Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Madame Bruyere: 1930s French Couture in the U.S.

30s couture dress by Bruyere, Paris France
1930's Dress from Bruyere Couture of Paris

This 1930's dress was designed by a French woman who had formed her own couture house in about 1929.  Madame Bruyer (1881 – 1961) was raised in rural France, moving into Paris when she grew older.  As a young woman she worked for several known couture houses, Lanvin being the most famous. 

Although her business was young in 1932, she had a large enough following to be mentioned in an article in "Fortune" magazine that year.  At that time, the top couture designers were Vionnet, Lanvin, Chanel, Patou, Augustabernard, Mainboucher and Schiaparelli.  Bruyer was followed by the American crowd, becoming well known in New York, as official "adaptions" such as this dress were sold at the best stores on Fifth Avenue.

Her first salon was on Rue De Mondovi, as her label lists. An informal survey made in New York stores in the fall of 1931 showed that while Vionnet and Lanvin were the most popular labels for these "adaptions", the Bruyere label placed third.  This was more popular than Mainbocher, Schiaparelli or Chanel.  It was clear that Americans had their own look and preferred styles that differed from the well publicized top design houses.

30s Bruyere couture from Paris, France

These copies were gained by American store buyers in a complex process involving not only the couturier, but also an assistant called an commissionaire who steered the buyer though the purchase process.  Buying agencies were just beginning to be formed where the commissionaire's commission could be avoided.  The average price those department store buyers paid during the 1920's was often $500 cash for a dress design.  Then buyers would bring their couture design back to the U.S. and have it reproduced here for retail sale. Those design purchases were the couture designer's main profit for that design, as they did not earn percentages for sales in the overseas market.  Parisian salon customers and long time celebrity customers would pay much less than that for their designs, and seldom in cash in a Paris salon.

At one time Madame Bruyere stated that it took two months to create a collection.  She presented two shows annually.  Each garment in the nearly 200 garment group was given a name.   Later with her success, she would open a salon in 1937 at 22 place Vendome.  

couture dress from the 30s

In 1947, after the war ended, she participated in a U.S. gift presentation by the French called the Gratitude Train.  She was part of a project where fashion dolls were dressed in outfits from specific eras.  Her's was an 19th century style design.  At that time her employees numbered 328.  

In 1951, Madame Bruyere was contracted with an American dress company: Baron-Peters.  She would design outfits for this company that appealed to the U.S. customer, yet retained her design style, known for its simplicity.  This was her first pre-a-porter experience.  The retail prices ranged from $50 for a dress to $90 for a suit.  She achieved the price reduction by removing costly handwork and details usually found in couture.  In 1958 she was known for her "flowing lines and lady like clothes".  Her clients being well know celebrities and social matrons.  

30s couture dress, by Bruyere, back view shown

As for this dress, the silhouette is very like those worn in the early 1930's.  The brown crepe back satin and net embroidered in chinelle textiles have colors that seem to be like those in her collection for November 1932: inspired by a mountain scene, with maple brown, mist gray and cedar green.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Let's Talk About: Product Design for Your Target Customer

Do you want your clothes to sell?  Designing fashion, accessories or other products to sell requires several steps in the design process if it is going to sell. Meeting and topping the competition is difficult. But with a good foundation of research in the development stage, a salable item can be produced that should sell to the desired consumer.

Who are You selling to?  The Target Customer

Know your target customer's likes and dislikes.  It is important to anticipate their needs and wants so that your brand is what they are looking for.

Needs: Is this product what they need to have?
What unmet need is out there waiting for someone to create the perfect solution to that problem?

While we tend to think of a need as something rather basic, like underwear, socks and winter coats for warmth, it can also be a fashion item. An obvious example is a white shirt to wear with a classic suit. Many professionals need to wear a specific look as part of their job. Are you going to meet this type of need with your design?  Are you going to create a better fit for a specific body type or use a fabric that will be easy to care for?

Wants: Is this product what they want to wear?
Have your found an unmet want that has few products to fill that gap?

This is where fashion at large comes into play. Styles, colors, textures, trims and all of the other elements in a design present a look that the target customer just can’t live without. This is what they want, and they will seek it out to buy it. What is your brand doing to provide a product that provides an answer to this want?

Do you know your Target Customer?
All of this takes knowing your target customer well enough to anticipate what they will be shopping for next. Because the design process is one of trial and error, along with technical development to produce this item, there is a time sequence before the product hits the market. This means that it is important to not only know what is selling at this moment, but what will be selling in 6 months or more into the future.

Forecasting: Can you guess what your product will look like a year from now?
Do you know what direction your customer will be going in at that time?

Becoming competent in this is essential for success. Relying on current product trends to suggest your designs may land your product in the ‘out of style’ category in the not too distant future. Use those trends to launch your designs forward: new fabric, new colors, new trims and silhouettes are needed for the next group of designs so that your brand continues to seem on topic with your customer.


Make your own Resource collection: Use information in this chapter to create a resource for yourself as reference and inspiration. Start a Pinterest board with important photos.  Develop a sense of the needs and wants for your target customer. Use photos, sketches and/or descriptions of existing products to illustrate what your designs need or customer wants.

Do you know what your customer needs?

Find or sketch images that show what your customer needs your product to be like. This may also include technical details such as closures, seam type, fabric fiber content etc. It may help to label a photo with these elements.

Example: One example might be a blouse for a large size career woman. She may need: a princess seamline for better fit, horizontal buttonholes that don’t pop open, stretch fabric with some lycra in the fiber content, longer length to the body, more room in the upper arm of the sleeves, and wider cuffs.

Do you know what your customer wants?

More photos and sketches should show what you think your customer will love in the future. Brainstorm a list of key words to describe this, such as: adorable, sexy, dramatic, playful. This list may be a work in progress as new terms pop into your head as you start to focus on this project.

Find or sketch visual items to support that theme. Fabric and trim swatches, color chips, ‘people on the street’ photos, vintage magazine ads, media personalities and other visuals will help to illustrate what you think your target customer will want next.

Do you know what color, texture, textile and silhouettes are on the horizon?

At this point you will need to check the professional trend reports to see what is predicted for the future in your niche. You’ll want to collect them all into your Pinterest board, sketchbook or notebook for reference.

Once you feel you have gathered up enough visual information from the predicted trends, select the best look for your customer. This will be your guide. Don’t depart from the colors and other elements. Try to make this look the foundation for your future designs. That way you know your customer will find the colors and styles she is thinking about and looking for.

What images, colors and textures mean most in this project.
Create a digital mood board page, collage or wall bulletin board to collect and show all of the visuals that remind you of the direction you want to take your designs into for the future.

Making a habit of following fashion with an eye toward what your Target customer will buy helps to insure your product design will sell.

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Let's Talk About: Fashion is a series of chapters on the process of Fashion Design.
This is Chapter 13.  If you are interested in tutoring yourself to design fashion, this series is written just for you.


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