Philippe Venet - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

French fashion designer

Born: Lyons, France, 22 May 1929. Education: Apprentice tailor, age 14, at Pierre Court, Lyons, until 1948. Military Service: Served in French Army, 1948-50. Career: Assistant designer for Schiaparelli, Paris, 1951-53; master tailor for Givenchy, 1953-62; established Philippe Venet couture house, Paris, 1962; launched menswear collection, 1990s. Awards: Dé d'Or, Paris, 1985. Address: 62 rue Francois 1er, 75008 Paris, France.




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Philippe Venet had a long apprenticeship in fashion before opening his own couture house in 1962, at the age of 33. Born in Lyons, France, he was apprenticed at 14 to an established and respected dressmaker in the town, Pierre Court, where he was taught about fabric, manufacture, and cut, as well as learning the rudiments of tailoring, a major feature of his later work. Pierre Court held the rights to the Balenciaga label and it was Venet's association with this Parisian couture house that led him to the fashion capital to pursue his design career.

His first job was at the house of Schiaparelli. Elsa Schiaparelli had been one of the most important and influential designers of the 1930s, when her witty surrealist and avant-garde designs broke new ground in fashion. By the 1950s, however, Schiaparelli's influence was waning and the house was soon to close. For Venet the job was a stepping stone in his career; it was at Schiaparelli that he met the young Hubert de Givenchy, who was also an employee. When Givenchy opened his own couture house in 1953, he employed Venet as his master tailor.

The 1950s were Givenchy's heyday, a success to which Venet undoubtedly contributed. Givenchy is perhaps most notable for his association with Audrey Hepburn, whom he first dressed in the 1954 film Sabrina Fair. Together, the design house and actress created a gamine look typifing the style of the late 1950s and 1960s. It was young elegance, long-legged and sophisticated, ranging from Audrey's beatnik look in the 1957 film Funny Face, to her little black dress look in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Venet finally opened his own couture house in Paris in 1962. His experience and respect for the traditions of haute couture were a mainstay of his work from the beginning, as were his superb tailoring skills. His cut has always been innovative and imaginative, with a range of beautifully cut and tailored coats featured in every collection. Distinctive pieces from the 1960s were his kite coats; in the 1970s were geometric patterns, oversized capes, and jackets in flannel and reversible wools; his suits and coats in the 1980s and 1990s were fun and flirtatious, in refreshing colors. Venet's eveningwear has often been inspired by flora and fauna; the overall eveningwear look is generally romantic but sophisticated, smart but with a hint of naughtiness, and designed for a wealthy clientéle.

Philippe Venet was awarded the Dé d'Or award in January 1985. This award not only recognized his aesthetic contribution to the fashion industry but applauded the detailed attention he brought to every aspect of the business, closely monitoring the creation of each outfit and personally attending all the fittings. In the middle and late 1990s Venet divided his time between France and the United States. A third of his clients were American, and he presented annual collections in both Los Angeles and New York. Expansion near the end of the century included a new menswear line to complement his womenswear ranges.

—Kevin Almond

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