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French fashion guru André Courrèges dies at 92

AFP file picture | André Courrèges, photographed in his Paris studio in 1987

French fashion designer Andre Courreges, symbol of a futuristic style revolution in the 1960s and synonymous with mini-skirts and little white boots, has died at the age of 92.


"Clothes should escape from conventions," Courreges once said. Fashion, he thought, should be "a way of life".

The style icon died in the posh western Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. His funeral will be held in his southern hometown of Pau on Monday, the company said.

Born on March 9, 1923, in Pau, Courreges was a radical force in 1960s fashion, helping to define a new sort of independence for women with space-age styles that became icons of a generation.

Courreges initially studied and worked as a civil engineer before switching to fashion and spending a decade working for designer Cristobal Balenciaga.

He formed his own label in 1961, and it was a collection three years later that thrust him into the spotlight and made him, for a short but significant while, the king of French fashion.

Angular mini dresses and trouser suits in stark black-and-white colour schemes were combined with goggles and helmets taken from astronauts that became known as the Moon Girl look.

He set the trends for stars such as Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve and his house returned to the catwalk only two years ago after several years away.

He was a pioneer of formal trousers for women and a long and bitter dispute continues over whether he was first to popularise the miniskirt ahead of British designer Mary Quant.

His little white dress became an enduring image of the Swinging Sixties, and regardless of who came first, his miniskirts were widely accepted to be the shortest, and designed in eye-popping colours and heavy materials such as gabardine that became hugely popular.

'A visionary'

Courreges also took the bold step of replacing high heels with his famed flat white boots.

His style -- often with lots of metal -- was a particular hit with artist Andy Warhol.

"Courreges clothes are so beautiful, everyone should look the same, dressed in silver. Silver merges into everything, costumes should be worn during the day with lots of make-up," Warhol once said.

French singer Michel Delpech paid tribute to the designer in a 1965 song "Inventaire 66" whose opening lines were "A mini-skirt and two Courreges boots."

Courreges, who stopped working in the 1990s, passed away on Thursday after a 30-year battle with Parkinson's disease, the Maison de Courreges said in a statement.

"Andre Courreges put his stamp on French high fashion," said President Francois Hollande on Friday.

"A revolutionary creator, using geometric shapes and new materials, Courreges was a style and an epoch," Hollande added.

Fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac hailed Courreges as a "visionary" who "came at a time of frills and furbelows and stripped it of non-essentials to take fashion to a new phase."

And Courreges's contemporary Paco Rabanne said he was a "very important figure in fashion."

Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin added: "He was ultimately the inventor of a universe of forms and colours where elegance was conceived with fantasy, humour and the greatest freedom of spirit and movement."

After his burst of success in 1964, Courreges aimed to popularise fashion by offering affordable versions of his clothes.

In 1972, he designed the uniforms for staff at the Munich Olympic Games.

Courreges, who had also been a pilot during World War II, married his assistant Coqueline Barriere in 1967.

She took over artistic direction of the company when he retired in 1994, moving into painting and sculpture in his later years.


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