Paul (1879-1944). The first creator of fashion in the modern sense of the word. Poiret “le Magnifique” was born in Paris, his father was a cloth trader. Destined to work in the family business, he soon showed a preference for dressmaking, and after gaining experience in various ateliers including Cheruit, in about 1898 he joined the dressmaker and patron of the arts Jacques Doucet, who passed on to Poiret his taste for collecting. This experience, acquired in a refined and elegant environment where Sarah Bernhardt and Gabrielle Rejane were habituées, formed a modern and original personality. He worked for Maison Worth in 1900 and 1901, where his prototypes for casual suits and a kimono-style cape did not meet with the approval of Jean Philippe Worth. He was forced to leave the maison due to differences in outlook, and in 1903 Poiret set up his first independent business at 5 Rue Auber. He immediately attracted attention for his daring business choices, for example, he built large windows so people could see his designs from the street, contrary to the haute couture practices of the time. He moved to a larger premises at 37 Rue Pasquier from 1906 to 1908, taking with him a high-ranking clientele snatched from his more traditionalist rivals. He immediately took to the simplification of the female silhouette, rejecting the corset and other constricting and anachronistic garments in favour of a sensual and flowing line inspired by the Neoclassical period and the Directoire. In 1909 he set up his home and studio in a very luxurious building in the grounds of a big park in Avenue d’Antin, where he held fashion shows, receptions, and parties (like the famed La Mille et Deuxième Nuit in 1911, the apotheosis of Orientalism) that were to make him famous all over the world. He showed himself to be ahead of the times once again when he published the first albums of sketches by the best-known illustrators of the time to publicise his designs: Les Robes de Paul Poiret raccontées par Paul Iribe (1908) and Les Choses de Paul Poiret vues par Georges Lepape (1911). At the same time, he organized touring fashion shows to bring his collections to the public’s attention all over Europe. Influenced by the decorative richness and the colors of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Poiret launched a collection with a strong Eastern influence in 1910 and 1911, with turbans, Turkish pants and veiled harem tunics that were to become distinctive of his style. His jupe-entravée and jupe-culotte, the first attempt at pants for women to wear at home, caused a great stir. After a visit to Vienna’s Wiener WerkstÌtte he set up the Atelier Martine in Paris, dedicated to interior design, where he designed extraordinary patterned furnishing fabrics, rugs, furniture, and household ornaments in collaboration with celebrated artists like Raoul Dufy. He also demonstrated his entrepreneurial foresight in 1911 through his desire to establish himself in the field of perfumery and cosmetics with his Rosine range, characterized by very precious essences and rare silver and crystal bottles designed by Lalique. In 1913, when Etré joined the team, Poiret went to the USA where he signed deals and licenses for the mass production and distribution of clothes and accessories with his label, including bags, gloves, and hosiery. By this time he was also recognised as the King of Fashion on the other side of the Atlantic, and in 1917, not long before he was called up for the French army, he opened a branch in New York and created Poiret Incorporated for the distribution of a ready-to-wear collection that was ahead of its time. He took up business again in 1919, but by this time the period of the war had changed the world. Some badly chosen ventures put his finances at risk. He was bled dry by the opening of a covered dance-hall called L’Oasis that aimed to transform his garden in Avenue d’Antin into a society haunt, and by his excessive generosity in hosting sumptuous costume balls. Despite the fact that his designs were no longer as well-received as before the war, because they seemed too far removed from the less affluent present, Poiret decided to open new branches in La Baule in 1919, Cannes in 1921, and Deauville and Biarritz in 1924. With Chanel’s garµonnes and Patou’s casual fashions hot on his heels, during the 1920s Poiret periodically took refuge in theater and cinema costume design, a more suitable outlet for his creative exhuberance: he made some memorable clothes for Marcel L’Herbier’s L’Inhumaine in 1924. He was soon forced to leave his historic residence for a more modest abode at 1 Rond Point des Champs Elysées, where he remained until 1929 while his atelier went into receivership. Undeterred, Poiret attempted one last costly venture for the 1925 Expo. He acquired three boats docked in the Seine and transformed them into floating luxury showcases: Amore, a salon dedicated to his range of perfumes; Delizia, a restaurant completely furnished with objects and fabrics from the Atelier Martine; and Orgia, a gallery for fashion shows decorated by 14 giant panels painted by Dufy. He incurred debts of one and a half million francs and was forced to auction off his valuable private art collection in November 1925 to cover his debts. The fashion house went into liquidation in 1926 and Poiret left the company he created, selling even the name. Totally ruined also because of the 1929 economic crisis, the following year Poiret wrote a touching biography entitled En habillant l’époque. In 1932 he tried to start afresh, setting up a small business in the Étoile area with the help of a subsidy from the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture. He christened it Passy 10-17, the telephone number of the fashion house. Comforted by the possibility of being able to regain possession of his label, he took on occasional work for the London department store Liberty’s, and for Printemps in Paris in 1933, when he organized a special fashion show to commemorate the opening of the Pont d’Argent. But he soon sank into obscurity. Poiret died in poverty in 1944, shortly before his friend Jean Cocteau managed to complete a retrospective exhibition of his paintings.