Vionnet collection hits Rockwell Hall runway

Sarah Nusinow

Model Rachel Sadens shows a Vionnet designed dress during the fashion show portion of the Vionnet ceremony in Rockwell Hall last night. LESLIE CUSANO | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Excitement was buzzing as students, faculty and community members awaited the opening of “Vionnet 2007” at the Kent State Museum at Rockwell Hall yesterday. The seats in the Fashion School auditorium were near full by 5:30 p.m., seating about 215 fashionably inclined people interested in the legacy of Madeleine Vionnet.

The event opened with an hour-long lecture by Arnaud de Lummen, the CEO of the House of Vionnet in Paris.

“Tonight I will not speak about the life of Vionnet because you can find it in fashion books,” he said. “Instead I will tell you how we revived the house.”

The de Lummen family purchased the rights in 1988, but it was not until two seasons ago that the name Vionnet was put on a label.

As de Lummen began to wrap up his lecture, he told the crowd, “It is a great pleasure to see the collection in a museum, since it was only recently that it was designed. … Normally it takes a collection 20 or 30 years before it is exhibited in a museum.”

A partnership with Barney’s department store in New York City helped the collection take off. Since then, it has appeared in the pages of fashion magazines, such as the Japanese Vogue. That dress, along with 14 other garments from the recent collection designed by Sophia Kokosalaki, is being displayed in the Stager Gallery.

Vionnet scholar Betty Kirke said she had always been interested in innovative design and she spent her entire retired life studying Vionnet.

“I did all my design through construction, and so when I saw Vionnet’s things and I didn’t understand, I decided to try and figure it out. I wanted to learn it,” she said.

She has mastered the correct bias-cut that Vionnet invented and was fortunate enough to meet her, learn from her and wear some of her garments before Vionnet died in 1975 at the age of 98.

“I can’t explain it,” Kirke said. “It was like wearing nothing and yet you could feel the clothes move with your body. It was very different than I was used to.”

As Kirke told the story of Vionnet, she touched on 20 different designs, showing the garment and its pattern on a PowerPoint presentation.

Kayleigh Knight, senior fashion design major, said she was amazed that there were so many seamless garments.

“It’s really hard to do that and get it to fit nicely at the same time,” Knight said.

Following her presentation, Kirke narrated a fashion show of 20 reproduction Vionnet pieces.

“I have to tell you the truth, I never thought about these being worn, I was checking my patterns,” she said. “I sewed them all by hand.”

The “Vionnet 2007” exhibit will be in Stager Gallery at the fashion museum through Jan. 27, 2008.

Contact fashion reporter Sarah Nusinow at [email protected].