5 French Fashion Brands Every Vintage Enthusiast Should Know

5 French Fashion Brands Every Vintage Enthusiast Should Know

From luxury fashion houses to somewhat lesser-known brands, Plein Sud, Marithé + François Girbaud, XULY.Bët, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Mugler are the “tags” most sought after and collected in the vintage fashion realm.

5 French Fashion Brands Every Vintage Enthusiast Should Know
5 French Fashion Brands Every Vintage Enthusiast Should Know

Summary: Plein Sud Marithé + François Girbaud XULY.Bët Jean Paul Gaultier Mugler

Beginning with the resurgence of Y2K, the vintage fashion market has seen tremendous growth. In the era of new fashion, in many countries, especially in France, vintage clothing and items are hunted down as if they were precious artifacts. With the rise of both offline and online vintage stores, the market for second-hand fashion is entering a new dynamic and facing modern trends. While previous generations bought second-hand for financial reasons, today’s consumers approach vintage fashion differently. Beyond financial considerations, younger individuals prefer buying second-hand clothes to reduce environmental impact. They question, “Why buy new when hundreds of thousands of garments produced decades ago are seeking a second life?” Additionally, there’s a group of collectors who seek rare items rather than just used clothing. This is where we talk more about “archived items” rather than simply used clothes.

For this segment, the value of items is determined by the number of years they’ve been in production and the reputation of the brand and designer. While the 1990s or the transition to the 2000s may appeal to many, others are drawn more to specific designer names. These could be legendary designers from the past to the present, brands once famous but now forgotten, or designers who have retired or halted production of their collections. Italian, Belgian, or Japanese designers are sought after the most, but French designers also capture the attention of vintage clothing enthusiasts.

Below are 5 French fashion brands that any vintage enthusiast cannot overlook:

Plein Sud In recent years, vintage and second-hand stores have increasingly showcased products under the Plein Sud brand, characterized by original cuts and feminine allure. But who is behind the name that fashion vintage enthusiasts are passionate about? None other than designer Fayçal Amor. Born in Tangier, Morocco, Fayçal Amor was raised by his Armenian-Russian mother and Moroccan father. The designer was introduced to art at a young age through painting, a passion passed down by his mother. After creating some collections in Morocco and working as a stylist alongside Zyga Pianko, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, or Agnès B, Fayçal Amor officially launched the Plein Sud brand in Paris in 1984 and opened the first store in 1988.

Drawing inspiration from a heritage blended with various cultures, at the crossroads of the East and the West, Plein Sud aims to illuminate the image of a sensual, elegant, and modern woman beyond time. Mixing unique shades, bold cuts, quality fabrics, and skilled tailoring techniques, Plein Sud and the AMOR group reaped the “sweet fruits” in the 1990s and expanded their career internationally by opening stores in New York, Madrid, London, and Düsseldorf. However, around the 2010s, the brand lost momentum, and the position of Fayçal Amor or Plein Sud became increasingly forgotten on the fashion map. Nevertheless, the iconic masterpieces of the designer continue to resonate in the vintage clothing market. The designs produced decades ago by Plein Sud have become valuable items, sought after and coveted by many enthusiasts.

Marithé + François Girbaud With an undying love for denim, the duo Marithé Bachellerie and François Girbaud met in Saint-Tropez in 1967. They later lived in Paris within a hippie community, where Marithé made ponchos and François worked as a salesman at Western House. Driven by passion and a desire to break free from the old American denim standards of the time, the duo entered the fashion world in the late 1960s when they created the first brand selling stone-washed jeans.

The first Marithé + François Girbaud store opened in Paris in 1972. Achieving remarkable success and setting valuable milestones in denim history since the 1980s, Marithé and François later opened other stores in France as well as in the United States and Japan. Prioritizing freedom in every movement, comfort, and a free-spirited attitude, Marithé + François Girbaud combined experimental cuts and creative innovation in material processing. Although famous in the fashion community, the French brand could not overcome the 2008 crisis, and the duo had to close their stores in 2013. However, despite announcing a comeback to the fashion scene at the end of 2023, the clothes released to the market still fail to evoke nostalgia and are far from the iconic denim designs of the 1990s and 2000s. Nevertheless, the global influence of Marithé + François Girbaud continues to spread through vintage stores or collectors’ stalls of archived designs.

XULY.Bët “Open your eyes wide” is the meaning of XULY.Bët in the native language of the Wolof people, a clothing brand created by Lamine Kouyaté. Born in Bamako, the Malian and Senegalese origin creator came to France in 1986. XULY.Bët Funkin’ Fashion Factory was established in the early 90s and initially served as a base for artists and creators in northern Paris. Considered a pioneer in clothing recycling techniques, Lamine Kouyaté began using recycled fabrics and clothing early on in his creations.

Experiencing waves of success thanks to this unique creative approach and a culturally inclusive ethos embedded in each of his designs, the designer received the “Designer of the Year” award from The New York Times in 1994. After deciding to introduce XULY.Bët at New York Fashion Week for 8 years, the brand returned to its roots, Paris, in 2018. XULY.Bët continues to produce and launch collections on the runway every year, now regarded as an underground fashion brand with profound influence on the contemporary scene. Black lycra fabrics or brightly dyed ones, prominently adorned with red raised stitches, quickly became icons and are incessantly sought after in the vintage fashion market. The brand also values storage systems and environmental commitment, regularly organizing sales events to give customers the opportunity to find creative works from the archive, which are hard to come by in the current market.

Jean Paul Gaultier How can we talk about legendary French designers with vast archives without mentioning Jean Paul Gaultier? As a fashion icon and a symbol of French culture, the great fashion designer was also a central figure in the wave of young creators in the 1980s who revolutionized the industry. Jean Paul Gaultier’s success largely stems from his boundless creativity and his spectacular, provocative, audacious, humor-infused shows, interwoven with glittering popular culture. Cone-shaped bras, dresses for men, sheer tops with tattoo-print illusions, polka-dot dresses, or even trompe-l’oeil details revealing faux nude images are all iconic pieces contributing to the immensely valuable heritage of Jean Paul Gaultier.

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