RODIER - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia



French fashion house

Founded: by Eugene Rodier, 1848. Company History: Entered ready-to-wear knit wear, 1956; U.S. subsidiary, Rodier USA set up and stores opened, from 1983; acquired by Paris-based Group Vev; began selling to department stores, 1995; hired designer Christophe Lebourg, 1996; new flagship store in New York, 1996; signed licensing deals with Pierre Lannier (watches), Royer SA (shoes), Renown Group (in-store boutiques in Japan), 1997; set up wholesale operations in U.S., 1998; signed licensing agreement with Bella Donna Group, 2001. Company Address: 44, Avenue Georges Pompidou, 92300 Levallois-Perret, France. Company Website: www.rodier.tm.fr .

Publications

On RODIER:

Articles

"French Clothier Picks Chief for Its Assault on the U.S.," in the New York Times, 28 March 1988.

Edelson, Sharon, "Rodier Spices Up Lines with New Looks, and Plans for More Stores," in WWD, 22 November 1994.

——, "Rodier to Open Up its Distribution," in WWD, 8 December 1995.

——, "Rodier: One More Time in U.S.," in WWD, 14 November 1996.

"Rodier Licenses Shops in Japan, Line of Watches," in WWD, 19 June 1997.

Socha, Miles, "Rodier's Modified American Plan," in WWD, 2 September 1998.

"Ready-to-Wear Rodier Grants License to Egyptian-Lebanese Bella Donna Group," in the European Report, 10 January 2001.

***

Long known for fine knits and woolen clothes, the House of Rodier continues a tradition which began when Eugene Rodier was commended by the Comte de Montaliner, Minister of the Interior under Napoleon. Rodier's distinction was won by reinterpreting the shawls of Kashmir for the contemporary woman of the 1800s at home and abroad, making his contribution to French commerce as well as to the nascent fashion industry.

Eugene Rodier formally established the house in 1848. Under his direction, and later under the direction of his son Paul and grandson Jacques, the firm continued to produce inventive and experimental textiles, informed by a study of past traditions. A collection introduced in the early 1920s was inspired by the decorative arts of French colonial territories shown at the 1922 Exposition Nationale Coloniale de Marseilles. Rodier adapted and edited motifs from French Indo-China (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) and from French Equatorial Africa (Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco). These were woven into a series of soft, winter-white cloths of wool and cashmere in such a way that when the dress was made up, the motifs formed a border or band of trimming.

In the early part of the 20th century the Rodier mills developed such new fabrics as senellic, an early experiment in spun rayon, and the copyrighted Kasha, which remained a staple in their line. Perhaps the best known fabric developed by Rodier is the knitted jersey which Coco Chanel rescued from its warehouse oblivion in 1916. The combined visions of Jacques Rodier and Coco Chanel transformed a humble fabric, intended primarily for men's underwear, into a textile inextricably linked with 20th-century style.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Rodier was also associated with such couturiers as Jean Patou, for whom the firm produced new textures and distinctive colors of unusual depth and subtlety. According to his biographer Meredith Etherington Smith, Patou's expansion in the mid-1920s was partially financed by the Rodier family. It was also during the mid-1920s that the house expanded its range to include fabrics for interiors designed by such luminaries as Pablo Picasso.

For Rodier, the first function of the mill was to act as a laboratory for the production of new yarns, new textures, and above all inventive designs reflecting the spirit of their age. Paul Rodier and his family were not only master weavers, but artists and editors. As such, they naturally studied the arts of the past and kept current with contemporary movements in painting, ballet, and anything else which might provide inspiration for their hand-operated looms. Rodier entered the ready-to-wear field in 1956 with a collection of fine knitwear.

Rodier rarely changed its design sensibilities, other than expanding into different areas, such as coats and accessories. Collections in the 1990s centered around color-related separates for women in distinctive patterns, rich colors, and with fine detailing, continuing Rodier's tradition of excellence. Buyers in the U.S. were given more opportunity to buy such clothes when Rodier began selling its products to high-end specialty stores and department stores in 1995, in addition to the dozen firm-owned boutiques nationwide and stores in over 20 countries worldwide. In revmping its image, Rodier hired Christophe Lebourg, who had worked with GFT Group, Joseph, and Claude Montana, as its new designer in 1996 and closed its store Fifth Avenue in New York to make way for a new flagship store at Rockefeller Center. Similarly styled stores were planned for Chicago, Beverly Hills, and San Francisco.

As the century came to a close, Rodier had restructured its operations with high hopes for the future. Part of its new focus was on bringing wholesale operations to the U.S. and boosting brand awareness through several licensing agreements. Pierre Lannier, in its first licensing deal, signed on to produce Rodier watches; Royer SA began manufacturing shoes; the Tokyo-based Renown Group was slated to open over 200 in-store Rodier boutiques in Japan from 1998 through 2002. In addition, Rodier and the Egyptian-Lebanese fashion firm Bella Donna Group inked a deal in 2001 for apparel and accessories.

—Whitney Blausen;

updated by updated by Sydonie Benét

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