Born: Lorraine, France in 1946. Career: Freelance designer for Prisunic, Jimper, Dorothée Bis, Paraphernalia, Mic Mac, Byblos, and others, prior to establishing own house, 1970s-84, and 1986-89; designer, Chloé, 1984-86; designer, Tiktiner, 1990. Died: June 1990, in Paris.
"Designer Guy Paulin Dies in Paris at Age 44," in WWD, 15 June 1990.
"Guy Paulin, Fashion Designer," [obituary], in Chicago Tribune, 17 June 1990.
Guy Paulin began his career as a freelance designer of women's ready-to-wear in Paris. Though he had no formal training he was hired as a design assistant to Jacqueline Jacobson at Dorothée Bis, where he first worked with knits. He then signed a contract with Paraphernalia, a chain of franchised stores in New York, where he rubbed shoulders with other young designers of the time, including Mary Quant, Betsey Johnson, Emmanuelle Khanh, and Lison Bonfils.
A shy, quick-witted conversationalist and lover of 1950s American Abstract Expressionist paintings, Paulin believed fashion to be part of life, an essential component of the French l'art de vivre. He claimed to be most inspired by Katherine Hepburn—a mature, free-spirited soul who eschewed fashion trends and projected her own sense of personal style, and his clothing designs were often acclaimed for their gentle and unpretentious lines, reminiscent of classic American sportswear.
On returning to Paris after his New York sojourn, Paulin received an enthusiastic press response for the simple, feminine clothes he designed for various clients. He worked for the next two decades in France and Italy, designing for Bercher, Biga, P. Blume, Byblos, Sport Max for Max Mara, Mic-Mac, PEP, and Rodier. Before establishing his own business, he was known to juggle as many as thirteen different ready-to-wear collections, designed anonymously, in a single season. His designs were marked by simplicity of line, softness of color, and ease of movement—from loose sportswear separates to classic suits and cocktail dresses.
In 1984 Paulin succeeded Karl Lagerfeld as director of design at Chloé, claiming this appointment was "a dream." At Chloé he adapted his unerring fashion sense into a look he called "as French as French cuisine—an image of a young couture, of ready-to-wear with the finesse of couture but with a very young spirit behind it." But his casual, relaxed, and individualistic styles were not completely welcomed by Chloé's tradition-minded customers, and he resigned after overseeing only a few collections.
The disappointment he experienced at Chloé did not deter Paulin— between 1985 and 1990 he created S.A. Guy Paulin design studio, the principal clients being Byblos and Mic-Mac; took back the direction of his own house and signed two licensing contracts with the groups Kanematsu Gosho and Yoshida, establishing himself in Japan; and signed on as part-time artistic director of Tiktiner, a French ready to-wear manufacturer. During this period he designed a range of classic garments, including clingy knit dresses, feminine pinstriped suits, pretty floral 18th-century-inspired dresses, and simple one-and two-piece swimsuits. His clothes never strove for shock value, but remained reserved and feminine, with only the occasional theatrical accessory for emphasis, such as a "waistcoat" of multicolored cords draped across the breasts, or an oversized fringed straw hat.
Though not strictly an avant garde designer, Paulin considered himself one of a creative generation of createurs including Thierry Mugler, Claude Montana, and the younger Jean-Paul Gaultier. Towards the end of his career he was investigating retro looks, such as 1940s-inspired tweed suits and neo-Baroque velvet gowns strewn with embroidery. His death in 1990 at the young age of 44 prompted waves of regret among his peers at the loss of such a talented, industrious, and benevolent designer and colleague.