Elisabeth de Senneville - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

French fashion designer

Born: Paris, 16 October 1946. Education: Studied at Notre Dame des Oiseaux school in Paris. Family: Children: Loup, Zoé. Exhibitions: Elisabeth de Senneville, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 1986; Elisabeth de Senneville: une mode hors mode, Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, Roubaix, France; Elisabeth de Senneville, Musée de la Mode, Marseille, 1994. Collections: Musée Galliera, Paris; Musée de la Mode, Paris; Musée de Roubaix; Musée de la Mode de Marseille. Address: 3 rue de Turbego, Paris, France.




Elisabeth de Senneville: une mode hors mode [monograph], Paris 1994.


Lafee, Scott, "Geek Chic," in New Scientist, 24 February 2001.


I like to see myself as a designer of futurism and technology. Since 1979 I have been designing all my prints with computers and I have introduced futuristic fabrics into fashion, such as holographic material. I always try to think that my clothes can still be worn after the year 2000. I also like to design for children; I make very modern prints and shapes for them. My clothes have often been compared to Chinese clothes because they have simplicity.

—Elisabeth de Senneville


While Elisabeth de Senneville has been active in French fashion since the 1960s, she came to prominence in the late 1970s and 1980s with her collections of avant-garde contemporary sportswear, defining her design signature, a combination of functionalist and futuristic sensibilities. Her look and inspirations have remained consistent since she founded her own line in 1975. Rather than following trends, de Senneville has been primarily interested in new technological developments and constantly seeks to apply nonapparel industrial processes and materials to her clothes.

Her vivid, often neon or fluorescent colored prints are derived from computer generated images, using video technology and images from the mass media or art history that she appropriates and applies to her clothes. Unconventional and industrial materials she has used include plastic, Tyvek (an extremely strong, nonwoven fireproof material), canvas, knitted copper threads, rubber, and wool mattress padding. Among her most unusual innovations were the creation, in 1981, of plastic clothes imprinted with holograms. While many of her materials have been unusual, the shapes of de Senneville's clothes are often basic and functional, inspired by athletic wear, work clothes such as jumpsuits, or the quilted clothes of the masses of China. Her signature Chinese inspired outerwear jacket is hip-length quilted canvas that snaps up to a bright plastic collar.

The de Senneville customer is young, adventurous, and intelligent. In her stores in Paris, customers can shop for avant-garde books as well as clothes and can see and hear the work of young artists and musicians. The designer has not only had an affinity for contemporary art but has also actively participated in the intellectual discourses of current art practice by adopting theoretical techniques such as appropriation and reinterpretation and recycling of images. Her work is not meant, however, for an intellectual élite. She has consistently sought new means of exposing her clothes to a wider audience, through licensing agreements, mail-order, and worldwide distribution arrangements.

In 1994 and 1995, de Senneville celebrated 20 years designing her own collection with an exhibition at the Musée de la Mode de Marseille. The exhibition title, Une mode hors mode (A Fashion Outside Fashion), aptly expressed de Senneville's design point of view which, though always stylish and contemporary, was a distinct manifestation of her individualistic concerns with materials and processes.

While de Senneville had hoped her clothes would have relevance in the 21st century, she was right on target. In 2001 the futuristic designer met the future head on and created clothing with New Age accoutrements. As Scott Lafee of New Scientist (24 February 2001) remarked, "Clothing of the future will be smart, so smart it will organize your day." The de Senneville take on such a proposition was designing dresses with built-in microcapsules with a variety of substances from heat-sensitive dyes (that vary color with body temperature), sunscreen or fragrance. In addition, according to Lafee, "She even has dresses with stripes of moisture-sensitive pigments that change color according to the weather. They turn blue when the sun's out, grey on cloudy days, and pink when it's raining." While such creations may not be everyone's cup of tea, de Senneville most definitely represents the future of fashion designing.

—Alan E.Rosenberg;

updated by NellyRhodes

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