Misia Sert’s fashion designers
Misia Sert made an art out of being different in all spheres of her life and fashion naturally was one of them. The clothes she wore reflected her love of bohemian style. In the 1890s, she embraced the English ‘Arts and Crafts’ style. She wore bright colours and clashing patterns, such as tartans or hound’s tooth check. She always added a flamboyant detail, like an interesting neck scarf, an exotic belt or an unusual hat. Misia’s style in clothes and interiors inspired the artists who painted her, especially Les Nabis who loved her bright colours. From 1909, after meeting Serge Diaghilev, Misia placed herself at the centre of the circle of Ballets Russes. Costumes and stage sets designed by Leon Bakst for the Ballets influenced major designers like Paul Poiret and Jeanne Paquin (he gave Jeanne Paquin a collection entitled “Fantasises on Modern Costume”). Ballets Russes changed the face of fashion and was copied by fashionable women in Paris and London. In the drawing by Jean Cocteau below Misia is wearing her famous Aigrette at the premiere of one of the ballets in 1912. According to Marcel Proust who was often present in Misia’s company, “all theatre going women copied Misia’s Aigrette soon”. Her clothes were designed by Jacques Deucet, Jeanne Paquin, Paul Poiret, Jeanne Lanvin but most of all Coco Chanel who was also her best friend. The jeweller Cartier learnt to value Misia’s custom – a direct link to fashionable society people that revolved round Ballets Russes. She often wore a magnificent ruby neckless he designed for her. In her unique way she would add to it “a motif of Maya, an Indian goddess of earthy illusions which hung down her back on a red silk cord”.
Proust based two of his female characters, Madame Verdurin and Princesss Yourbeletieff on Misia and in doing so he took note of her unique style.
Even until today, Misia continues to inspire fashion designers, including John Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel.
John Galliano has been especially drawn to Belle Epoque designs and the exotic Parisian women who wore them. In 1995, he showed a very much talked about collection which was described: “where flamboyant heiresses like Nancy Cunnard rubbed shoulders with society women and bohemians, such as Countess Greffulhe, Marchesa Casati, Misia Sert, Kiki de Montparnasse and Liane de Pougy”. In his amazing show he mixed fashion influences from the 1920s, 40s and 50s, with references from popular contemporary culture, like pearly queens and hells angels.
Chanel’s Venetian collection in 2011, called by Karl Lagerfeld – “Coco on the Lido” was inspired by all the great times that Misia, Coco and friends had in Venice. Coco visited Venice for the first time in 1920 when Misia and JoJo Sert invited her to accompany them on their honeymoon after her lover Arthur Boy Capel died in a car crash. For Misia, Venice was always “the place of her solace”.
Coco Gabriele Chanel (1883-1971)
Paul Poiret (1879-1944)
Germaine Bongard (1885-1971)
Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946)
Jacques Doucet (1853-1929)