Paul Poiret was the true pioneer of avante-garde fashion. Working for Jacques Doucet and House of Worth in the 1890s, he developed a name for himself as a designer of practical, unabashedly modern clothes with vivid colors, bold designs, and eastern flair. Famously, when he presented Russian Princess Bariantinsky with a kimono-style “Confucius” coat, she exclaimed, “What horror! When peasants run after our sledges and annoy us, we have their heads cut off, and we put them in sacks like that!” She was later shocked when said peasants rose up in bloody revolution against the aristocracy. Despite the dismay of Princess Bariantinsky, Poiret quickly became one of the most sought-after designers in Paris, leading him to declare himself “The king of fashion.”
He left his fashion house in World War 1 in order to manufacture
military uniforms, but when he was discharged in 1919, his fashion house
was on the brink of bankruptcy. He had trouble adapting to the sleek,
simpler dresses of the 1920s, and this coupled with a tempestuous
personal life culminating in a bitter divorce from his wife and muse,
Denise Poiret, led him to shut down House of Poiret in 1929.