From 1912 to 1914
The House of Vionnet opened in 1912 at 222, Rue de Rivoli. Madeleine Vionnet provided one-third of the financing while the remaining investment was supplied by one of her clients, Germaine Lilas, Henri’s Lillas’ daughter, the owner of the Parisian department store Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville (BHV). In 1914, when World War I started, Madeleine Vionnet closed the house and set off to visit Rome.
From 1919 to 1940
In 1919, the house reopened after the war. Mr. Martinez de Hoz, an Argentinian, joined Mr. Lillas as main shareholder of the house. During the same period, Thayaht, a futurist artist, created Vionnet’s logo and started designing textiles, clothing and jewelry for the house.
In 1922, Théophile Bader, owner of the Galeries Lafayette, joined current shareholders Mr. de Hoz and Mr. Lillas in a new venture called Vionnet & Cie and became the majority shareholder. Few months later, on April 15, 1923, Vionnet’s new premises opened at 50, Avenue Montaigne. The so-called “Temple of Fashion”, a collaboration of architect Ferdinand Chanut, decorator George de Feure and crystal sculptor René Lalique, incorporated a spectacular Salon de Présentation and two boutiques: a fur salon and a lingerie salon. 1923 was a very active year for the house: Vionnet co-founded the first anticopyist Association (L’Association pour la Défense des Arts Plastiques et Appliqués), hosted in the House’s premises and directed Vionnet & Cie’s managing director; Vionnet introduced fingerprinted labels to authenticate models (each garment produced in Vionnet studios bears a label featuring Vionnet’s original signing and an imprint of Vionnet’s right thumb); Vionnet & Cie entered into a distribution arrangement with Charles and Ray Gutman, who own Charles & Ray Ladies’ Tailors and Importers in New York City. In November, the first collection of Vionnet clothing shown at Charles and Ray was an enormous success.
In 1924, architect and designer Boris Lacroix was appointed art director of the House. From 1924 to 1937, he designed furniture, logos, printed textiles, handbags, accessories and took part in the planning of Vionnet’s perfumes.
In the mid-1920s, the house was extremely active in the USA. In 1924, Vionnet & Cie signed an exclusive production and distribution agreement with Fifth Avenue retail store Hickson Inc. In February 1924, the Vionnet New York Salon opened at Hickson and an exclusive collection of gowns was presented. In 1925, Vionnet & Cie was the first French couture house to open a subsidiary in New York: Madeleine Vionnet Inc., located at 661 Fifth Avenue. The salon sold ‘one-size-fits-all’ designs with unfinished hems, to be adjusted to fit individual clients. Vionnet also produced ready-to-wear designs for US wholesale. Arguably the first prêt-à-porter ever made from Paris haute couture, the garments bore a label signed by Madeleine Vionnet along with “Repeated Original” as a trademark name.
During this time, in France, Vionnet opened a salon in the Grand Casino at Biarritz. in 1925, the house launched its first limited edition perfume comprising four fragrances named alphabetically: ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’. The geometrical bottle was designed by Boris Lacroix while the scent was made in collaboration with the House of Coty.
In 1927, Vionnet opened a school within her couture house to teach apprentices how to create clothing on the bias cut. In 1929, Vionnet led the establishment of a new anticopyist association, the P.A.I.S., directed by Armand Trouyet, managing director of Vionnet & Cie.
In 1932, the House acquired a new five-storey building at 50, Avenue Montaigne housing 21 workshops along with a clinic (equipped with both doctors and dentists) and a gymnasium. At this time, the house employed 1,200 seamstresses. Vionnet was one of the most important Parisian fashion houses of the 1930s. When World War II approached, a reorganization of the House was contemplated. Eventually, Vionnet decided to close her House. On August 2, 1939, Madeleine Vionnet showed her farewell collection.