Emmanuelle Khanh the French designer famous for reinventing the Parisian woman with her innovative designs in a direct reaction to the strict and stuffy Parisian couture, died on February 17, in her hometown of Paris. Her youthful collections changed the direction of fashion from un-wearable to ready-to-wear.
Her son confirmed her death from pancreatic cancer. She was 79.
Renee Georgette Jeanne Meziere was born on September 12, 1937 in Paris. Her father worked as a page designer for Combat, a French resistance newspaper during World War two. Her mother died when she was ten, leaving Renee to look after her three younger siblings.
In a story widely told by Kanh, after graduating business school, she opened a phone book to couture and called the first name she saw: Balenciaga. After being hired as a fitting model, she took the name Emmanuelle.
In 1957 she married Nguyen Manh Khanh, an engineer known for inventing and designing inflatable furniture. She leaves behind her son, daughter, and three grandchildren.
A few years later, she produced a collection with her friend Christiane Bailly named “Emma Christie”. The line caught the eyes of Elle editors who featured pieces from the collection, putting the clothes into boutiques.
By 1977, Khanh opened her own boutiques under the self-titled line. She became known for her bold sunglasses often made of unusual material like python skin, as well as her hip-hugger skirts and fun loving shorts.
Khanh’s company shut down in the late 1990’s after financial trouble; in 2007 a Dutch conglomerate bought the label.
The model turned designer created clothes that she wanted to wear; youthful, free flowing, breathable ensembles that walked straight off the runway into consumer’s closets. She created the “droop” silhouette that follows the lines of the body forward. Ironic that she designed her clothes to flow forward just as her influence helped bring the industry forward into a new era.
London designers get most of the credit for the 1960’s fashion revolution with leaders like Mary Quant, known for popularizing the miniskirt as well as embracing the new, youth-centered consumer market. Khanh was sometimes known as the French Mary Quant, both brought a fresh approach to high fashion.
Though most of Khanh’s looks were created with young people in mind, but she wanted to create looks that would stand the test of time. “I want to make clothes that a woman doesn’t throw out because they become part of her life, part of her memories of when she wore them,” she told The Toronto Star.