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It’s just a book…”Elegance” by Sylvie Aubenas and Xavier Demange

June 7th, 2011 · No Comments · Art, It's just a Book

Before Street Fashion bloggers there used to be “The Sartorialist”. Before the Sartorialist there used to be Bill Cunningham. And long before anyone thought fashion really important, there were the Séeberger brothers. In 1906, Jules (1872-1956), Louis (1874-1946) and Henri (1876-1956) Séeberger founded a family run photo studio. Today 60,000 of their film negatives are held in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF).

The three brothers documented life in France, vivid street scenes or depictions of rural scenes that have long since vanished. Some of these images are sold as postcards today.

“Elegance” focueses solely on the brothers’ documentation of fashion in France between the early 1900s to the 1930s.

The pictures are taken in trendy places such as Deauville and Cannes, capturing society figures or unknown faces whose fashion sense makes them stand out even while looking at the images today.

What is lost are the stories and connotations that add a deeper meaning to the images. This photo (Nr. 2594 of the Seeberger archive) of 18 year old actress Corinne Luchaire taken in August 1939 in Deauville is as fresh as any street scene captured for the blogosphere today.

She is wearing a trouser suit by Freddy and a coat by Jacques Heim (1899-1967). Heim had launched his sportswear boutiques in Biarritz and Cannes in 1937, only two years before the photo was taken. Luchaire is therefore sporting one of the “in“ designers of the day.

Corinne Luchaire enjoyed short-lived film stardom. Fluent in English, she starred in 1939 in Le Dernier Tournant, the first version of the novel “The Postman Always rings Twice”.

Her upbringing had been adventurous, but would prove to be deadly. Her father, the journalist and writer Jean Luchaire was a Nazi collaborator who was shot in 1946. Corinne herself had been raised by her mother in Berlin, when the latter had become the mistress of noted German politician and Nobel Peace prizewinner, Gustav Stresemann.

She grew up around prominent Nazis and sailed through the German occupation of France, fleeing Paris after the war. She was sentenced to “national indignity“ and imprisoned in Nice. She died in 1950 of tuberculosis aged 28 years.

Most faces in “Elegance” remain anonymous, assigned a fleeting moment in fashion history.

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