Sonia Delaunay, painter and textile designer

An artistic fiber
Born in 1885 in Ukraine, Sonia Delaunay was amongst the first people to question the boundaries betweenfashion and art.
The wife of Robert Delaunay, she worked alongside him on research which was at once scientific and visionary, exploring light and the position and movement of colours, calling their interaction “simultaneouscontrasts”.
Very quickly she moved from art to fashion, importing the elements of one to the other, creating a dialogue between costumes, paintings and literature, multiplying the creative possibilities. This is how, in the 1920s her first dresses emerged, like poetry in motion: in 1924 on the catwalk, she presented costumes which illustrated the Joseph Delteil poem, La Mode qui vient; she then ventured into creating dress-poems inspired by the works of Tristan Tzara and Blaise Cendrars.
Following her experiments with patterns, rhythm and movement, she seemed to be guided by the prevailing force of colour when creating her textiles and clothes. In 1925, she took part in the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts with her first “Simultaneous Boutique”. Success came quickly and the modern women of the time proudly showed off their Maison Delaunay items. The brand offered a number of designs made from exclusive fabrics, knitted or embroidered by hand, transforming the body of those that wore them into abstract masterpieces. Her colours and geometric patterns were also used on a whole range of textiles which she created for the large Dutch store Metz & Co from the 1930s to the 1960s.
A number of years after her “Simultaneous Boutique” – which closed its doors in the 1930s – she declared, on the subject of clothes: “All of these works were created for women, and always with an idea of construction in relation with the body. They weren’t copies of paintings transposed onto women, as other couturiers have done with Mondrian or the painters of Op’Art”. These words are a perfect illustration of her unique concept of fashion, that she chose to understand as a barer or artistic expression in its own right, at the same level as painting.