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Maison Trigère is back: an interview with creative director Franklin Benjamin Elman

Imposing a new expressive vocabulary while straddling European tradition and innovation, Pauline Trigère, founder of eponymous Maison Trigère, dominated the New York fashion world for the better part of the last century. Now, the fashion house is making its comeback.

Born in Paris, Trigère first worked at the famous Place Vendôme, apprenticing as a trainee cutter at Martial et Armand, and learning all of the secrets of high fashion first hand. A daughter of two tailors, her creativity and manual skills were infused early on in her life through her parents.

Pauline Trigère

In 1937, she set sail for the Big Apple. "New York captured my heart", said the great stylist, as she explained what had driven her to found her fashion house the United States in 1942.

Trigère contributed to the world of fashion with many original inventions such as the jumpsuit, the sleeveless coat and the reversible cape, dressing many style icons of her time, from Grace Kelly to Jacky Kennedy to Evelyn Lauder.
To this day, the legend of Pauline Trigère still lives: her 'vintage' creations are still among the most searched on the web and around the world, with many stars still flaunting her creations on the red carpet.

Fast forward to 2018, Maison Trigère is now officially revived, its precious heritage entrusted to the skilful stylist Franklin Benjamin Elman. Elman took the reins of the company as its creative director and has, from his first collection —Fall Winter 2018-2019—, been able to conjugate to perfection the label's rich past to a new definitively contemporary style.

Maison Trigère Fall 2018

We interviewed Elman to find out more about his vision for Trigère's renaissance.

How do you bring past and present together?
"I can compare it a little to cooking, in the sense that, today, in the postmodern era, we take 'ingredients' from different sources. I started with the references of the Maison Trigère and studying the collections I saw that there was a set of conceptual contrasts. There was male and female, white and black, the positive and the negative, a 'timeless' component and an avant-garde angle. All of this was really inspiring and interesting to me, so I started there."

Your personal definition of elegance?
"For me elegance is composed of three components that have little to do with fashion or clothing. It is an inner state which I believe is the result of a mix of intelligence, skill and humility. Often, the loudest people are the least able, while the most modest and quiet people are naturally elegant."

What do you think of today's fashion? Is there something you really like or don't like?
"In the age of the self, there is an explosion of narcissism. Everyone wants to show themselves through the shots, sometimes in a vulgar manner or with boring effects. Another thing that I do not appreciate is the excessive informality in dressing, which perhaps does not apply much for the Italians and the French, but the rest of the world is a bit too 'casual'. It takes a bit of effort even in the style. On the other hand, there are a lot of things I really like. Especially the new wave of creatives. I am a huge fan of Pierpaolo, and I also love the work of Alessandro Michele who has practically turned fashion upside down. I was also a huge fan of Phoebe Philo from Céline, a great friend for women through her way of conceiving collections, and I've always been a supporter of the great Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel. Now, I'm very curious to find out what Riccardo Tisci will do with Burberry."

Maison Trigère Fall 2018

Can you define the new Trigère woman?
"She's a woman who has a very strong, independent identity. She knows herself well and has a great design culture. She's cultured, and well-traveled. Intellectual, but also very sensual."

Besides the archive, what other elements have inspired you?
"I was very inspired by the French style. Madame Trigère worked at a time when couture evolved to become prêt-à-porter; if you look at her first ready-to-wear collections, they were really similar to today's couture: in their packaging, their cuts and their quality. She also worked at a time when the Parisian woman dressed in a certain way for the morning, changed up in the afternoon, then for the cocktail hour, and finally for the evening. Now of course we don't have that lifestyle anymore, but it was extremely inspiring to imagine this possibility. I wanted to create pieces who were 'classically French' and inspired by high fashion, but at the same time still extremely current. And then there are two sides in this collection: the more 'essential' part, and the more graphic one, which we could define as 'fashion'.

Maison Trigère Fall 2018

Which of the women dressed by Trigère in the past would you want to dress up today?
All of them! They are a lot of women I admire a lot, great icons of style: Princess Grace, Elizabeth Taylor, Duchess of Windsor, C.Z. Guest, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis... I can't choose!"

And today? Who in your opinion, among today's stars embodies your woman the best, and who would you like to dress?
"I love Julianne Moore, Charlotte Le Bon, Elle Fanning, Claire Foy, Amal Clooney and Keira Knightley."

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