In light of Women's History Month I thought I'd take this opportunity to highlight a designer, visionary and entrepreneur who has been a guiding light and inspiration to me for many years, Emilie Flöge. Known by most as the muse of Gustav Klint, Emilie was far more than her life-long relationship with the painter and remains an inspiring woman in her own right.
Born in 1874 in Vienna, Austria, Flöge began her life as a fashion designer at a prominent moment in the fight for women's rights. Unlike the heavy, corseted ensembles that remained popular through the 18th century (resulting in such injuries as curvature of the spine, displaced organs and heart palpitations, as published by activist Amelia Bloomer in her paper, The Lily), Flöge embraced the dress reform movement and designed for the modern woman. With empire waists, loose silhouettes and wide sleeves, Flöge' garments exude ease, enable freedom of movement and were a welcome and prominent departure from the suffocating silhouettes worn prior.
However, it wasn't solely through her garments that Emilie found herself opening new doors for women. After years working as a seamstress and couturier, Emilie and her two sisters Helene and Pauline opened a haute couture salon, Schwestern Flöge, in 1904 in Vienna – an endeavor likely unheard of for three single women in their 30s. The salon became a staple for Viennese women and remained open for the next 30 years. At the height of the company's business, Schwestern Flöge employed a staggering 80 employees, all of whom were paid fair wages in accordance with a progressive association of fashion houses that issued minimum wage requirements.
I first stumbled across Emilie Flöge in the spring of 2016 while studying in Paris. The process of piecing together my capstone and what would become Perennial's first collection had begun and nearly every moment was spent in search of reference rabbit holes and inspiration. Though Klimt's portrait and the mystique around his relationship with Flöge was certainly responsible for my initial curiosity, it was undoubtedly Flöge' silhouettes, her bold embrace of florals and her etherial essence that captured my attention. Having traveled through the fragrant, colorful and spiritual country of Morocco the previous year and been enchanted by caftans, it is not hard to see the common thread beneath my intrigue in Flöge and her garments.
Seven years later, Emilie Flöge's life, story and principles continue to resonate with and inspire me. Designing with women's health in mind has become an idea that I not only agree with in theory, but feel deeply and personally. Through fabric, cut and shape I hope to create garments that pursue the same sense of ease. I don't believe this care should be exclusive to the garments however, and like Flöge I am committed to sharing this to the people who make them.
I spent this week in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, visiting the factory where each Perennial piece is cut and sewn. This small factory is not only woman-owned and zero-waste, but is in the 1% of garment factories in the world who are certified b-corp. Being here and reflecting on Emilie Flöge and the influence she has had on me, Perennial and the garments I am here to see has brought such joy, which I feel so lucky to share with you.