Vicky Tiel’s Paris Journal: The African Influence in Street Fashion

All photos Vicky Tiel

Paris Rocks! The Paris Art World centers around St Germain des Pres, where I have had my dress shop for over 50 years. On Thursday nights, it’s “party night” in St Germain with drinks and music and happy shoppers and the world’s top art dealers getting together to decide what’s hot and what’s not.

All the galleries are open to browse and purchase from 6 pm to 10 pm. I’ve personally done the art gallery scene as Rue Visconti, where Karl Lagerfeld and myself had fashion workrooms. It is a key gallery street.

For 40 years, oil painting prevailed in all Paris galleries, with modern art à la Kandinsky always the key purchase. There was some sculpture in most of the Thursday active gallery parties, especially around the Rue de Seine, but shoppers preferred paintings. I remember in 1968 seeing my first Frieda Kahlo painting, a self-portrait, for $1000 on the Rue des Beaux-Arts and thinking it over but not buying it ( and regretting it the rest of my life).

The 7.5 million dollar mask

Then one day, about 15 years ago, I noticed all of the St Germain de Pres Art Galeries were showing African-styled wooden sculptures. I asked why to the owner of the Lee Gallery (who took over my Visconti space), and I found that a mask from Mali just sold for a million dollars across the street.

As Art like Fashion is “follow the money,” the money trail today leads to a West African Fang Mask selling for 7.5 million dollars. The Fang people are in the Atlantic equatorial basin, Cameroon, Guinea, and Gabon. That’s where it’s scorching hot weather in the world and even hotter in the Art World. Africa is the key to the art world, and African prints in clothing now dominate Paris fashion from Couture to the Monoprix. Go, Africa!

Imani N’Xau has her own dress shop in the Marais at 5 Rue Du Pas De La Mule.Her African print coats are the perfect cover for jeans and worn with crop tops or T-shirts with sayings like Ooh La La.

Couture has gone African in the new La Samaritaine, with Dolce & Gabbana and YSL opening their new boutiques with African prints.

In 1967 my husband shot The Comédiens in Doheny Africa, and he and Richard Burton bought Elizabeth and myself African fabric to make us more minidresses. This dress is from the African fabric of the sixties, and I’ve worn it forever now more than ever.

African invades Decor. The poshest shop in Paris decor Nobilis had this print in the window, and the colors are the basis of modern paint for Paris apartments. The African giraffe lamp is a favorite. My homes are filled with wooden African Animals from my trip to Namibian desert villages.

Paris windows have the African touch with the gorilla in a fashion print. Long dresses were a relief in the late summer from The Blue Jean world of spring. African electric colored prints were exciting on the streets as women walked again, and you could see them coming and going.)

This attractive couple at the Sunday noon market at the Bastille is typical of Parisian couples today with the lady in a long African-inspired “Day Gown” while her beau wore a fun T-shirt and Jeans.

Art today is African-inspired “Whatever Art” as there is no limit to the Parisian art experience of 2021. Paris will always be Paris. Artists of the world will always want to show in Paris, and Parisian Art will always be new and exciting. It’s been 20 years since the Million Dollar Mask, yet Africa is still at the top of the Art World and not going anywhere.

Vicky Tiel

Vicky Tiel is an American born French couturier designing since 1964, when she went to Paris with her partner, Mia Fonssagrives. They created a storm with their miniskirts, hot pants and jumpsuits. Vicky did the costumes for 15 films and in 1975 she sold couture to Henri Bendel’s and 45 leading shops In 2011 she joined HSN TV, wrote her first book “Its All About the Dress” and has written a second book “The Absolute Woman It’s All About Feminine Power” which she recently launched on HSN.

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