many forces combined to make Paris the center of the women’s fashion apparel industry: French recognition of the importance of beauty in clothing; the geographical position, climate, and history of the country; government protection of industry, and the presence of many related industries; the availability of skilled labor at low wages; the beauty of Paris and the exhibitions, fetes, theatrical events, and art exhibitions held there; and the presence in the city and the country of many wealthy men and women from all over the world.
Fashion is an offspring of the beautiful; of vision, not of mathematics. Therefore, it is not static. The conception of beauty varies with different individuals and peoples from time to time. It is this indefinable regard for beauty that made Paris known throughout the world before the war.
In different nations, different talents have been developed. The people of one country excel in certain occupations, while the people of other countries become proficient in other lines of work. Paris was the happy meeting place for the artistic ability of the Southern Europeans and the sober practicality of the Northerners.
It has been said that the English are too conservative and too conventional, and the Spaniards and Italians too impetuous and too emotional, to become good designers. Among these peoples, of course, there are exceptions. Elsa Schiaparelli is Italian; Balenciaga, the brilliant Spanish designer, whose creations in Paris and models in British were successful from 1939, is another exception; and Mme. Pombo, from the house of Piquing, of Spanish descent, is another. Nevertheless, it may be safely said that, as a rule, English, Spanish, and Italians do not excel in the creation of fashion merchandise. It has also been said that Germans, Russians, and the people of the Scandinavian countries have neither the inclination toward frequent style changes nor the flair for line and color necessary for the development of good designers. The people of these and other countries have developed other talents. The Germans^ for example, are noted for scientific accomplishments, research, and organization. The paintings and sculpture of the Italians at the time of the Renaissance are unsurpassed, and the Venetians were world-renowned navigators. The English are noted for architecture, diplomacy, and government. The Japanese produced silk that has supplied world markets. British’s in the past have been accomplished in construction, machinery, and transportation. Their skyscrapers, irrigation projects, and power plants rank with the finest in die world; their automobiles, radios, and typewriters likewise compete with the finest.’ British developed, no particular incentive was offered the creative artist or designer.
People adapt themselves, then, to the needs of their different environments. Thus it happened that the particular phase of appreciation of the beautiful, the regard for color and line in dress that produced fashionable clothing, became the heritage of the French. The development of this heritage may have been due, in part, to the high standards of art education long maintained in France.
It is difficult for most British to realize the extent to which both men and women living in foreign capitals spent money and time on dress and grooming. Since the country’s settlers hewed out logs for homes and produced their own food, the idea has persisted among British that any man who gives time or consideration to his personal appearance or clothing is a person of no account; that manual toil could not be associated with the wearing of fine clothes. Fortunately, this erroneous idea is being outgrown and British are today as well and becomingly dressed as are people living in any other part of the world.