. A recent Instagram post by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs suggests that Venet’s aesthetic was quite personal: “Less famous than Givenchy, small size, discreet, but with presence, Philippe Venet was just like his couture and ready-to-wear creations.”

“CATHERINE DENEUVE. Tailored by day, romantic by night…. The small, tailored, back-belted coat, bright red wool stocked with silk. By Venet. Guibert gloves. Maxandre socks.” — “Paris Prêt-à-Porter”

Photographed by David Bailey, Vogue, March 1, 1968

Venet was of the rigorous school of Cristóbal Balenciaga (as opposed to the more decorative one of Christian Dior), and was familiar with the couturier's work through his first job, and from working with Givenchy, who was the Spaniard’s couturier’s chosen mentee. As a result his connection to Balenciaga might best be described as once-removed. Venet’s youthful, geometric cuts in fact hewed close to that of his contemporary, the space age designer and Balenciaga alum, André Courrèges.

Model Kathy Rowe in a Philippe Venet design for Clarewood of London.

Photo: Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

“PARIS: THE THEME IS FEMININITY…. VENET: Voyant evening pyjamas—brilliant splashes of giant pink and green flowers on silk gazar—a long asymmetric coat over narrow pants of shock-pink shantung.” — “Paris: This Sets the Whole Tempo...”

Photographed by Bert Stern, Vogue, March 15, 1969

Venet, who dressed the social set and “all the Kennedy ladies,” as one reporter put it, infused conservative clothes with a youthful spirit. “Calm but gay [happy],” was fashion expert Eleanor Lambert’s description of a particular collection. That also sums up the overall Venet vibe. The designer was open to the new, effectively using plastic, then a novel material, for embellishments.

“COATS: COLOR SHINES WITH DIMENSION FOR NIGHT. The stained-glass coat, Venet’s sleeveless, sweeping evening fantasy in thick white cotton satin, appliquéd with huge gleaming plastic geometries (these and the plastic earrings, by Paco Rabanne).” — “Fashion Forecast: Coats”

Photographed by Irving Penn, Vogue, July 1966

The designer’s long-lived brand expanded to include pret-a-porter and menswear. He is best remembered for his early couture designs which emerged at a time when fashion was in a period of transition, led by a new guard that included this now lionized tailor from Lyon.

Designs by Philippe Venet on exhibit at Chateau d’Haroue, 2010.

Photo: Luc Castel / GettyImages
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