French designer Andree Putman dies aged 87
Jan 20, 2013
PARIS - The internationally acclaimed French designer Andree Putman, whose many achievements include revamping the interior of the Concorde supersonic jet, died Saturday at her Paris home aged 87, her family said.
Putman helped coin the concept of the boutique hotel, gave her name to a skyscraper in Hong Kong, and designed movie sets and stores for luxury goods in a career that spanned nearly seven decades.
Seen by many as the Grande Dame of French design, the chic Parisienne was the subject of a retrospective at Paris city hall in 2010.
Her daughter Olivia, who now runs the Putman design studio and who curated the show, said Andree Putman "became a style ambassador in spite of herself - she just did her own thing, she would never have claimed such a role."
From her upbringing in a wealthy, art-loving home on Paris's Left Bank, to summers spent in the family's historic abbey in Burgundy, Putman was born into a world of elegant comfort and refinement.
But her first design project - her teenaged bedroom-- marked a break with her milieu when aged 15, she emptied it to get rid of all objects associated with the past, which she saw as loaded with social status.
Despite showing promise as a pianist, she signed up as messenger-girl at a woman's magazine, "Femina", and began gravitating towards the design world.
The 1960s and 1970s brought her marriage to the art dealer Jacques Putman, her discovery of the art scene, and stints in a design bureau and a talent incubator that launched such designers as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Issey Miyake.
But Putman truly came into her own after divorcing her husband, setting up her own design firm, Ecart, in 1978 - and hungrily embracing the Paris night scene where she cut a distinctive figure at the age of 53.
As a designer in her own right, she was the first to re-edit pieces from the 1920s and 1930s, restoring figures such as Eileen Gray to global prominence in the process.
High-profile projects flooded in through the 1980s and 1990s, as Putman designed stores for the likes of Guerlain or Yves Saint Laurent, in France and the United States, movie sets for British director Peter Greenaway, a suite for the French culture ministry, or a revamped interior for the Concorde aircraft in 1994.
And from around the world came commissions like the Putman skyscraper, a luxury apartment-hotel complex in the heart of Hong Kong.
One of her most emblematic projects was the 1984 revamp of the Morgans hotel on Madison Avenue, creating what star architect Jean Nouvel dubbed the world's first boutique hotel - and launching her on the international design scene.
The New York hotel came complete with a bathroom in black-and-white checked tiles that was to become part of the Putman signature. Another marker was her taste for mixing so-called poor materials, like basi tiles, with luxurious ones.
Putman's career was also a story of encounters - with Andy Warhol or Pierre and Gilles, whose portraits of her are on display in Paris, or Karl Lagerfeld who once sent her a rich collage summing up her design universe.
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