Adeline André entered the French fashion scene with a CV whose entries can easily be taken as a catalogue of her inspirations. Born in French Equatorial Africa, young Adeline dreamt of a career as a fashion photographer. Except for one year in London, she has always lived in Paris, where she enrolled at the prestigious École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. She studied art as an extra, and had lessons in Salvador Dalí’s studio. Her very first job was top-notch: in the early 1970s she assisted Marc Bohan at Christian Dior, working on the firm’s haute couture collections. She learnt from Bohan the classic part of her craft – how fashion evolves with respect and decency without alarming the public. But the lessons with Surrealist Dalí ensured that Adeline André henceforth trod the frontier region between art and fashion.
Her entry to the fashion scene was a great success. With backing from their friend Nicolas Puech-Hermès, she and Hungarian architect Istvan Dohar founded the Adeline André label. She made her debut in 1982 with garments having three sleeve-holes, closed without buttons or any kind of fastening, which she patented at the Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle. Her first presentation in March 1983 took the form of a tableau vivant at the Daniel Templon Gallery in Paris. Selected guests moved around the room in André’s ready-to-wear designs, constantly regrouping into gigantic new Polaroid shots.
André can thus be considered a pioneer of the penchant for extravagant locations. Among the venues she has used is the Grand Salon of the International Conference Centre in Avenue Kléber, where the peace treaty for Vietnam was signed – fashion with an unusual political dimension.
But the clothes themselves are clearly distinct from the mainstream, with their slender, flowing cuts in exclusive natural materials such as silk crêpe georgette, wool voile or cashmere. When no one wanted to know about colours, André developed a large colour palette, which nevertheless always looked elegant. Private customers appreciate that. And, again far ahead of her time, André does exclusive bespoke work that has long claimed her whole concentration for this clientele.
Since 1997, André has been not only an official member of haute couture but also an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, a title she fully lives up to – with for example numerous costume designs for contemporary theatre, opera and ballet. Asked for the secret of her style, she told Time magazine: “The allure is all in the cut. What counts is the delayed reaction,” i.e. the spectator’s astonishment. That’s the final touch – shock, and the certainty that, once a Surrealist, always a Surrealist.