Duplan "Martine" Silks -- Paul Poiret

Paul Poiret

Paul Poiret trained with several of Paris’s best fashion houses before opening his own salon in 1903. He rapidly gained a reputation for exoticism and modernity that spread his name across Europe and America. (See: Koda, Harold. “Paul Poiret,” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History)  He actively marketed his work in the US. In November 1913 he agreed with a ready-to-wear skirt manufacturer in New York City, David Crystal & Co., of 11-13 East 26th St., to supply two exclusive designs per month for Crystal to make for his customers. (Crystal had similar agreements with the Paris houses Premet and Paquin. See: The American Cloak and Suit Review, (Jan 1914) Vol 7 no 1: 16a-f). These two licensing contracts were probably a response to the fact that “design piracy” was rampant in the textile and garment industries, and many Paris couturiers saw their work reproduced in American shops without ever receiving a penny in royalties or licensing fees. Poiret was a leader in the Paris couture houses’ efforts to stop the counterfeiting of their work, helping to establish the Couturier’s Defense Syndicate in July 1914, just a few months after he licensed the Martine designs to Duplan. (See: Shaw, Madelyn. “American Fashion: The Tirocchi Sisters in Context  From Paris to Providence: Fashion Art and the Tirocchi Dressmakers' Shop, 1915-1947. Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI; 2001).

During World War I Poiret’s work was seen by some critics as too German in its use of colors and patterns inspired by the pre-war designs of Germany’s Deutsche Werkbund and Austria’s Wiener Werkstätte—although he was credited as “being such an artist that he knew how to get a regular Parisian tournure to the crude shades and glaring prints.” (Noélie de Sablêre, “New Style Departures by Famous Paris Couture Houses,” American Silk Journal, March 1915 Vol.XXXIV, No. 3: 25. Poiret did serve for a time in the French army during the war.). After the war the business never regained its early popularity, and Poiret closed the house in 1929. In 1930 he designed a line of furnishing textiles for another American manufacturer, F. Schumacher & Co., Inc., in New York. The NMAH textiles collection does not have examples.