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Article: The Callot Soeurs: A Story About Early 20th Century Icons

The Callot Soeurs: A Story About Early 20th Century Icons - DSF Antique Jewelry
20th Century Icons

The Callot Soeurs: A Story About Early 20th Century Icons

Callot Soeurs was one of the most significant Parisian haute couture houses in the early 20th century.
Its clientele included actors like Cécile Sorel and the spouses of American businesspeople like Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, as well as royalty and nobility like Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain and Baroness Henri de Rothschild.
Their elegant creations, which encompassed daywear, lingerie, and eveningwear, took inspiration from exotic locales including Turkey, the Near East, China, and Japan, as well as the Renaissance.
The Callot sisters had their greatest fame between the years 1910 and 1920 and were renowned for their use of lace, excellent embroidery, fine craftsmanship, and distinctive color schemes.
Callot Soeurs - The Journey
Callot Soeurs first opened its doors in 1895 at 24 rue Taitbout in Paris, France's capital.
The four Callot sisters - Marie Callot Gerber, Marthe Bertrand, Regina Tennyson-Chantrell, and Joséphine Callot Crimont - were in charge of running it.
The sisters came from a creative family.
Their mother was a gifted lace maker and embroiderer, and their father, Jean-Baptiste Callot, was an artist who was descended from a line of lace makers and engravers, including the renowned artist Jacques Callot, who was active in the seventeenth century.
Jean-Baptiste Callot taught at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts.
The sisters had a store that offered vintage laces, ribbons, and lingerie before starting the couture salon.
Callot Soeurs had customers in both Europe and America by 1900 and employed 600 people.
The sisters' acknowledged status in the business is evidenced by the house's participation in the 1900 Paris Exhibition Universelle, where it showcased garments among illustrious couture houses including Doucet, Paquin, Redfern, Rouff, and Worth.
The Callot Soeurs continued to work during the 1920s and took part in the Pavilion of Elegance at the 1925 Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes in Paris alongside Jeanne Lanvin, the Worth House, and the jeweler Cartier.
callot-sisters Callot Soeurs' models
Nonetheless, according to Britannica, the house's fashionable status started to decline by 1926.
The eldest sister, Gerber, was a gifted designer who received her training at the Raudnitz & Cie workshop as a premiere.
She eventually created costumes with Cubist inspiration, made of lace and embroidery that resembled collages, inspired by oriental and avant-garde art.
Gerber, who passed away in 1927, covered models in cloth and delegated the design to her toile makers.
Callot Soeurs needed American assistance to remain successful throughout World War I.
American customers would order between 300 and 800 pieces each July, despite a decline in European sales.
The house of Callot stayed open, and the sisters continued to advertise their apparel in America at the 1915 Pacific Panama International Exposition in San Francisco, California, even though there was a slight decline in fashion activity in Paris during World War I.
In the 1910s and 1920s, Callot Soeurs frequently published advertising in The New York Times that listed the authorized sellers of their creations in an effort to combat the growth of knockoffs.
The house further increased its activities by opening branches in Nice, Biarritz, Buenos Aires, and London by the 1920s, which further increased the label's recognition on a global scale.
Callot Soeurs' models paper
In 1928, Pierre Gerber, Marie Callot Gerber's son, took over the company. Nevertheless, he was unable to thrive in the very competitive market.
The House of Callot Soeurs folded in 1937 and was incorporated into the House of Calvet (Marie-Louise Calvet), under the Callot label.
Unfortunately, the Second World War rendered conditions in France challenging.
Calvet and the Callot label eventually shut down in 1952, much like what happened to the House of Vionnet in 1939.
Design Repertoire
The house's design portfolio included daywear, fitted suits, and evening gowns, but it was most renowned for its ethereal dresses with eighteenth-century influences and exotic evening gowns with an East Asian influence.
The early 20th century saw the creation of the sisters' opulent tea gowns, which were composed of silk, chiffon, and organdy, and frequently used pricey antique laces in their designs.
The sisters' participation in Le syndicat de défense de la grande couture française and the design house's relocation to 9-11, avenue Matignon, both occurred in 1914, making them noteworthy for the business.
Designers Paul Poiret, Jacques Worth, Jeanne Paquin, Madeleine Cheruit, Paul Rodier, Bianchini, and Ferrier, in addition to the Callot Sisters, established controls through this organization to safeguard their original designs from copy houses that sold them to ready-to-wear manufacturers without their consent.
The Callot Soeurs and many other designers started dating their labels at this time.
Callot Soeurs' models
Their couture dresses were constructed with hand-crafted lace, typically reconstituted lace from the seventeenth century. But, they also used more avant-garde materials for their “sport” couture, like stretchy gabardine and gold and silver lamé, according to Europeana.
In addition, Callot Soeurs is regarded as one of the pioneering fashion figures who abandoned the corset in favor of less constricted shapes.
Exquisite Style
Before starting their own couture businesses, a number of designers, notably Madeleine Vionnet and Georgette Renal, started their careers at Callot Sisters.
Madame Gerber was a friend of the art critic and collector Edmond de Goncourt. They reportedly shared interests in the Orient and rococo architecture from the eighteenth century, according to Vionnet, who worked at the house from 1901 to 1907.
These two styles were represented in the sisters' salon's furnishings, and they welcomed clients in a room decorated in Chinese style with Coromandel lacquer, silks from the Song dynasty, and Louis XV furniture.
Throughout the 20th century, there was a growing focus on Western art movements like Art Nouveau and Art Deco's geometric shapes.
The house's clothing from the 1910s and the beginning of the 1920s also drew inspiration from the dazzling Fauvist hues and Eastern-inspired designs that played a significant role in the era's visual culture.
Although Paul Poiret is frequently linked to this exotic style, the Callot Soeurs also produced garments that included ornamentation and manufacturing methods from Asia and Africa.
Several of these garments, also known as “robes phéniciennes”, combined design elements from the two continents into a single piece of clothing.
A kimono sleeve, for instance, could be worn with an Algerian burnoose form.
Madeleine Vionnet recalls that Madame Gerber introduced the kimono sleeve and that, in the early years of the century, she incorporated the cylinder sleeve into art nouveau costumes.
Fun Facts About Callot Soeurs
In his book “La Recherche du Temps Perdu”, Marcel Proust described Callot Soeurs as one of the greatest houses of fashion.
One could stumble over or observe a mosaic of a woman wearing a light-blue dress next to the words “Callot Soeurs” on Avenue Matignon in Paris. The mosaic honors the location of one of their stores and preserves the memory of Callot Soeurs, one of the most significant and prosperous fashion firms of the 20th century.
The sisters “get in fairly freely for lace”, Marcel Proust wrote in Remembrance of Things Past, due to their predilection for such delicate textiles. Their layered, filmy, pastel-colored clothing was highly in style; they were frequently compared to their contemporaries Jacques Doucet and Lucile, who also made these “confections.”
Callot Soeurs models
A Wanamaker advertisement that was published in the New York Times on April 1, 1898, was the first time the name Callot was mentioned in American media. This advertising, which included the names of renowned French designers Callot Soeurs and Paquin and Doucet, promised an exhibition of imported French clothing.
Rita de Acosta Lydig, who frequently placed large orders for garments, was Callot Soeurs' most ardent supporter in the United States.
Also, Rita “designed most of her own clothing, and they were manufactured for her by Callot Soeurs,” according to her sister Mercedes de Acosta.
Rita was allegedly such a fashion icon that when she found out her husband was having an affair with a lady who was ill-dressed, she sent the mistress to Callot Soeurs for new clothes. When Rita posed for Giovanni Boldini in 1911, she was dressed in a silver Callot Soeurs gown.
While living and working in Paris in 1926, American fashion designer Elizabeth Hawes frequently wore Callot Soeurs.
Although some American buyers at the time thought Callot Soeurs' dresses were out-of-date and unfashionable, Hawes insisted that people should wear what they personally liked, not what was considered fashionable, and she wore their “simple clothes with wonderful embroidery” that, according to Wikipedia, lasted her for several years.
Influence And Legacy
The head seamstress at Callot worked for designer Madeleine Vionnet. She improved her couture technique in this place.
She clarified this: “Without the Callot Soeurs as a model, I would have kept building Fords. They have enabled me to produce Rolls-Royce automobiles.”
Another fashion designer who received training from the Callot Soeurs was Marie-Louise Bruyère.
Clothing by Callot Soeurs was renowned for its unusual detailing. They were some of the earliest clothing designers to employ gold and silver lamé.
Callot Soeurs' models dress icons
The Acton Art Collection at New York University's Villa La Pietra in Florence holds twenty-one garments by Callot Soeurs.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum at FIT, the Palais Galliera, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Kyoto Costume Institute, LACMA, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the Ulster Museum in Belfast all own additional garments.
As a result of the creative interaction between East and West under the new hierarchy of modern fashion in the early twentieth century, the house of Callot Soeurs produced revolutionary designs.
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