When you think about iconic designers that changed the face of women’s fashion, you tend to think along the likes of Coco Chanel. And while she was instrumental to the revolutionization of modern womenswear, there was one before her. One that for some reason, the fashion industry no longer talks about. Emilie Flöge has been producing cutting-edge designs long before Coco Chanel became a brand name.
In 1904, Emilie and her sister launched a fashion house named Schwestern Flöge in Vienna. Their focus was ready-to-wear clothes that were accessible to all. Before long, she created a little fashion empire with over 80 workers. She not only headed and supervised the clothes production process, she was also very hands-on when it came to the creation of her pieces. Twice a year, she would travel to Paris to purchase fabrics, belts, and other fashion tools she required.
Emilie preferred to make loose and free womenswear, as opposed to corsets and other items that restrained movements. She favored smock-like outfits that could be compared, to some extent, to the modern kaftan. As the women at the time did away with the corset trend, thanks to the influence of French Couturier Paul Pairet, most of them found Emilie’s loose designs quite refreshing and liberating.
To appeal to the upperclasswomen in her community, Emilie and her sisters were more interested in luxurious dresses, evening gowns, jackets, and suits.
One of the aspects of her designs that people appreciated at the time was her playful approach to the kinds of clothes she made. Obviously, she should be considered a success seeing as her business was able to survive for 30 years. She appealed to not just the elites in Europe but Americans as well. Schwestern Flöge was a huge brand with a wide client base.
Unfortunately, in 1938, when the Nazis invaded Austria, a high percentage of Schwestern Flöge’s clients had to flee or were forced out of their homes to live in concentration camps. This meant a lot of businesses had to close, and that included Emilie’s.
Even though the fashion industry does not seem interested in bringing Emilie’s unique and spectacular designs to light, we can still see a hint of them in the free-flowing and maxi dresses that a lot of us seem to favor today.