This is CR Muse, a series dedicated to the remembrance of important artists and idea-makers from our past who have shaped culture as we know it today. From traditional creators to those of conceptual thought, we celebrate these women known not only for their work but their confident, eccentric style as well.
Andrée Putman had style in spades. Often dressed simply, but sharply, her sense of fashion effused Parisian chic, with blazers and statement jewelry pieces being pulled together for an effortlessly professional look. It should come as no surprise she would also have an interest in applying her eye to other creative areas. For Putman, it was furniture and interior design that would cement her legacy as a tastemaker. But she had an unexpected path to success.
Putman, who was born in 1925, initially studied piano, before turning away from music in favor of journalism, with a focus on design. During the 1950s and ‘60s, in addition to writing for publications like Elle, she styled for the French furniture chain Prisunic, which offered affordable wares. Her time there may have informed a certain ethos of hers. “Style and money have nothing to do with each other,” she once mused on the concept of luxury. “Good design is pure and simple, and I am interested in that family of things that will never date.”
In 1971, she was hired by one of the founding fathers of the ready-to-wear revolution, Didier Grumbach, to help build a new company. Titled Créateurs & Industriels, their aim was to ease the gap between production and design, and under Putman’s discerning eye, it was credited with helping the early careers of Issey Miyake, Thierry Mugler, and Claude Montana, among others.
Unfortunately, within a few years Créateurs & Industriels went bankrupt, but Putman’s career was only just getting started. In 1978, she founded a furniture company, Ecart, which drew from forgotten designers of the 1930s. And in 1984 she got her biggest break: designing the interior for New York’s Morgans Hotel. With graphic black-and-white check patterns adorning multiple rooms, as well as a cold-yet-chic sense of luxury, Putman tapped into what would become the decade’s defining interior aesthetic.
Suddenly she had established herself as an international purveyor of chic interiors, and she became the go-to for store designs by the fashion world. Hired by the likes of Azzedine Alaïa and Karl Lagerfeld, she had a knack for translating their fashion stature into brick-and-mortar experiences. Her vision wasn’t minimal, but it was certainly streamlined. Taking cues from the symmetry of Art Deco styles (as evidenced with Ecart, she was heavily influenced by the era), but with softer geometry and a modern sensibility.
Her connection to Alaïa in particular ran deep. As legend has it, the designer was picked up by Bergdorf Goodman when a buyer for the upscale department store saw Putman wearing one of his leather coats on the street, and stopped her to ask where she got it. She also helped Alaïa secure the legendary New York nightclub Palladium for an impossibly lavish fashion show in 1985, thanks to the fact that she had designed the club’s interior and knew the owners.
Putman’s connection to the fashion industry continued into the new millennium with her design company, Studio Putman, which she founded in 1997. As she expanded into designing objects, forays into accessories design followed—including a collaboration with Louis Vuitton on a new interpretation of its classic steamer trunk. Naturally, the design featured a recurring black-and-white check motif.
Though Putman passed away in 2013, her studio lives on today under the creative direction of her daughter, Olivia (who took the reigns in 2007). Meanwhile, her sense of easy luxury—one that celebrates key luxurious pieces over an abundance of decoration—continues to thrive today.END
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