Jean Cocteau

“Style is a simple way of saying complicated things” – Jean Cocteau

Words by Nina Van Volkinburg

Amongst exhibitions of Maison Schiaparelli, Pierre Hardy, and Tim Walker (and many more) the Hyères Festival will also pay homage to one of the most versatile and influential creative minds of the 20th century: Jean Cocteau. 

Cocteau’s extensive contributions to literature, theatre, film making, and art exceeded conventions and in their time pushed the boundaries of modern thought. His portfolio of work, mostly revolving around his signature themes of love and death, continue to inspire and live on.

Cocteau’s surrealist motif on a Schiaparelli evening dress (1937)

Although, most renowned for his films and novels including La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast) and Les Enfants Terribles, Cocteau played a tremendous role also in fashion. His friendship with Elsa Schiaparelli led to playful collaborations which produced fashion most accurately representing 1930’s Paris. He designed embroidered motifs which drew from surrealist  poetic symbols. Some of Cocteau’s most famous designs for Schiaparelli include the 1937 evening cape with sunburst, (embroidered by Maison Lesage of course) and the 1937 linen jacket with crossed hands trompe l’oeil motif which the house of Schiaparelli continues to apply.

Cocteau with Gabrielle Chanel (left) in Rome 1958 | Retrieved from Le Figaro

Cocteau also collaborated with Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (Note: Elsa Schiaparelli’s greatest rival) between 1922 and 1937 as she designed costumes his theatre plays, which reinterpreted modern fashion. For example, in 1924, her designs for “Le Train Bleu” greatly shaped conventional sportswear.

Moreover, Cocteau illustrated multiple covers for Harper’s Bazaar throughout the 1930’s.

Harper’s Bazaar (UK) April 1947

Jean Cocteau was an immense inspiration for designers: most notably Yves Saint Laurent.  Saint Laurent, dedicated his Autumn 1980-81collection to Cocteau. One particularly stunning hot pink blazer from the collection displayed an embroidery on the back with a line from a Cocteau poem. Their relationship was bilateral, with Saint Laurent designing the costumes and sets for “Cher Monteur” in 1980; a play by Jerome Kitty and adapted by Jean Cocteau.

Scan 116
Brook Shields (Vogue 1980) wearing the Cocteau inspire YSL blazer

Between Schiaparelli, Cocteau, and Maison Lesage we see a common red thread connecting them all together. Perhaps, this thread continues throughout all of the exhibitions at Hyères?

Let’s wait and see 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s